Step 4 in the AA 12 step process is “We have made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”  In this step we begin to look at the root cause of our addictions.  We examine emotional problems we have that may hinder us in continued sobriety.  We dig to the root of who we are, how we got here, and what will take us into the next phase of life.


Understanding AA’s 12 Steps: Step 4


The most important part of this step is being honest with ourselves.  Staying humble is a constant battle.  Hopefully we have grasped humbling ourselves with steps one, two, and three. We have acknowledged that we are powerless to save ourselves, that there is a greater force out there, and that we are trusting and empowering this greater essence to see us through.  This humility must continue if we are to be honest with ourselves.  Getting honest insight into our moral defects will often show us most of the factors that contributed to the start of the addiction.  Before starting this honest assessment we  must first get rid of the word “blame”.  We must first realize that no other person is responsible for our behavior.  After coming to grips with this accountability then we can move forward.


  • “I lie to the people I care about, and it has hurt them.”
  • “I am power hungry, and I boast about my achievements.”
  • “I have alienated those around me by my selfishness.”
  • “I bring others down with my self-loathing and shame.”
  • “I am self-righteous and judgmental of others.”
  • “I am ill-tempered, and I have taken my anger out on my family and friends.”

These are a few examples of things that can go on a moral inventory.  Everyone has an idea of what “moral” means but there are some universal truths and parameters for right living and treating one another with respect.  After submitting to a higher power, this definition is often provided.  Look to an organization that represents your chosen higher power and find their definition if you’re not sure or needed added clarification.  Be thorough when you make the inventory and don’t hold back.  You can take it.  It helps to examine yourself with the assistance of a sponsor, support group, or addiction counselor.  Having another person there to call you on your own personal delusions can help with accountability during this step of the process, as it is all too easy to hide from the most painful truths.

Many people feel this step is to further tear you down.  It has the opposite effect on many people.  Most people report feeling a strong feeling of confidence after admitting the character flaws that divide them from their friends and family.  Step 4 is all about facing yourself.  It’s not an overcoming step.  Honest self-assessment causes the awareness that will allow control of the addiction in the future. It’s the first time in the twelve step process where you actively take back control, and you do so by looking in the mirror and being brutally honest with yourself about how you behave and how you treat yourself and others.  This isn’t a chance to take cheap jabs at yourself and feel some self-pity or victimhood.  This is when you straighten your spine, raise your chin, and stare down the shadow side of yourself until it no longer scares or controls you from the inside.

For guidance and counsel on how to navigate the 12 step process and conduct an honest personal assessment, Treatment Now offers a variety of recovery services to do just that. Contact our office at 844-438-8689 to see how you can get the help you need to see the process through.