Step Four: Assessing the Wreckage of our Past

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. There is a saying in AA that when we arrive at the fourth step the rubber hits the road. In other words, the fourth step is when the real introspective work begins within the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. A searching and fearless moral inventory translates to an accounting of all the wrongs we’ve committed in our past, as well as the resentments we are harboring towards others we’ve encountered in life. This may seem like a tall order, but taken one step at a time you are more than capable of completing a thorough fourth step in a week or two at most.

Just as with the preceding steps, you are not expected to work a perfect fourth step the first time around. Memories can be fleeting, especially when formed in the depths of active addiction. All that is required of you is an honest effort to reflect on the events of your past as well as any resentments you feel towards others, followed by a full accounting of these items. On the surface this is a very straightforward process, but addicts have a unique talent for over complicating simple things, and many people find themselves stalled on the fourth step for reasons they can’t quite understand.

We commit shameful acts while under the influence of our substance of choice. Putting pen to paper and creating a written record of these offenses can be difficult, and those feeling particularly guilty may subconsciously avoid sitting down and working through their fourth step. This is dangerous, as stalling in step work stalls your recovery and puts you at greater risk of relapse. Your sponsor should remain adamant that you complete your fourth step in a timely manner, as those who have been in the rooms of recovery for a while have seen many in early recovery sit on their fourth step only to relapse. Do your best to set aside any feelings of guilt regarding your past and focus on getting everything down on paper so you can look forward to continuing to progress through the steps and in your sobriety.

There is another saying about the fourth step in the rooms of 12-step recovery: the fourth step separates the men from the boys. It is true the fourth step tests many addict’s resolve and commitment to the program of recovery, as it can be very difficult to create a written record of your past misdeeds and resentments, especially those you’ve kept secret from everyone until now. It is important you do not knowingly omit any information in your fourth step, as doing so would not be thoroughly working this step to the best of your abilities. If you can look at your work and honestly say to yourself that you’ve accounted for everything you can remember, then congratulations are in order! You have faced the demons of your past and they did not destroy you, and you are well on your way to achieving lasting sobriety through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.


Evolutions is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located in beautiful South Florida. Our holistic approach to addiction treatment centers around addressing and healing the underlying issues at the root of addiction, rather than merely medicating symptoms away.

Our treatment program includes individual and group-based therapy to help clients understand and manage their symptoms and emotions.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, alcoholism, or any co-occurring disorders please call us at (833) 818-3031 or visit