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A.A. Oldtimers…On the Fourth Step

A.A. Grapevine, February 1945. Vol. 1 No. 9

Editorial: On the Fourth Step

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Since I cannot speak for anyone else, I'll have to make my experience with the 4th step autobiographical. Before A.A., I tried almost daily to stop drinking. I hated myself constantly. I could not understand why such a wonderful person as I was would do the things I did. I was in a constant state of mental turmoil and misery, and I knew that I could not handle liquor.

On coming into A.A., I had already taken the 1st step, but the 2nd and 3rd steps were discouraging, as I had no faith in a Higher Power. I tried to believe, and would have gladly forced myself to do so, were that possible, because I really wanted to succeed with the A.A. program. However, I skipped over these for the moment, as I was advised to do, and went on to the 4th step. . . .

I tried to make a "searching and fearless moral inventory," and discovered that it was difficult to push my pride and egotism aside sufficiently to get a better view of myself. My first attempt was neither searching nor fearless, but it was a very important start, and I developed and revised it over many months. During this time, I began to see myself as a person who was riddled with resentments, selfishly expecting life to treat me well; a super-sensitive person always inclined to feel hurt about everything that was not to my liking, and intolerant of any opinion differing from my own. I began to see that my thinking was based on fear and vague worries. I saw more. I realized that this very special person I had imagined myself to be could do nothing directly against the power of alcohol. But I began to see how the person I was beginning to understand could outflank old John and attack the cause of the drinking.

For years, I had wanted desperately to do something about my drinking. This, I knew, was impossible. But the 4th step taught me that I could do something about the cause of my drinking. By trying to do something about myself, I found that I did not need to drink. The 4th step showed me what was needed to be done. Without this knowledge, I doubt if sobriety would have been possible for me. The 4th step is just that important.

Richard S.

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