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
-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)

Step Four: The key to the future

We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future.
We were prepared to look at (all of this) from an entirely different angle.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 66)

We are ultimately headed toward new attitudes (“constant thought of others”) and actions (“how we can help meet their needs”) stemming from spiritual principles such as summarized here:

“Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to others. Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.” (pages 19-20)
“At the moment (Steps Four through Nine) we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” (page 77)
“Giving, rather than getting, will become the guiding principle.” (page 128)

And to help us eventually get there, we are making a beginning by learning some things about ourselves, life and right living while seeking freedom from anger and resentment. While we had been practicing “constant thought of ourselves and how we can get our own needs met” in the past, “we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it.” (page 25) So now:

“We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look at it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us.” (page 66)

How is it that “the world and its people really dominated us”? First, we human beings all have the natural instincts, desires and needs we have listed in Column Three, and we have been trying to get other people to serve us while we have been practicing “constant thought of self and how we can get our own needs met”…and all of that has left us empty-handed in a never-ending stream of frustration and misery ultimately driving us back to alcohol for relief.

“In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.”

Next, did you notice “fancied or real” in the above? We have listed the attitudes and actions of others that have been the targets of our past anger and resentment, but the fact we have felt upset or hurt does not guarantee those attitudes and actions of others have always actually been wrong. For example:

Resentment List - Fancied

The fact that someone might get someone else’s job does not prove any wrong-doing on the part of anyone else, and neither does the fact that someone had been locked up to keep him from drinking himself to death. Then, is an employer automatically being unreasonable, unjust and overbearing while reprimanding us if we do not show up for work on-time every day and do what we have been hired to do? How about a wife wanting the family home in her own name before her alcoholic spouse might drink it away? There certainly are right ways and wrong ways for those kinds of things to be done, but the fact that we are affected by the actions of other people and end up angry and resentful does not prove other people have actually committed wrong-doings. Rather, the overall point here is that our own attitudes and actions helping to fuel our anger and resentment have not been making life any better either for ourselves or for anyone else.

We will learn more about discerning right from wrong as practiced anywhere by anyone as we continue on in our new “constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs” (page 20) manner of living, but for now we are getting started by learning new attitudes and actions toward other people even though some of them might actually have committed true wrongs against us:

“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.” (page 66)

We are not judging and condemning others while pondering this possibility of spiritual sickness, we are simply recognizing the fact that spiritual sickness lies behind wrong attitudes and actions.

“Though we did not like their symptoms (of possible spiritual sickness) and the way these (attitudes and actions listed in Column Two) disturbed us…” (page 67)

Let us give some careful thought to the second part of that:

“Though we did not like…the way these (attitudes and actions listed in Column Two) disturbed us…”

We are not trying to become free of being affected by the attitudes and actions of other people. To do that, we would have to either find a way to only ever experience good things from others or else become completely self-sufficient and never be dependent upon this world or other people at all. So while dealing with this matter of our past-or-present anger and resentment, and even though we have yet to look for any of our defects of character, we say this:

“…(other people), like ourselves, were (spiritually) sick…(so we) asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.”

Rather than trying to remove or expel offensive people and/or their wrong-doings from our lives, we are now working toward being able to display for others the kind of witness for which we have prayed at Step Three:

“Relieve me of the bondage of (self-sufficiency, selfishness and/or self-centeredness), that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties (over the frustrations of my natural human instincts and desires), that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power [to deliver], Thy Love [in kindness], and Thy Way of life [in right fellowship with others and worship of You in place of worship of self].” (Step Three)

And so:

“When a person (next) offended (us) we said to ourselves, ‘This is a (spiritually) sick man (or woman). How can I be helpful to him (or to her)? God save me from being angry (and/or from wrongly acting in or upon my anger). Thy will be done.’
“We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”

Consider these two excerpts once again:

Resentment Prayer Purpose

Resentment Prayer

We will see all of this again later and in more detail at Step Eleven:

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love—that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—that where there is error, I may bring truth—that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—that where there is despair, I may bring hope—that where there are shadows, I may bring light—that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—to understand, than to be understood—to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.” (Prayer of Saint Francis)

Here is the same kind of prayer in the form of song:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Jan-Lee Music

“Let there be peace…and let it begin with me.” We hope to help burn that prayer and its principles into your mind. In the past, some of us have actually enjoyed-and-employed our resentment-driven anger as a source of energy in life, but now the futility and our resulting pain of doing so have driven us to seek a new way. No matter how loudly our ego and/or pride might complain, self-reliance for security and comfort must now be replaced by reliance upon the ways of the One who created us, and that means our old attitude or idea of “constant thought of self and how we can get our needs met” must now be abandoned in favor of “constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20)…

…and now with that new attitude and approach to life and right relationships in place, we next begin looking for our own wrong-doings and defects of character still standing in the way of the very best our Maker intends for ourselves and others around us.

Step Four: Looking for our own mistakes and defects

Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done,
we resolutely looked for our own mistakes
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 67)

Here in Step Four is where we make “a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends.” (page 76)  To begin, most of us just copy the names from Column One of our resentment list over into Column One of our new “Harms List”.  For example:


Harms List - Column 1


Column Two might seem a bit difficult at first, but take a look at each of your own troubled interactions in life as you have known it (such as on your resentment list) and recognize where you have not treated others as you would have wanted or expected them to treat you.  And if you wish, you can actually begin with Column Three here:

“Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?” (page 67)

Sometimes it can help to list a known defect first, then add a bit of detail in Column Two…and always keep this in mind:

“Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the (defects of the) other person involved entirely.  Where were we to blame?  The inventory was ours, not the other (person’s).”

Some of us have had difficulty here at first because we have long been accustomed to rationalizing and presuming to self-justify our own attitudes and actions in the light of the how other people have treated us.  So-called “paybacks” would be one symptom of that kind of old thinking in need of replacement, and our past manipulative behaviours attached to selfishness, self-centeredness or self-reliance would be another.  So, the challenge here is to begin seeing where and how our past attitudes and actions have brought no more actual good into the lives of others than the wrong attitudes and actions of others might have brought into our own.  One of the prayers we have mentioned in reference to “the key to the future” can help provide some useful questions here:

Where there has been hatred, have I been bringing love?
Where there has been wrong, have I shown the spirit of forgiveness?
Have I been bringing harmony where there is discord?
Have I been sharing truth where there is error?
Where there has been doubt, how and why have I failed to bear witness of faith?
Where there has been despair, how and why have I failed to bring hope?
Have I been using my energies to bring light where there are shadows?
Have I been bringing joy into the lives of others where there is sadness?
Where have I been seeking more to be comforted than to comfort?
Where have I wished more to be understood than to be understanding?
Where and how have I sought more love than I have been willing to offer?

“When we saw our faults we listed them.  We placed them before us in black and white.”

Faults, defects, wrongs, shortcomings, harms…  There is no need to feel intimidated by such words being encountered anywhere in the Steps, and nothing in Step Four is any kind of “rap sheet” listing charges or evidence to be used against us.  The idea here is to just take a clear and honest look at how and where our past attitudes and actions toward other people have not been what God as you understand God would have wanted for those people, and to then list in Column Two our wrong-doings in need of amends as we learn to think and act differently in the future.  For those of us who have been rather aggressive in life at the expense of others, this list can be fairly lengthy.  For others of us, this harms list might not be long at all.  But for all of us, making this list can help us see where our past attitudes and actions have fallen short of the spiritual ideal where we human beings truly care about each other and share and work together in ways that are best for all.

What are our defects and/or shortcomings to be listed in Column Three?  Here is a list used by many of us, and always keep this principle from page 63 in mind: “The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation…”

Ego amounts to the delusion of self-sufficiency and believing we can successfully manage our own lives well;
Fear can represent an unwillingness to believe God as you understand God actually can and will do for us what we could never have done for ourselves;
Pride or vanity is excessive belief in one’s own abilities or knowledge of one kind or another;
Ignorance (lack of knowledge) can lead to varieties of wrong attitudes and/or actions;
Selfishness amounts to considering oneself above, ahead of or at the expense of others;
Self-centeredness is similar in believing any or all of life should revolve around oneself;
Envy is ill feeling either toward or in the presence of someone who has something we do not have;
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than we actually need or require for life;
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body;
Anger can be a troublesome emotion producing wrath;
Greed or covetousness and self-seeking stem from an excessive or mis-directed desire (instinct) for material wealth or gain (when that excess is at the expense of others);
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

The goal at Column Three is to discover and list our inherent or underlying personal characteristics or traits that have been self-defeating in the past as well as harmful to others, and are therefore in need of being “cast out” (page 72) by way of actually being replaced by new characteristics and traits as we continue on in the Steps…and along that kind of line, this next sentence in Step Four in our Basic Text (“Alcoholics Anonymous”) is clearly indicative of Steps Five and Eight…

“We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.” (page 67)

 …thereby helping to show the overall flow and interconnection of spiritual principles and actions practiced by the earliest of A.A. members before our program of recovery was later codified and numbered as “the Twelve Steps” (see Forewords to 12 & 12).  So while the present focus of Step Four is to list our own wrong actions and character defects, it is certainly fine if you might wish to simultaneously admit them “to God, to ourselves, and to another human being”, to become willing to make amends wherever possible and to begin living a new way — “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20) — even right now as you do these things to “join us…in the Fellowship of the Spirit.” (page 164)

Next in Step Four, “We reviewed our fears thoroughly…even though (or even if) we had no resentment in connection with them.” (page 68)

Step Four: We reviewed our fears thoroughly

We reviewed our fears thoroughlyWe put them on paper even though we had no resentment in connection with them.” (“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 68)

“Notice that the word ‘fear’ is bracketed alongside (our) difficulties…”

Resentment List - Fear

You can, if you wish, do the same on your own resentment list.  Or if you prefer, you can begin a similar-but-separate list dealing specifically with fear.  Overall, the purpose here is to look and to see where fear has been a factor in any or all of our past attitudes and actions in life…and to begin learning how we can now re-direct the measure of faith granted to each of us at the time of our creation.  For in fact, placing our faith either in or upon ourselves had not been working well at all.

“[Fear is an emotion that] somehow touches about every aspect of our lives…the fabric of our existence was shot through with it.” (page 67)

How so?  Either we “feel afraid” of losing something we already have, or else we are afraid we might never have something we either want or believe we truly need.  To try to help analyze this matter of fear:

Most everyone knows something such as a venomous snakebite can cause a loss of life, but many of us do not know — ignorance (lack of knowledge) and fear often go hand-in-hand — how to avoid harmful or deadly encounters in the first place or what is best to actually do either while or after experiencing one.  All considered concerning any kind of danger in life, there can be a certain level of “healthy fear” (common sense at the level of intellect) that is logical, sane and even necessary…but then what can we do today to keep from being driven or controlled by overwhelming fear while facing an immediate danger or harm tomorrow?  Shall we attempt to isolate ourselves away from all dangerous reptiles, animals or even people?  Shall we take deadly creatures in as pets or “companions” so we can try to win their favor by trying to satisfy their own instincts and desires in efforts to comfort ourselves with a sense of situational or circumstantial dominance, due or control?  Either way, via isolation or endless “people-pleasing”, would we not eventually discover our having (again) acted in fear-driven self-reliance had really only (again) “set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune…(and that) we, ourselves, (had again) set the ball rolling?” (page 67)

As we consider our fears here in Step Four, an overall goal is to see our need to turn away from any form of self-reliance as well as away from having any mere emotion (such as fear) serve as a guiding force in our lives.  And so, and as we have been doing in the above…

“We reviewed our fears thoroughly…put them on paper…asked ourselves why we had them.  Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us?”

It might sometimes seem like this matter of fear and self-reliance is a question such as that of the chicken and the egg — Which was first? — but we have discovered self-reliance is the culprit here, begetting even the ever-growing bevy of new fears ultimately stemming from the pains any human being might experience as a result of self-reliance.  So, it now makes complete sense to us that the first step in our recoveries required an uncompromised awareness, acceptance and admission of our complete powerlessness and inability to manage our own lives into any kind of state even close to “happy, joyous, and free.” (page 133)  We had certainly given life our very best self-reliant shots (efforts), of course, but now we know…

“Perhaps there is a better way…a different basis…trusting and relying upon…infinite God rather than our finite selves.” (page 68)

Our natural human instincts and desires have not changed.  We all still need food, clothing, shelter, companionship and so on while still needing, wanting and loving to be (or to feel) needed, wanted and loved amongst our fellow human beings…and we are still making sincere efforts along those very lines.  However, we are now doing that as we believe God as you understand God would have us do, and that means “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” in place of our ego-, fear-, pride- and/or ignorance-driven selfishness, self-centeredness and self-reliance of our pasts.  Today, and in place of anything like that, we willingly accept and actively live by this:

“We are in the world to play the role (God as you understand God) assigns (rather than in any way continuing to try to live in self-reliant ‘worship’ of ourselves or any other human entity).  Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us (in place of our own thinking), and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity…”

 …and the result of that kind of “sufficient substitute for alcohol” (page 152) in the face of calamity or difficulty in life is exactly what we had been seeking either almost as soon as or even before we had heard the original A.A. message of permanent recovery from chronic alcoholism.  Truly, our Creator (pages 25, 68, 72, 75, 83) is now “doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” (page 84)

People around us do not always understand and philosophically accept our new manner of living, and that fact can occasionally be discouraging for some of us.  When others try to congratulate us for staying sober, for example, and we say God alone deserves the credit for our recoveries, they sometimes roll their eyes a bit or even ridicule or attack us while feeling threatened by our spiritual experiences and awakenings they do not yet know for themselves.  But overall, and now that we know the truth of “Trust in God and clean house” (page 98) in place of self-reliance only making messes of our lives…

“We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh (at least at ourselves who used to) think spirituality the way of weakness.  Paradoxically, it is the way of strength.  The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage.  All men of faith have courage.  They trust their God.” (page 58)

Beyond “trying to put our lives in order” (page 77) here in this moment, there is yet an even larger goal before us as we take these Twelve Steps to find permanent recovery:

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” (page 77)

And so, our text continues even at Step Four…

“We never apologize for God.  Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do.” (page 68)

That is what we had prayed at Step Three…

“Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.” (page 63)

…and now we are beginning to cooperate with the transformational process that can make that possible.  Where our past lives had born hopeless witness of self-reliance, our new lives can now begin bearing hopeful witness of reliance upon God for bringing about “a transformation of thought and attitude” required to “get over drinking” (page 143).  Where many of us had once believed “Fear is a lack of faith”, we now know the debilitating fear we are analyzing here was a manifestation of our faith having been mis-placed either in or upon our finite and powerless selves.  Few of us, if any, had been aware of that at the time, of course, but now our inventory is helping us to see and understand how “self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us” (page 64).  And so…

“We ask (God) to remove our fear and (or as we) direct our attention (faith) to (Him and) what He would have us be.  At once, we commence to outgrow fear.” (page 68)

Such is the way of faith first experienced and shared by the earliest of A.A. members, and that is what always works for people like us.


While being fearless and thorough as we complete Step Four, most of us needed a bit of sexual overhauling