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The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous: Step Four

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


Once I decided to abandon my way and my will in favor of God's way and God's will, I needed direction. I had a plan, but I needed definite goals and tasks by which to begin achieving that plan.

I only knew one way: my way, and it only managed to get me stuck. Now I was ready to get unstuck. I was ready to start growing.

The next logical step was to take inventory of my life. What did I have and what did I need to lose? What could I retain from my experience, and what did I need to release?

I did not work Step Four; Step Four worked me.

I sat down and started listing all the traits I was aware of about myself. The traits I was ready to give up; throw away; or change. I bought a blank book, and started listing the negative traits, one to a page.

What was on my list?

(This compilation initially took about four months of intensive journaling and counseling): Attachments, advising, accusations, arguing, bitterness, complaining, criticism, comparisons, conditional love, captiousness, doubting, denial, despair, discontent, exaggerations, fear, hypocrisy, impatience, intolerance, indecisiveness, irritability, guilt (unearned), guilt (inflicting), negativity, over-eating, presumptions, people-pleasing, perfectionism, resentments, regrets, rigidity, scolding, self-pity, stubbornness, self-righteousness, slothfulness, worrying, willfulness, and whining.

I meditated and prayed about each of these traits (and others) and asked God to show me how to overcome them or change them or lose them. I also asked God to continue showing me issues and personality traits that, as yet, I could not see or was not ready to see.


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Someone had given me Serenity: A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery. This book had very specific guidelines for working Step Four. I followed them carefully, under the guidance of my therapist.

Next, I took inventory of the positive legacies I had obtained from my childhood: strong work ethic, strong morals, strong sense of family, sense of humor, creativity, appreciation and respect for authority, faith in God, strong, healthy paternal and maternal role models.

I took inventory of the positive survival mechanisms I had developed: a can-do attitude, self-reliance, teachable, flexible, adaptable, well-organized, good public speaker, teacher, writer, focus, setting and attaining goals, etc.

I took inventory of my unique talents and abilities: friendly, caring, compassionate, relaxed, accepting, approachable, honest, able to express myself, confidence in my creative and artistic abilities.

I took inventory of the positive permissions I granted myself: living one day at a time; focusing on the present; loving my inner child; letting go of past shame; feeling OK about myself; continuing my self-growth and self-actualization; relaxing in my leisure time; letting go and letting God; taking care of myself first; trusting God; being OK with less than perfection; letting others live they way they want; being un-dependent; keeping a light heart.

I also looked at all my relationships and determined how I had contributed to making those relationships work or not work. This included: parents; grandparents; teachers; mentors; friends; and romantic interests. This was especially enlightening, now that I was willing to admit I had both helped and hurt other people by my actions, words, and influence.

The more I discovered about myself, the more I learned about God. The more I learned about God, the more grateful I became to God for showing me that I needed to make the decision to change my will and my life. I became grateful for every situation which had brought me to the point where I was ready to make the change. I became grateful for all the people and circumstances in my life. I began to turn from being bitter to becoming better. I became grateful for my life.

Step Four began the transformation process that God has been working in me ever since.

next: The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous Step Five

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 23). The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous: Step Four, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, March 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/relationships/serendipity/twelve-steps-of-co-dependents-anonymous-step-four

Last Updated: August 7, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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