Step 4 issues

The 12 Steps are the AA program of recovery from alcoholism.

Step 4 issues

Postby Soberguy27 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 1:14 pm

So, recently I have been hearing of people who get to the 4th step then stop and end up going out. I have many people talk about why some people do this. I believe that step 4 isn't the problem. I believe if you are going out after doing step 4 it's because you haven't fully accepted step 1. I am.curious to hear from you as to what you think the reason is for some folks going out after step 4. I realize that each case is different so it would be hard to be exact but your thoughts would be appreciated. I will be meeting up with a new sponcee tomorrow night who breifly told me this was an issue for him.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Brock » Wed Sep 27, 2017 4:24 pm

I think it's a sticking point for many, and probably the main reason they put in the book “at some of these we balked.” When we write out our 'stuff' it may seem we can't possibly tell someone else, - “Certain distressing or humiliating memories, we tell ourselves, ought not be shared with anyone. These will remain our secret. Not a soul must ever know. We hope they'll go to the grave with us.” 12 & 12 step 5.

What I think helps is giving a sample of our own things we said in step 5, sort of make him feel he isn't alone. I remember a speaker I was listening to on this subject, pretty sure it was Clancy I, he said he liked sometimes to drive to a meeting which was an hour and a half away. If he had a fifth step to help someone with he would invite them and do it on the way back, and start by saying, 'look it's late and I don't want to fall asleep driving, so please no boring stories like having sex with a goat,' or words to that effect.

If he can just tell you a couple of the things he has on the list, once he sees you are not surprised usually the rest starts flowing out, anyway best of luck with your sponsee.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby avaneesh912 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 4:55 pm

Many believe the problem is we picking up the first. They dont understand the peculiar mental twist we go through that precedes that first drink. So getting convinced is not deep enough. That leads to half hearted effort.

Immediately after the ABCs, there are 2 convictions that book talks about:

Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do? The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success.


So there 2 important realization that needs to happen.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Blue Moon » Wed Sep 27, 2017 7:02 pm

Soberguy27 wrote:So, recently I have been hearing of people who get to the 4th step then stop and end up going out. I have many people talk about why some people do this. I believe that step 4 isn't the problem. I believe if you are going out after doing step 4 it's because you haven't fully accepted step 1. I am.curious to hear from you as to what you think the reason is for some folks going out after step 4. I realize that each case is different so it would be hard to be exact but your thoughts would be appreciated. I will be meeting up with a new sponcee tomorrow night who breifly told me this was an issue for him.


The alcoholic often either runs, or runs with alcohol. Drinking is a symptom, Step 4 is about facing a lot of truths that the alcoholic has spent so many years running away from and trying to avoid. Step 4 is unearthing the real reasons why we drank. It's not a pretty picture. Until the alcoholic has smashed the notion that alcohol is a solution for anything, it remains an option.

So it's perhaps wise to look beyond Step 4. The way we feel after a good 4th Step isn't the end of the process, it's the beginning of getting to finally feel better. Recovering from alcoholism is not unlike treatment for cancer: nobody does it for fun, they do it for the results.

So the quick answer: Sometimes drinking is less painful than reality.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Soberguy27 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:51 pm

Thanks everyone. I have been sober for over 27 years and have sponsored a lot of guys but never one who went out over their 4th step. Sure I had guys who were slow in writing their 4th step but once they did things went well. For me the 4th step came easily, it was the fith step that was hard. But as was mentioned as soon as I saw that my sponsor was not surprised about the things that were in my forth step I really felt like a heavy load was lifted off my shoulders and I felt so much better. Then I was ready to finish the rest of the steps. Thanks for your input everyone.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Patsy© » Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:19 am

Soberguy27 wrote:So, recently I have been hearing of people who get to the 4th step then stop and end up going out. I have many people talk about why some people do this. I believe that step 4 isn't the problem. I believe if you are going out after doing step 4 it's because you haven't fully accepted step 1. I am.curious to hear from you as to what you think the reason is for some folks going out after step 4. I realize that each case is different so it would be hard to be exact but your thoughts would be appreciated. I will be meeting up with a new sponcee tomorrow night who breifly told me this was an issue for him.


Hi Soberguy,

I had no clue that I had no clue, that an obsession of the mind (a thought that overcomes all other thoughts) was absolutely running the show. This obsession of the mind for alcohol told me what I would be "thinking", what I would be saying, what I would be doing, where I would be going, with who, what time I would be coming home, or if I would be coming home at all. This obsession of the mind, insured that I would pick up that first sucker drink, and when I put that first drink into my body, I had no clue that it was the first drink that set up a physical compulsion for MORE, and that I would continue to drink until I was drunk, sick and out of control,..... again, and again and again and again...... because I had lost the ability to choose to NOT drink.

My life being unmanageable wasn't so clear in this alkie's mind.

Then this wonderful AA member who took me to my very first AA meeting, asked me one question. He asked:

"Patsy, can you predict with any certainty, on any given occasion, how much you will drink or what will happen to you after you take the first drink of alcohol?"


In my experience admitting and accepting are two entirely different things.
Acceptance doesn't mean to put up with or to just take it, it means to take a really good look at REALITY, what IS, and then make a decision about what I can do or not do about it for me. So I did what was suggested, I didn't drink, I kept coming and asked for help.

On page 63 and 64 in the Big Book there is vital information regarding the 3 steps before Step 4:

"Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.
Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four."


In my own experience, if someone goes out at or after Step 4....then they never had Step One, Step Two or Step Three and I guide them back to Step One.
Failed 12 Step Call? Not if we walk away sober!
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Blue Moon » Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:15 pm

Soberguy27 wrote:I have been sober for over 27 years and have sponsored a lot of guys but never one who went out over their 4th step.


I once knew a guy who said he went out because his wife found his 4th Step.

IMO most of us who are going back out either do so before we get to Step 4, or take back Step 3 some time later. So "I went out over my 4th" seems to me more a matter of timing, rather than Step 4 itself actually causing a relapse. After all, the problems are there whether we're writing them down or not.

For me, Step 4 was straightforward. The only real problem I had with it was procrastination. It helped to get a few chunks of time away from meetings, TV, computer, family and other distractions, and just go do it.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby positrac » Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:49 am

Step IV is a huge deal and it is a place that looking into the mirror of past and present provided the option of pressing forward into the dark and unknown in order to get right with themselves. For me self-reflection was not a pretty deal; and once I learned my crap was not such an unusual thing I felt really relieved after my 5th step. It is hard to tell them it is ok because we "think" we are unique! Seriously? I can say this now after all these years as I accept myself as I am. As you'll see I am one who is honest and I will tell you/them I have struggled and had my issues. A lot of people play coy and act shrewd so they can have the upper hand. I've witnessed too many people cock blocking for king of the hill with men and women in recovery and they fall hard because of ego.

Back to the point is I have sponsored several men over the years and it is presentation of the steps that might help smooth the fear of getting honest and getting right. For me I've written out my forth steps 3 times because I needed to totally purge and get my memory in check in order to accept and to follow the steps as required. My tolerance is not very good for those who need to step out and I can accept stepping out as we all needed to be in a place so that we could accept we are totally powerless over alcohol and once that has occurred then the steps are easier to do. I expect some push back and the thing I did was keep a schedule as to not linger too long on this as interest could get lost and then it is hard to pull back in.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby highcostofliving » Fri Sep 29, 2017 7:05 am

As someone who is very new to sobriety, AA and the steps... I'm about to start step 4 for the first time... my struggle at first was not paying steps 1,2, and 3 lip service.... I kept telling myself I was powerless and things were unmanigable... but did i trully believe that or did I trully know what that entailed? I didn't until a few days ago... and step 3... if you're a true Agnostic or Atheist like myself... I couldn't just up and say ok, today I believe in an HP... or actually I 'said' it to myself many times.. but it wasn't in earnest, it was simply because I had to in order to be 'in the program'.... and so now that I'm about to begin this 4th step, as I think about some of the things this step and other upcoming steps will entail... I see so much added drama coming my way, that it feels less helpful to my sobriety. I mean, it's a lot of these things that got me into this mess, right? Do I really need to make amends to an ex wife I haven't spoken to in years? Or dig up old things.... for the first three steps, I kept telling myself to just say the words... and now I'm doing it with step 4, I'm trying to believe in the successes of others in AA, and I'm hoping that I can find the same..... but as I begin and look at this, and stare down the road of what's to come in the next few steps... I find myself constantly asking - how on earth can this be a good idea? and if this doesn't work, won't I be making a much larger mess for myself... if life is unmanageable right now, what'll it be like after I kick open some old doors?

This isn't meant to be about me, but thought maybe the insight of someone just about to start this step offered a glimpse into the question of why someone would step out at step 4.... I feel like I'm holding back right now... and I am having serious discussions with myself about this step (more importantly the steps beyond)... at this point, I feel like this is the true commitment stage to the program, once I open that box, especially to other people.... well, I can't really put it back in there....

Thanks for reading!
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Brock » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:35 am

You raised a good point high cost, maybe a lot of the trouble is people looking ahead at steps still to come, I would like to say just don't do that, but it's not so simple.

When we do 4 & 5, the book says that very often the feeling that the drink problem is gone comes on strongly, this is something which makes us want to go further, and also 4 & 5 is the most intimidating to many people, the others are easier. Unless like you we start thinking about ex wives and stuff, I have one simple rule for that step, 'if you don't feel sorry don't say you are sorry,' and no human can tell you what you should or should not feel sorry about. They may be a couple we can say OK I really screwed him, I will apologize, that's a do when you reach that step list, or even before, you can have another list 'maybe I will apologize,' and a third 'no way.'

As we go along and this program really kicks in, some of these maybe and no way people might weigh on our mind, our idea of right and wrong might get a little different. If I am relaxing or maybe trying to sleep, and something I did someone is messing with my serenity, it's much better to just square it with them and say sorry, if it's not messing with my serenity I see no need to raise up old issues. Try not to project what's down the road, it's a bad habit we all have, I am trying to really use this living one day at a time deal, and the results so far are much less fear and worry, it won't be half as bad as you think it looks, keep the faith in AA it will work.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Cristy99 » Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:34 pm

High Cost wrote:
.... but as I begin and look at this, and stare down the road of what's to come in the next few steps... I find myself constantly asking - how on earth can this be a good idea?


I love Brock's wisdom!! Brock, you rock!! :P

Maybe I am way off High Cost, but your post "felt like" to me that you may be getting overwhelmed. All that is needed RIGHT NOW is an open mind and an honest effort at being honest. I don't know that any of us get it all down on our first try at the steps. But if you give it an honest try, the best effort you have at this moment, and keep that mind of yours open to what ever begins to happen as you work through the steps, you have a very good chance at getting better. You mentioned you are newly sober. Everything was so fuzzy for me for the first several months. It was not critical that I did the steps absolutely perfectly the first time. I have learned to be more thorough with the program little by little. It helped me to force myself to only think of today. To only think about the step I was working on THAT DAY. The more I dread something, the more impossible it seems to do it. When I choose to focus on the matter at hand and discipline myself NOT TO DREAD FUTURE TASKS, the more at peace I feel. It also helps me to realize that this is not a sprint race. I try to remember that I'm in this for the long haul so I might as well take one small step at a time and not freak out and try to rush through.

How on Earth can this be a good idea???? Well.....How well have your own good ideas worked??? Just saying!!

Peace out!!
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~ Chinese proverb
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby bbqking » Fri Sep 29, 2017 9:06 pm

Sometimes people go back out on step 4 because they are alcoholics.

Same with steps 1-3 and 5-12.


When people say I can't believe so and so went back out after (however long),.... I can believe it, because they are alcoholics.
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby avaneesh912 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:38 am

They say step one is the most important step and I see the importance of it now. There are people who realize the powerlessness and unmanageability survive and those who dont, dont. As simple as that. There is great weight in this statement:

We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.

That conceding part, and over in "How it works" there are those 2 convictions... Big steps.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby Spirit Flower » Sat Sep 30, 2017 5:22 pm

Hey HighCost, do you have someone helping you with the steps? Have you asked anyone at a meeting to take you through the steps? Do you go to meetings?

If you want an e-sponsor, check here viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5297
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Re: Step 4 issues

Postby highcostofliving » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:24 am

Thanks Spirit.... I don't yet.. just attending my first F2F meetings over the weekend, so I have an active sponsor search in the works....it may take a few weeks as I have always been slow to meet new people... I'll definitely check into your link. Thanks for the share.
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