How to Work Step 4 | 12 Step Program Tips & Worksheets

woman does her moral inventory at a cafe

The 12-Step Program has been (and continues to be) a life-changing resource for many people in recovery. By working through each step individually, as well as with sober peers and sponsors, people can find freedom from addiction and make positive, long-lasting changes.

In this blog, we’ll provide an overview of all 12 steps and take some time to explore Step 4 in-depth, with actionable tips and links to printable 12-Step worksheets. Although no two recovery experiences are alike, we hope this blog will serve as a guide as you or your loved one works his or her way through all 12 of the steps in recovery.

What are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Why Is Step 4 Of the 12-Step Program Important?

Step 4 of the 12-Step Program is important because it’s the beginning of determining the root causes of your addiction. As you examine your emotional issues, you’ll prepare yourself for a life of sobriety. 

This step also requires quite a bit of humility, as you’ll have to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings. As you work through Step 4, you’ll have to uncover deep secrets that have kept you trapped in a cycle of shame and addiction. Although challenging, this step is essential for lasting sobriety.

To fully work Step 4, you must be willing to uncover the problems in your life and see and accept how they have affected you, as well as those around you. As a result, you’ll be asked to examine your tendencies toward certain things like: 

  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Self-will and self-pity
  • Guilt/shame
  • Relationships
  • Sex/abuse
  • Secrets
  • Personal strengths and weaknesses

Much like each of the other 12 Steps, when you are ready to work Step 4, it won’t be a solo project. You’ll need help. You’ll probably work with your sponsor or an addiction treatment professional to search through your innermost thoughts and feelings. Even if you’ve never shared these deep parts of yourself with anyone before, it’s important to remember that there is freedom and healing found in sharing. Although it’s hard to open up and share these things, many of your peers who have also struggled with addiction have likely felt similar emotions, had similar thoughts, and have been through similar life circumstances. In short, you’re not alone!

Step 4 is also not intended to tear you down or make you feel worse about yourself. Although you’ll have to face some difficult truths, in the end, you’ll feel more confident and strong once you’ve dared to face these things head-on.

How Should I Work Step 4 of the 12-Step Program?

There is no right or wrong way to work Step 4. Depending on your life experiences and circumstances, sponsors or addiction counselors may work through Step 4 differently depending on an individual’s life experiences and circumstances. This is because certain approaches may be more beneficial for you than others.

As you work through Step 4 of the 12-Step Program, you may find that it takes more time and dedication than you initially thought. However, it is a process worth conquering. Here are a few tips to help you through it.

  • Make a list. Take a moment to make a list of things in your life that have produced negative feelings. These may include people, institutions, principles, beliefs, life situations, or circumstances that have made you feel angry, bitter, or resentful. Even if your list is long, try not to hold back. Be honest about the things and circumstances that have produced negativity in your life, even if you recognize that those negative feelings may be unwarranted.
  • Accept that you are responsible for your behaviors (past, present, and future ones). As you make your list and work through Step 4, you’ll also need to stop blaming others for your behavior. You and you alone are responsible for the things you do and say. The addiction and emotional problems are within yourself and it’s up to you to investigate them and do the work to repair your life.
  • Push through your fear. Although this step involves making a “fearless” inventory, that doesn’t mean you won’t be scared. Understandably, after you make your list, you might be hesitant to share it with your sponsor or counselor. Maybe you feel ashamed or silly for certain things you’ve listed or maybe you just don’t think anyone else will understand your thoughts and feelings. Wherever you find yourself, know that you’re not the only one who has faced your addiction head-on and many other people who have been in your place before have felt many of the same things. Your sponsor or counselor has likely heard worse than what you are about to share and you don’t have to feel ashamed or scared. Even if you’re scared, Step 4 asks you to not allow those fears to stop you from being honest with yourself and others as you examine your life and your behavior.

Completing Step 4 is extremely challenging for many individuals and if you’re very hesitant to get started or you just don’t feel motivated to do it, you’re not alone. The best way to overcome that is to just grab a piece of paper and a pen and get started, even if you don’t feel ready.

Printable AA Step Four Worksheets

Aside from working closely with your sponsor or counselor, printable worksheets are another great tool that can help you work through Step 4 of the 12-Step Program. Although the best sources for these resources are your sponsor or your addiction treatment provider, you can also find them online.

Here are a few printable Step 4 worksheets that may be helpful as you work through the 12-Step Program:

Once you complete your Step 4 worksheets, you’ll get much more out of the process by discussing them with your sponsor, sober peers, or counselor. If you’re struggling to fill them out, your sponsor or a treatment professional may also help you address any emotional roadblocks that may be preventing you from completing Step 4.

Who Can Help Me Work the 4th Step of the 12-Step Program?

Working through the 12-Step Program is just as much an individual process as it is a group one. As you work through each step with the guidance of your sponsor or counselor and the support of your peers, you’ll experience a great deal of personal growth and positive change. The fellowship that comes with working through the 12-Step Program is a major influence in this. While using printable 4th Step worksheets and working individually with a sponsor are also key aspects of achieving lasting sobriety, you’ll also need the ongoing support of your peers.

If you’re ready to tackle Step 4 of the 12-Step Program but you need help, or you have yet to get sober, the professionals at Briarwood Detox Center are here to help. Our facility and staff provide medically-assisted detox programs for all addictive substances to help you overcome your physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. 

We use evidence-based treatment methods and medication-assisted treatment to ensure your safety and comfort throughout detox. We know that overcoming addiction requires more than just physical abstinence, so during detox treatment, we also provide H&I meetings to introduce our clients to the 12-Step Program and provide a better chance at long-lasting sobriety.

During H&I meetings, our detox clients learn about the 12-Step Program, hear from other individuals who have worked the 12 Steps to get sober and connect with sober peers and potential sponsors.

After detox, we work individually with each client to provide treatment referrals for rehab. Briarwood also works with many different insurance providers to ensure that ongoing treatment is realistic and affordable, based on the client’s financial abilities and treatment needs.
If you’re ready to get started, we are here for you. Please call (888) 857-0557 to speak with a Briarwood Detox representative today.

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