Category Archives: Here Are The Steps We Took

Step One

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol –
– that our lives had become unmanageable
.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 59)


You might have already heard all kinds of things about Step One, and you might even have some thoughts, opinions or experiences of your own here.  Either way is fine, of course, but if you have a desire to stop drinking and you have yet to be able to do that “for good and all”, as Dr. Bob would say, we are here because we have been there and we can show you what we have since done to permanently recover from chronic alcoholism.  Just as for us, and as evidenced in this following excerpt from our book, it is a fact that the chronic part of anyone’s alcoholism actually can be removed for people such as ourselves who will never be able to drink safely…

We are (no longer) fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation…
We have not even sworn off.  Instead, the problem has been removed.”  (page 85)

So, let us begin at the beginning, Step One…and yes, we will definitely be keeping things simple!

“Alcoholism, as we understand it” (page 28), is a two-fold “condition” or “state of mind and body”:

“…a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.” (Foreword to First Edition)
“…a hopeless condition of mind and body.” (page 20)

We have heard alcoholism described as a three-fold, four-fold or even a five-fold disease, illness or malady, and we have heard it described as being like an onion with innumerable layers to be stripped away before we might ever get to its core or expose its root or whatever.  A.A. takes a much different approach at Step One:

“(a) We were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
“(b) No human power could have relieved our alcoholism.”  (page 60)

Beginning on page 30 in our A.A. “Big Book”, let us look more closely at the physical part of our alcoholism…

“Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics.
No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows.
…countless vain attempts (trying) to prove we could drink like other people.”

We are not telling you about you, we are telling you about ourselves…and we do that while hoping our doing so might help you easily see and decide the matter of alcoholism for yourself.  Some of your drinking experiences might convince someone else you are alcoholic…but it was our own convictions about ourselves that finally helped make the difference for us.  The same will be true for you, we believe, so consider this about people like ourselves…

a) We had lost all control over alcohol while drinking;
b) We had been equally powerless to remain abstinent after stopping.

Or in different words:

First the alcoholic take a drink –
then the drink takes a drink
– then drink takes the alcoholic.

Do you have that “physical allergy” part of alcoholism?  Some of us, but not all, once had complete control over how much we drank whenever we drank.  Over time, however, we each ultimately discovered alcohol had somehow “taken over” and seemed to be demanding more of itself every time we drank…and we have since concluded that is exactly what had been going on.  As shared elsewhere in our book of “combined experience and knowledge” (page 19):

“…once s/he takes any alcohol whatever into his/her system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him/her to stop (either at or after just a few drinks).”  (page 22)

Dr. William D. Silkworth had first spoken of that and shared with us his theory about it during the early days of A.A. — see “The Doctor’s Opinion” in our book — and we have since heard even more along that kind of line:

Alcohol is a poison to the human body, but the body can typically tolerate periodic quantities of alcohol as long as it can effectively metabolize it (break it down) into carbon dioxide (exhaled through the lungs), water (eliminated via the urinary tract or released as perspiration) and sugar (either burned as energy or stored for later use).  And to make that happen, the pancreas sends enzymes to the liver.  For the alcoholic, however, and either from the very beginning or over time, those enzymes either are or eventually become insufficient (both in quantity and quality) for breaking the alcohol down quickly enough to keep it from causing an abnormal chemical reaction in the brain that sends out an uncontrollable or overwhelming call for more alcohol.  People are free to disagree with any doctor’s theory, of course, and A.A. has no opinion or position on the matter.  Rather, we only say this:

“The doctor’s theory (not ours) that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us.  As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little.  But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say his explanation makes good sense.  It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.”

Bottom line?  “If anyone who is showing inability to control his (or her) drinking can do the right-about-face and drink like a gentleman (or a lady), our hats are off to him (or to her).  Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!”  If you wish, you can read more about that in our A.A. “Big Book”…and here is where we begin shifting our focus to the mental-emotional or “chronic” aspect of our alcoholism:

“The idea that somehow, someday s/he will control and enjoy his or her drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.  The persistence of this illusion is astonishing.  Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.”

To the best of our knowledge (and aside from the matter of the judge’s gavel following some of our personal exploits, adventures, escapades or debilitating debacles), there is no law of God or man saying we alcoholics are not allowed to drink.  In fact, it could be argued that each-and-every human being has a God-given right to do exactly as s/he pleases…and yes, even if some of our religious friends are right when saying drunkenness is a sin of some kind.  But see, we are not dealing with personal rights or moral issues at the moment.  Instead, we are dealing with the fact we alcoholics cannot just drink safely.  And where many people like us drink all the way to the grave still trying to prove otherwise…

“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.”

We occasionally hear mention of alleged “denial” at Step One, but no, we had not been denying anything.  We simply had yet to learn and to accept the truth of our alcoholism.  Driven by ego, fear, pride, ambition, intimidation (peer pressure) or whatever else, we had been insisting or believing we could (or at least might yet find some way to) drink safely…and then our own drinking experiences proved otherwise.  We had given controlled drinking our best shot, we had failed, and the good doctor had told us why.  How simple is that, eh?!  Nevertheless, and while acknowledging the fact some of us spent many years in finally coming to terms with that physical reality of our alcoholism, we are still only halfway through Step One…

“For those who are unable to drink moderately,
the question is how to stop altogether.”  (page 34)

Have you ever tried to “Don’t drink?”  We surely have…and we failed just as miserably right there…

We had no control over alcohol while drinking
— and —
we were equally powerless to remain sober altogether.

Some of us did not like this “part two” of Step One.  Accepting the fact we could not drink safely had been troubling, humiliating or humbling enough, we had thought, and now we had to choke down this new discovery we could actually live neither with alcohol nor without it.  Bottle-in-hand or back-in-the-waste-can, we had found ourselves powerless — completely powerless — over alcohol.

We do not have any doctor’s theory to offer here.  We only know we wanted to stop drinking altogether and could not.  Loved ones had begged, religious folks had prayed, we had all cried, bar-keepers threw us out, judges ordered, doctors prescribed, employers paid, neighbors mowed our yards, chickens crossed the road…and yet we still drank.

Asking again: Have you ever tried to “Don’t drink?”  If you have failed as miserably there as we have and you are willing to stop trying to stop drinking — ego-deflation-in-depth here — we know a way you can permanently recover by having the problem removed.  Like Harry S. told Nick K. long before most of us were born:

You don’t have to do anything your way any longer.”


Step Two

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 59)


The ideas of “God could and would” and “trust in God and clean house” have taken quite a beating and become garbled or obscured by many distractions since the early days of A.A., and we would like to share with you the actual simplicity of Step Two:

“‘Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe,
there is a Power greater than myself?'”  (page 47)

That is Step Two in its entirety.  If you do already believe there is a Power greater than any of us, we emphatically assure you already have the “simple cornerstone” — a bit of belief — upon which a wonderfully effective “spiritual structure” can be built.  And if you do not yet believe there is a Power greater than ourselves but you are at least willing to believe there at least could be or possibly might be, we still say the very same:  “It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone (of at least a willingness to believe) that a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.” (page 47)

What evidence of any so-called “Higher Power” does anyone have?  At Step One, we knew and admitted we could not stay sober, then we heard about some people who no longer had that problem.  Having become curious to know how they got well, we asked, and they told us:

“…my friend…(declared) God had done for him what he could not do for himself.”
“…accomplished the miraculous, the humanly impossible…
“…thousands of men and women…declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking.”  (pages 11, 50)

How does that prove there is a “God”?  It does not.  Nobody can prove that, and we do not even try.  What we can prove, however, is that we now have a new manner of living we have since heard first came from “God”…and today we can also prove our new way of life works quite well for each of us willing to live it!

See, Step Two is not a theological exercise or debate.  Step Two is about looking at some daily evidence apparent in the changed lives of others and deciding for ourselves whether or not we are willing to “taste and see” for ourselves…and thus have we ultimately come to believe “God as you understand God” (page 164) both can and will do for you just as He has done for us.

You might still be skeptical, however, and that is fine with us.  Or, maybe you just cannot get past that word “God”.  If so, we understand…and we have yet one more thought — there is always an answer — to suggest here at Step Two:

Are you willing to believe at least we believe
what has worked for us can also work for you?

We believe that, and if you are willing to act upon that simplest of belief by taking some specific action to find out for yourself — come “taste and see” for yourself — we assure you can soon find yourself upon what we have discovered to be “the Road of Happy Destiny.”  (page 164)


Step Three

Made a decision to (take Steps Four through Nine in order to) turn
our wills and our lives over to the care
(and direction) of God.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous”, page 59)


At Steps One and Two, we accumulated some crucial factors leading to Step Three:

We had lost all control over alcohol while drinking;
We were equally powerless to leave alcohol alone;
No human power could have kept us from drinking;
We have heard evidence of that problem being removed.

In place of “a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove…”

“…my friend…(declared) God had done for him what he could not do for himself.”
“…the miraculous, the humanly impossible…”
“Save for a few brief moments of temptation the thought of drink has never returned; and at such times a great revulsion has risen up in him.  Seemingly he could not drink even if he would.  God had restored his sanity.”
God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves
“…we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.  For by this time (Step Ten) sanity will have returned.  We will seldom be interested in liquor.  If tempted, we (now) recoil from it as from a hot flame.  We react sanely and normally, and we will find this has happened automatically.  We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part.  It just comes!  That is the miracle of it.  We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation.  We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutralitysafe and protected.  We have not even sworn off.  Instead, the problem has been removed.  It does not exist for us.  We are neither cocky nor are we afraid.  That is our experience.  That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.” (pages 24, 11, 50, 57, 84-85)

Here are just the highlighted parts from the above:

“God had done for him what he could not do for himself…the miraculous, the humanly impossible…could not drink even if he would…God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves…we recoil from (alcohol) as from a hot flame…automatically…without any thought or effort on our part…the miracle of it…a position of neutrality – safe and protected…the problem has been removed…so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”

With “Don’t drink” never mentioned anywhere within our A.A. “experience, strength and hope”, Step Three is next:  The turning point in our lives — our proverbial “fork in the road”…

“…no middle-of-the-road solution…(only) two alternatives:  One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help.  This we did — we accepted spiritual help — because we honestly wanted to (in order to permanently recover from chronic alcoholism) and we were willing to make the effort (required for taking the Twelve Steps).”  (pages 25-26)

Looking even more closely:

“Either God is everything or else He is nothing.
God either is, or He isn’t.  What was our choice to be?”
«– on to the bitter end «–We stood at the turning point.” –» accept spiritual help –»
(pages 53, 59)

A.A. had not put us in the position of having to make this decision, and neither are we trying to put you there.  Here is simply where we had found ourselves and where you might be at this moment.  We had lost all control over our drinking while drinking and nothing could be done about that, then we had also discovered we could neither leave alcohol alone altogether.  Others like ourselves next helped us to see and to understand ourselves as alcoholics, then those same people had shown us how they had recovered.  All of that is summarized here in our book:

“Our description of the alcoholic (chapters two and three in our book), the chapter to the agnostic (chapter four), and our personal adventures before and after (chapter one and the remainder of the stories in our book) make clear three pertinent ideas:
“(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
“(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
“(c) That God could and would if He were sought.
“Being convinced, we were at Step Three…”  (page 60)

Are you at Step Three?  Are you convinced you are alcoholic and cannot manage your own life into freedom from alcohol?  Are you at least willing to believe at least we believe “God as you understand God” (page 164) both can and will “solve your problem” (page 45) for you?  If not, please consider this interesting line from the original manuscript for our book:

“If you are not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to
re-read the book to this point (on what is now page 60) or else throw it away!

Q: Do I really have to swallow all of this all at once?
A: No, you surely do not.  In fact, you can, if you wish, just make a decision to take Steps Four through Nine.  After that, Step Ten will keep things cleaned up — no new past to again have to clean up later — as you come along through each day, then Step Eleven makes even that less necessary as we all continue to grow together.  But for now, you face nothing more, less or other than a simple decision to begin a specific course of action — yes or no — so we can get on with the matter of your permanent recovery.

Q: How did all of this stuff about “God” get into A.A.?
A: Prior to A.A. ever getting started anywhere, Rowland H. had gone to see Dr. Carl Jung, a world-renowned psychiatrist of that era, and Dr. Jung had essentially suggested Rowland should “Go see God” about the chronic part of his alcoholism since he (Dr. Jung) could do nothing for him.  If you wish, you can read about Rowland’s visit with Dr. Jung on pages 26-28 in our A.A. “Big Book“.  Then after Dr. Jung had told Rowland he had heard alcoholics could recover through spiritual means and Rowland had done so, he (Rowland) next offered that new-found “experience and knowledge” (page 19) to the rest of us as the second piece in our overall “recovery puzzle“, as such.

The actual wording at Step Three is quite optional “so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation” (page 63)…

“Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him:
“‘God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power (to deliver), Thy Love (in provision), and Thy Way of life (in right fellowship and worship).  May I do Thy will always!’
“We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.”  (page 63)

Q: We are talking about a god of my own understanding, right?
A: No, we are talking about “God as you understand God” (page 164).  But of course…

“If he thinks he can do the job in some other way (such as through reliance upon a chair, tree, doorknob, ash tray or light bulb rather than upon God)…encourage him to follow his own conscience…be friendly.  Let it go at that.”  (page 95)

Q: Where did you get those “right fellowship and worship” ideas?
A: By taking the Twelve Steps and learning still more about living as our Father in the Heavens would have us…

“God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.”  (page 164)

If you do not already know the story of the Hebrew exodus from bondage, maybe check it out sometime.  As new-to-us and as impressive as our modern-day A.A. experience might be, there is really nothing new about any of this:

“This is the how and why of it.  First of all, we had to quit playing God (and no longer trying to manage our own lives).  It didn’t work.  Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director.  He is the Principal; we are His agents.  He is the Father, and we are His children.  Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.
“When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed.  We had a new Employer.  Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well.  Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs.  More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.  As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter.  We were reborn.”  (pages 62-63)


Step Four: Clearing away some confusion

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 59)


If you have ever been in a treatment facility or attended very many meetings, you have likely heard a lot of confusion about Step Four.  You may have heard it is painful or that it takes a long time and a lot of hard work on many pages while you “write your life story” or whatever…and we would like to clear such things up for you.  Step Four is a simple “troubleshooting” process, a step in recovery where we uncover-and-discover “the flaws in our make-up which have caused our failure” (page 64)…and the heaviest or worst pain anyone might experience there could only come from resisting it.  For example: Continued crashing would certainly be painful if a vehicle owner continued failing or refusing to accurately troubleshoot and repair his or her vehicle’s bad brakes, but that pain would not have come from trying to do something about the actual problem at hand by taking the steps required to become free of the pre-existing pains caused by bad brakes.

How long does it take to take Step Four?  In the earliest days of A.A., the Steps were often taken within just a few days.  You might or might not get everything done that quickly unless working side-by-side with someone who has already done that, but ideas such as “one step per year” are completely mis-guided.  So with just a reasonable amount of effort being made, we would guess you might easily accomplish something like “one list per week” over the course of two or three weeks while taking Step Four.

How many pages will you write while taking Step Four?  That will depend upon the lengths of the two (or possibly three) lists you will make and how much you might wish to detail certain things along the way.  But for sure, you will not have to “write a book”…and we actually suggest you do not!  Step Four is about learning, listing and analyzing certain facts or truths about ourselves, not documenting our lives in an autobiographical format for others to later dissect and inventory.

One of the neatest things we happen to like about Step Four comes from our being shown “the key to the future” (page 66) before looking for even the first defect of character!  You are not likely to find that factual experience shared anywhere other than in our A.A. “Big Book”, however, so set aside any kind of “Step Guide” and even our own “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” (12 & 12) if you would like to experience Step Four as first passed along by the very-earliest of A.A. members.

Are you ready to begin?  If so, here we go: Listing our resentments


Step Four: Listing our resentments

In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper…”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 64)


Aside from confusion, the second obstacle some of us have encountered at Step Four has been in the short-sighted belief we had no resentments. If that might be your own case, that is fine…just proceed by making a list of “people, institutions or principles” (page 64) with whom you are or have ever been angry. Anger is a natural and normal human emotion each of us has experienced or felt in relation to one or another “person, place or thing” at one time or another…

…and remember, we are not yet looking for any defects of character! Looking for our defects comes later while making our second list in Step Four. So for now, and while leaving an empty line or two between names as you go, just begin this first list as in the example shared on page 65 in our book:

We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.”

Here is how your list might look as you get started:

 

Resentment List - Column 1

 

If you are having any difficulty here, just think of the “complaints” you have had (and might still have) against other people and things they have said or done (or have possibly not said or done in relation to yourself) that have bothered you over the years. Also, do not be concerned about how few or how many names you might have at the moment. Just begin a listing of your memories or “grudges” against others that come to mind…then add a brief description in Column Two:

 

Resentment List - Column 2

 

Do you see Step Four’s simplicity so far? The only thing new about writing theses things down (at least for most of us) is the fact we are now writing them down! These are the various complaints we have already been holding inside ourselves or “sharing” with anyone who might (either willingly or otherwise) listen for a bit at one time or another…such as while we were “crying in our beer”, so to speak, or when we were trying to rationalize or to justify (either to ourselves or to anyone else such as an employer or a judge) our personal actions or retaliations against other people and their doings (or even against the entire world) whenever we had been harmed or felt threatened. So whether you might call this your resentment list, your “grudge list” or simply a list of your personal complaints against this world and its people, the important thing here is to make a list of names and the actions of others that have been troubling you so you will have what you need to continue on in the Steps.

Before moving along to Column Three, we would like to share with you a little about where all of this is headed…and we begin with this excerpt from page 25 in our Basic Text:

“…deep and effective spiritual experiences…have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe.”

Or as Dr. Carl Jung had once mentioned while essentially suggesting we alcoholics “Go see God” if we wish to find permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism:

“…vital spiritual experiences…huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men (and women) are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.” (page 27)

Step Four is the beginning of some specific action we take with that kind of goal in mind, and here is a preview of the upcoming “key to the future” we have mentioned:

 

Resentment Prayer Purpose

note: The above is from the Third Edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous”
and might have a different page number in your own copy of our book.

Notice that part about “peace of mind in exact proportion to the peace of mind (we) bring into the lives of other people.” You might eventually word that in your own way, but here is some related action many of us have taken to begin experiencing true freedom from our lives being controlled by our own anger and resentment as in the past:

 

Resentment Prayer

 

You can begin doing that for yourself right now, if you wish. One-by-one, begin praying for the people on your resentment list. Ask for their health, their prosperity and their happiness just as you might wish to know those things for yourself in life. Ask for the people you have resented to have only good things just as you naturally seek them. But if you would rather wait until a bit later in Step Four before beginning to develop this new attitude toward others, that will be fine also.

Column Three is where we begin learning more about ourselves by listing our natural instincts and desires affected by the attitudes and actions of others…


Step Four: Our natural instincts and desires

We asked ourselves why we were angry…(and) set opposite each name our injuries.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, pages 64-65)


While listing our injuries in Column Three here in Step Four, we are looking for our natural human instincts and desires that have been adversely affected, hurt or threatened by the actions of other people.  Here is a paragraph from Step Four in “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” that can be helpful along this line:

“Creation gave us instincts for a purpose.  Without them we wouldn’t be complete human beings.  If men and women didn’t exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival.  If they didn’t reproduce, the earth wouldn’t be populated.  If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society.  So these desires—for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship—are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given.”

As we have been mentioning, we are not yet looking for any defects of character.  Rather, here are the general categories of natural human instincts and desires we all share in common:

-material security
-emotional security
-companionship
-the sex relation

As living beings, we need food and shelter (including clothing) in order to survive here on earth, and we are naturally troubled whenever our instinctual material or physical security is somehow compromised or threatened.  Then on the social front, we also inherently need, want and love to be (or to feel) needed, wanted and loved…so we seek satisfactions of our social instincts, and that typically includes physical and emotional intimacy within personal relations for the pleasure and security of companionship as well as for human procreation.

Using any words of your own choosing, here are the kinds of things to be listed in Column Three:

“In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened (by the actions of others)…
“…Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?” (pages 64-65)

Some specific examples you might wish to use:

self-esteem (one’s view or perceived value of oneself)
ambitions (including ego and/or pride)
emotional security
financial security
social security (wanting to be needed, wanted and loved)
personal relationships (family, friends or others)
sexual relations (pleasure or procreation)

Here is how all of this looks in the example list shared in our Basic Text:

Resentment List - Column 3

note: The word “fear” does not appear in the above at the moment since we look at fear a little later in Step Four.  Having that word “bracketed alongside” on the example list in our book simply reflects looking back at this list while later considering the matter of fear.

If you have not yet added your own injuries in Column Three, right now might be a good time to do so.  And of course, you can add any additional names (Column One) and causes (Column Two) that might come to mind as you come along.

There is yet another caution we would like to share with you here, and that is this:

Many of us have heard people say things like “Other people cannot hurt me unless I allow them to do so.”  There is a some truth there, of course, but learning to choose our friends, associates and even our companions wisely is not what we are doing at the moment.  Right now we are looking at the fact that all human beings, including ourselves, are affected by the actions of others — our own personal injuries and injustices are presently being listed in Column Three — and Step Four is also about learning the fact that our lives being driven or controlled by our anger and resentment does not work well (and never could have or ever will) in relation to finding satisfactions of our natural instincts and desires.  So overall, do not fall into the temptation of the ego or intellect trying to philosophically avoid or resolve anything here.  Rather, just continue on with these Twelve Steps that ultimately show us what actions to take (even against our own thinking or “old ideas” as mentioned on page 58) as we thereby learn a new manner of living that really does work even when some of the very best people around us might still let us down once in a while!

Again, here are the kinds of things we list in Column Three:

-material security (food, clothing, shelter, etc.)
-financial security (secure in the workplace, bills paid, etc.)
-emotional or social security (feeling needed, wanted and loved)
-personal relationships and companionship (including sexual relations)
-ambitions (personal goals or sense of accomplishment)
-self-esteem (a perception of one’s own value in life)

This is not a test, so there are no right or wrong answers here.  A thief can rob us of material or financial security, and people who take advantage of others can leave us feeling like doormats.  Imperfect people hurt others, and Column Three is where we list where we have been hurt.

After completing Column Three, our next task is to begin analyzing our resentments


Step Four: Analyzing our resentments

Weanalyzed our resentments.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 70)


You have possibly heard someone say, “Utilize, don’t analyze!”, then play (or continue) on a bit of general ignorance or misunderstanding and cutely warn against some kind of so-called “Analysis Paralysis”.  Be assured and do not be dumbed down: Analyzing anger and resentment in relation to ourselves (or vice-versa) is not going to paralyze anyone.  In fact, the analysis we do in Step Four is quite essential if we are to recover from the troubles that have been killing us.  And as long as we are cautioning you about that “Utilize, don’t analyze!” bit of mis-direction, we would also warn you about its accompanying idea of “working the Steps” in any kind of utilitarian way as opposed to “Here are the Steps we took” (page 59) to have our problem solved for us (page 45).  A skilled potter might “work” a lump of clay into a useable vessel or a blacksmith might “work” a piece of iron into a new horseshoe, but we are not craftsmen “working” ourselves or anything else into anything.  Rather, we are simply “taking the Steps” so the Creator of all both can and will do His own kind of work both within and through us.  Remember:

“God, I offer myself to Thee – to [‘work’] me and to do with me as Thou wilt…”
(“A.A.”, page 63, Step Three)

“…’Of myself I am nothing, the Father doeth the works’…”
(“Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”, Step Seven)

Shall we proceed?

“When we were finished (setting our resentments on paper) we considered it carefully.  The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong.” (pages 65-66)

Step Four is not about judging others, so it is fine if you might not fully agree “that this world and its people were often quite wrong.”  The primary point in all of this is related to our having natural instincts and desires (see Column Three) this world and its people (listed in Column One) do not always satisfy (as apparent in Column Two), and that we need a new manner of living (something other than self-reliance or self-sufficiency) for dealing with that kind of circumstantial deficiency (unsatisfied instincts and desires) in our lives.  Or to word all of this in another way:

“In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper…
“…The first thing apparent was that this world and its people [often do not satisfy (and sometimes even greatly harm) our natural instincts and desires].”

Then next:

“To conclude that others were wrong (or occasionally fell short in relation to satisfactions of our natural instincts and desires) was as far as most of us ever got.  The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore.” (page 66)

There is where our anger over frustrated instincts and desires can produce resentment (where we re-hash, re-think or re-feel the actions of others) deep within us.  Even if we are not consciously demanding great things from anyone, we still hurt or “feel it” and seek relief whenever our natural instincts and desires are not satisfied.

“Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves.”

Sometimes we realize we are at least partly at fault when other people do not treat us properly or respond to us as well as they should…

“But the more we fought and tried to have (our natural instincts and desires met in) our own way, the worse matters got.  As in war, the victor only seemed to win.  Our moments of triumph were short-lived.” (page 65-66)

Is all of this making some sense?  We need other people in our lives so we can feel safe, secure and satisfied, but other people do not always do as they should.  We typically become upset about that and try even harder to make things better for ourselves…

“Is s/he not a victim of the delusion that s/he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if s/he only manages well?” (page 61)

…then ultimately end up even more upset and eventually find ourselves in great need of learning this:

“It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.”

For many of us, anger and resentment have been driving forces in our lives, but now we can see this in relation to that as first encountered at Step One:

“Our human resources, as marshalled by the will, were not sufficient (for satisfactions of our natural instincts and desires); they failed utterly.
“Lack of power, that was our dilemma.  We had to find a power (and a manner of living) by which we could live, and it had to be a Power (offering a manner of living) greater than ourselves (or greater than any form of our past self-reliance).” (page 45)

So overall here in Step Four:

“To the precise extent that we permit (anger and resentment to drive or determine our thinking and actions in life), do we squander the hours that might have been worth while…(and) shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit…
“If we were to live, we had to be free of anger…
“We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future.” (page 66)