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Step Four: Get the Ball Rolling

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I had four months of continuous sobriety and I had arrived to the “work” part of the 12-step program. Step four, the “white light experience” that would send my program into a magical place. This was the step that everyone pushed off and waited to do because it held so much weight. This was the step that everyone dreaded because it was used for self-examination, self-critique, and self-improvement: all things that were scary and possibly painful.

My sponsor and I had agreed on a day and time that I would show up to her house, go over my fourth step, and do my fifth step with her. My sponsor taught me about accountability, honesty in recovery and showing up when I said I would, where I said I would, and doing what I said I would do. That morning I woke up around 8:30am and was scheduled to meet her at 10am. I hadn’t even started my fourth step. In true alcoholic and addict fashion, I quickly printed out the worksheets for step four: fear, sex, financial, and resentment sheets. I saw that each sheet I printed had ten spots for me to write in. I filled out those sheets with ten things each (at least they were my top ten) and called it a day.

My first fourth step was not complete, but I do believe that it was completed to the best of my ability at that time. Four months certainly felt like a long time in the moment, but looking back I now can see how much I’ve grown and progressed. I felt like it was good enough and had the majority of my issues on it that still circulated in my thoughts. I felt relieved that I had actually done the work, some work, as little as it was. I did it, when I said I was going to do it, and that felt good.

My sponsor had allowed me to gain my first feeling of self-esteem, because I had just done an esteem-able thing.

As my sobriety progressed, I did many more (thorough) fourth steps. I actually got to a point where I had a resentment, called my sponsor, and she told me, “you know what to do; do a fourth step, call me, and tell me what character defect you’re acting out on and what maladaptive pattern you’re still participating in.” That was huge for me to realize what power the fourth step actually provides. I hear so many people talk about the fourth step as this scary hurdle to jump over, but in reality it is the first buy-in of the 12-step program. It is the first time that we actually have to do some work, some action, towards our sobriety. This step empowers people, provides insight, and creates a clear path of emotional sobriety that the 12-step principles teach us.

No matter how poorly one does their first step four, just having the willingness to get it done has tremendous weight. It will get the ball rolling to a happier, more productive recovery process and instill the self-confidence and self-esteem needed to continue on this journey.

  • Ashley Harms, MS, CAP, CRC

    Ashley is a primary therapist for Lakeview Health. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of North Florida in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, is a Certified Addiction Professional, and a Certified Recovery Coach. She has been working in the field of mental health and addiction since 2012. Ashley is also a person in long-term recovery; her sobriety date is January 13, 2012. She joined Lakeview Health in 2014 as the Aftercare Coordinator. Ashley has experience in working at both adult and adolescent inpatient treatment facilities. She enjoys inspiring other people to live sober, happy lives and to find their life’s meaning.

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