Category Archives: Here Are The Steps We Took

Step Four: A bit of sexual overhauling

Now about sex. Many of us need an overhauling there.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 68)

Here in Step Four, we are working at seeing ourselves as we have been in the past and how to now begin fitting ourselves to becoming what God as you understand God would have us be in relation to satisfactions of the natural human desires, instincts and ambitions shared by all people.  Where we had been employing our own ideas and self-reliance in search of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves in life, we are now learning to practice “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” (page 20) while relying upon God and His ways…and yes, we do mention those things a lot!  After all, those principles are at the very core of the message we carry…

“…a way out on which we can…join in brotherly and harmonious action (in life)…the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” (page 17)

…and some of us have been a bit “thicker” than others in the skull department.  So, these new ideas had at first been rather foreign to us and easily forgettable until being or becoming fully-rooted in our minds…and that is why we mention them often here, and just as first done for us!

“We try to be sensible on this question (of sex and/or sexual overhaul).  It’s so easy to get way off the track.” (page 68)

Our purpose here is not to discuss or debate sexual preferences or personal lifestyle choices.  Whether considering sexual relations for pleasure, for procreation or even for both at once, our purpose here is to try to bring into view “a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life” (page 69) where we and others will no longer be wronged or hurt by whatever we do or do not do sexually.  And so:

“We reviewed our own conduct over the years past.   Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate?” (page 69)

If a sexual partner of your past does not already appear on your list of harms to others and his or her name actually should be there, right now might be a good time to be sure about this:

“We subjected each relation to this test – was it selfish or not?”

If your only honest answer there is “Yes, it was selfish” (as in ‘Constant thought of myself and how can I get what I want?’), then be sure the other person’s name appears on your list of people hurt by your past conduct.  The fact that some of our past actions in life have been related to sex does not change anything we are doing here in Step Four.  Some of us have used sex to dishonestly extract things from other people, or at other times we have inconsiderately used someone or others during certain sexual activities that were really nothing other or better than what we might now call “interpersonal masturbation”.  No matter how justified we might have believed ourselves to be at one time or another, the fact remains (at least for some of us) that “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs” had seldom been anywhere nearby during the sexual relations of our pasts.  So again:

“Whom had we hurt?  Did we (or where did we) unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness?  Where were we (or where we were) at fault (in committing a wrong or harm against another human being), what should we have done instead?  We got this all down on paper and looked at it.
“In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life…(asking) God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them.”

What about “sex for hire” or commitment-free “consensual sex” between casual acquaintances or even close friends?  We believe those kinds of “questionables” might best be answered here:

“To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing.  If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others.  We think of their needs and work for them.  This takes us out of ourselves.  It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.” (page 70)

Never are we asked to be rid of our natural human instincts and desires.  Rather, we are asking to be shown what we might be enabled to do in order that everyone’s instincts and desires might ultimately be met without anything ever being done at the unwilling or unfruitful expense of others.  So, there are times when we must set some of our own ambitions or desires aside in favor of what is best for others…

“Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs…when to (again) yield (to our selfishness, self-centeredness or self-reliance of the past) would (again only) mean (more) heartache (either for ourselves or for others, all around).” (“Alcoholics Anonymous”)

“Simple, but not easy”, we have heard.  We must now “turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.” (“Bill’s Story”, page 14)

“Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble?  Does this mean we are going to get drunk?  Some people tell us so.  But this is only a half-truth.  It depends on us and on our (willingness to continue learning new) motives.  If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson.  If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink.” (page 70)

At first glance, some of the above can sound like some kind of punishment will be imposed upon us if we do not act or perform perfectly from this point onward.  However, many of us have now come to understand all of this is really more a matter of simply learning to recognize and remain upon a path of life rather than wandering off on yet another branch of the one that had already been leading us to death.  Many religions and/or denominations — “We represent no particular faith or denomination.  We are dealing only with general principles…” (pages 93-94) — seem to speak of some kind of ultimate punishment for continual and non-repentant evil-doers, but our immediate concern is only about learning to live in a way the same folks often say can be beneficial today as well as eternally.  And so, and with either thought in your own mind, we now suggest something like this:

“Choose your path for its experience or destination rather than by the depth of its rut.”

Before moving along to Step Five, our next bit of shared experience has to do with being sure we have been thorough while taking Step Four.

Step Four: Being sure we have been thorough

If we have been thorough about our personal inventory…”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 70)

1) “…we have written down a lot.
2) “We have listed and analyzed our resentments.
3) “We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality.
4) “We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness.
5) “We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people.
6) “We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.”

Just as while developing a desire to stop drinking because we had lost all control and alcohol had been killing us, we began Step Four in need of being freed of anger and resentment leading us back to drinking.  Having completed Step Four, we now understand why our very lives actually do depend upon “Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs”, and we now have a list of people who will be some of the first to experience our practice of new ways.

“In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him.” (pages 70-71)

How does Step Four help convince us that God as you understand God truly does have a better way for us than our own, and that He both can and will remove from us whatever self-will has previously blocked us from experiencing, offering and sharing His very best for all people?  If you have not already tried a bit of “the key to the future”, here it is once again:

Resentment Prayer Purpose

Resentment Prayer

“If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning.  That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.” (end of Step Four)

Many of us have heard people talk about whether we alcoholics are bad people needing to become good, or just sick people in need of getting well.  We have sometimes wondered about those kind of things ourselves, and we now believe Step Four has helped us sort all of that out.  As shared in our Basic Text: Spiritually sick people commit wrongs and harms against others, and that is bad.  So for our own bad actions to be replaced by good ones, we suffering alcoholics, and just like any other spiritually-sick humans, needed to discover and to learn to live within spiritual wellness.  Pretty simple, eh?!  And of course, and as variously described in whatever words, all of that is what all the Steps are all about:

“A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.” (Forewords to “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions“)

Step Five: Admitting the exact nature of our wrongs

Admitted to God,
to ourselves,
and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.”
(“Alcoholics Anonymous“, page 59)

Humility and transparency within “the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability openly acknowledged” (Ernest Kurtz) while on a spiritual pathway truly going somewhere.

First of “The Four Absolutes“: Honesty.

To begin, here is some perspective (as mentioned at Step Six) in relation to Step Five:
“At the moment 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. ” (“A.A.”, page 77)  And since a well-done Step Four is a prerequisite or “something required as a prior condition so whatever is next can happen” (Webster):
1. Have you thoroughly analyzed your resentments?
2. Have you begun to comprehend their futility and fatality, and to see their terrible destructiveness in the lives of all?
3. Have you learned of and begun to practice tolerance, patience and good will toward all people, even your enemies?
4. Have you listed the people hurt by your past conduct reviewed so far, and have you become at least willing to straighten out whatever you can?
If not, please send an e-mail and one of us will help you fully prepare for what Step Five is all about.

For people either familiar with or inclined toward religious “confession”, it is important to understand Step Five is about something far beyond merely reading, reciting or admitting to a “rap sheet” of past wrongs or “sins” or whatever other word any of us might wish to use there.  Instead, Step Five is about “the exact nature” — the inherent characteristic — of our past moral character — dealing with the immorality — behind our past wrongs and the harm caused to others as results of wrong attitudes and actions.

For people who like the sound of “We are sick people trying to get well, not bad people trying to become good”, it is now time to identify, comprehend and turn away from the deceptiveness of that kind of temporal or carnal psycho-babble wordplay.  Yes, we are sick people trying to get well, and our sickness to be overcome by taking these Steps is our spiritual sickness (pages 64, 66-67) that has in the past been the selfish, self-willed source of our past immoral or ungodly — harmful to others — attitudes and actions.

Next notice these three objectives we have here before us on the table:
Admitted to God the exact nature of our wrongs;
Admitted to ourselves (oneself) the exact nature of our wrongs;
Admitted to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Does that help clarify the subject and points of this Step?  We have in the past had certain views of ourselves, typically victims crying for justice and restitution rather than perpetrators seeking mercy and forgiveness, and now the time has come for seeing and knowing ourselves as our Sovereign Creator knows us…

…and to help make that possible (bearable), we are sharing all we have learned so far with a fellow human being who has in his or her own time already been just as fearless, thorough, humble and transparent about these very same spiritual deficiencies.

Are you keeping in mind the overall goal “to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us”?  And, the suggestion of that kind of living comes to us from single-minded people who also share these facts of their common experience:

“…wrecked in the same vessel…restored and united under one God…hearts and minds attuned to the welfare of others…”
“…a common solution…a way out on which we can absolutely agree…join in brotherly and harmonious action…the great news this book carries to those who suffer from alcoholism.” (pages 161, 17)

Ponder all of that for a moment.  The great news we carry, the A.A. message we have for sharing with the next alcoholic is one of complete unity within a fellowship of people who first “admitted complete defeat” and have since, in effect, “been raised from the dead…from the ‘scrap heap’ to a level of life better than the best [we] had ever known!” (page 11)  Who in his or her thereby-transformed mind would ever even think of turning back away from that in favor of a bottle?!  No, “Seemingly he could not drink even if he would.  God had restored his sanity.” (page 57)  Step Five helps bring that about.

Our Basic Text, the A.A. “Big Book”, is all about right worship of our Maker in place of our past worships of self, right views of ourselves in place of all ego or pride and about right fellowship — spiritual fellowship — with others in this world around us.  Having come thus far, we now begin actually getting “Into Action” here at Step Five…

“Be quick to see where religious people are right.
Make use of what they offer.” (page 87)

…and may we all ever yet continue to abandon as much of ourselves as we can possibly know and understand (Steps Four and Ten) to as much of our Maker as we can possibly know and understand (Steps Nine, Ten and Eleven)…and let us all do that together (Step Twelve) for the sake of still others with assurance we each-and-all actually can learn, mature, grow and “endure to the end” together just as our Maker would truly have us.

“Father, my only desire is to delight in you, and to delight only in you.  My past delights in myself and in trying to have things as I would have them only caused trouble for myself and others, so my desire now is to delight in you, and to ever delight only in you.”

Such is the Spirit of Step Five as we now pursue living in complete transparency.