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Step Four: An Experience for the Books

book page burning

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Ahhhh Step Four – most people tend to be nervous about the fourth step, and when I say “most people,” that includes me. Although I had no idea what to expect, I was definitely intimidated by the fourth step, and I was not looking forward to it. All I knew is it involved writing down all your wrongdoings. After spending five years in active addiction, I was petrified of the prospect of facing everything I’ve done wrong.

I was in therapy for many years before starting the 12 steps. However, what therapy never gave me was clarity on “my part,” and step four is about finding and admitting to your part. I soon realized that for every resentment I had, I played an active part in it. Just like the old saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” Well, it takes two to cause and hold onto resentment. I knew if I wanted to feel better I had to complete step four. More than anything I wanted to feel better about and love myself again, so forgiving myself was a requirement.

The final thing my sponsor asked me to do was to write “I am a good person with a big heart this is my past and I am no longer there”

My sponsor gave me the worksheets, which is just one of the ways you can complete the step.  Along with the worksheets, she gave me a week deadline. It sounded like such a short time to write down everything I have ever done wrong, but she wanted me to complete it quickly to avoid me sitting around and shame myself for negative actions – it’s common for people to beat themselves up working through this part of the process. The final thing my sponsor asked me to do was to write “I am a good person with a big heart this is my past and I am no longer there” at the top of each page. Every night I spent working on step four, my sponsor also had me write down 10 things I liked about myself as a reminder that I liked who I am in the present.

I worked on step four for a couple of hours each day, and each resentment I wrote down would bring up another I had completely forgotten about. In the beginning, I was concerned I would forget a lot of them, but as I started writing, they all began flowing out. The first time I worked through step four, I did not feel a big relief. Throughout previous therapy, I discussed the majority of my resentments, but just couldn’t get “there” to fully work the step. However, my second time going through the steps was a totally different scenario. I knew I had to be completely honest and bare it all because you’re only as sick as your secrets and secrets keep us sick. The second time around I did not have as many resentments and these felt more personal. It felt like such a breath of fresh air as my sponsor and I burned the pieces of paper I used to list all my wrongdoings and resentments. It was a very freeing moment for me and I felt so grateful to be alive – that experience was one for the books.

  • Kelsey Griffith

    Kelsey Griffith is a BHA and the True North Alumni Coordinator at Lakeview Health at the The Woodlands in Texas. She is currently enrolled in the Lone Star College System pursuing a degree in Counseling with a specialization in drug and alcohol abuse. Once completed, she will earn her certification as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.

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