Take Your Moral Inventory & Let It Go: Steps Four & Five


With addiction being an illness that causes such diverse and profound effects, the process of recovery must also be diverse in order to be effective. In other words, overcoming alcoholism and drug addiction means that an individual must address the physical dependency, mental and emotional damage, and spiritual changes that have resulted from living in the throes of active addiction. One of the key steps of this involves taking a moral inventory of your faults and tossing them to the wind.

As such, the journey of addiction recovery takes time, effort, and conviction, lasting for the rest of an individual’s life as he or she maintains a continuous state of recovery. Much like the disease of diabetes, addiction isn’t the sort of illness that an individual can overcome permanently, but rather it requires a variety of lifestyle changes as well as continued participation in treatments, services, or groups that make continued sobriety possible.

Alcoholics Anonymous was created in 1935 as the original twelve-step group. Created out of the efforts of Bill Wilson to help a colleague overcome alcoholism while trying to achieve lasting sobriety himself, Alcoholics Anonymous was designed to be a recovery fellowship that saw members as suffering from a deadly disease rather than being sinners perpetually drawn to the flame of sin.

Wilson’s Twelve Steps were created as a blueprint for achieving physical and spiritual recovery, serving as a to-do list with each step building upon the success of the last until an individual reaches the point of comprehensive recovery.

The Fourth Step: A Comprehensive Moral Inventory

Each of the Twelve Steps is important with the overall twelve-step method reflecting an emphasis on spirituality and an improvement in one’s self-concept. The earliest steps are pivotal, first involving overcoming the denial through the acceptance of one’s dependency and an appeal to the higher power of one’s understanding for the strength to overcome that dependency.

As individuals progress through the next steps, they reach the point of reflecting upon the self, past experiences, and behaviors with the Fourth Step being to make a “fearless and searching moral inventory.”

Over the course of addiction, individuals commonly make choices that they prefer not to think about, which includes lying and deceiving loved ones, stealing and committing crimes, and a variety of other shameful behaviors. In fact, feelings of guilt and shame are a common trigger for substance abuse with individuals preferring to become intoxicated over having to confront their shortcomings. As part of the Fourth Step, one is no longer using alcohol or drugs to avoid reality and, instead, begins to take a thorough, comprehensive inventory of one’s life.

This includes places where one has been, people with whom one has interacted or harmed, mistakes made, and the ways that one has behaved in order to make ends meet while in the throes of active addiction. According to Alcoholics Anonymous literature, the goal of the Fourth Step is to become aware of how, when, and where one’s desires have resulted in negative consequences.

The Fifth Step: Admitting the Nature of One’s Wrongs

Taking and assessing a moral inventory to oneself is an important step that is much more difficult than it would initially seem, but admittedly it’s considerably less difficult than discussing those details with others. In the Fifth Step, individuals admit to “God, [themselves], and to another human being the exact nature of [one’s] wrongs.”

When an individual has made a thorough assessment of self, the next step is to admit those to the higher power of one’s belief and other individuals. When discussing one’s prior wrongs and defects with others, an individual is effectively purging of those toxicities as acknowledging and admitting them also serves as recognition of their negative effects and the need to overcome them. Moreover, it’s about releasing egoism and the fear of rejection.

As well as being a liberating experience, the Fifth Step is also intended to humble those who are recovery from addiction. Without humbling oneself, individuals tend to find it much easier to fall back into the throes of active addiction with a relapse. Admitting such personal details to others—by illustrating such details with one’s life story or even just select experiences—is also important because it helps individuals to overcome fear, learn honesty and humility, and is a step toward obtaining a clean slate.

Take an Inventory of Faults & Then Let Them Go

The Fourth and Fifth Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are important for several reasons. Alcoholics Anonymous literature uses many different words, terms, and expressions when referring to what exactly is comprising an individual’s moral inventory, including wrongs, flaws, shortcomings, and defects of character. 

However, the essence remains constant and refers to those problems with one’s attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that have led to harm to oneself or others and which have prevented an individual from being ready to overcome his or her addiction, preferring instead to remain in the throes of active dependency.

Moreover, it’s often recommended that an individual make a physical list by actually writing down his or her moral inventory. The underlying idea is that anything that adds to the longevity of one’s addiction is going to also prevent the individual from establishing a stronger connection with the higher power of one’s understanding, which is an integral part of twelve-step recovery. For those who suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction, this usually consists of one’s resentments, wrongdoings, fears, and other types of emotional and behavioral misconduct.

While the Fourth Step is essential, much Alcoholics Anonymous literature states that without completing the Fifth Step, one’s chance of relapse is significantly greater. In other words, this step promotes honesty, humility, self-acceptance, and the sense that the individual is purging that which is wrong or damaged in order to make room that can be filled with that which is good, especially the light associated with the higher power of one’s understanding.

When admitting defects of character to another person with honesty, one can establish a trusting relationship with that person; as such, having a network of trusting and supportive individuals has shown time and again to be essential to one’s success in recovery.

Make Your Way to a Better Life with Drug Treatment Center Finder

As of today, millions of individuals have achieved lasting sobriety by working the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Twelve Steps remain world-renowned and have been adapted for use in recovering from virtually any and all addictions. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs, or a harmful behavior, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Call us today at 855-619-8070 to speak with one of our recovery specialists who is available for free consultations and assessments.

Staff Writer :