The first three steps in the 12-Step program are about recognizing a higher power and discovering hope through Him. The next phase of the 12-Steps, which includes steps 4-7, is about searching one’s soul and addressing shortcomings. The strength that you’ve gained as you turned your life over to God in steps 1-3 will allow you to complete step 4, which is to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. Such moral introspection is a key element of LDS doctrine and culture, which helps demonstrate the parallel that the 12-Step program can have with Latter Day Saint ideology.
Part of Step 4 is identifying your shortcomings and recognizing the mistakes you’ve made that have fed into your addiction. By bringing these issues into the light, you’ll be able to address them, correct them, and put your addiction behind you. Failing to honestly acknowledge your own negative patterns of behavior will make it difficult to avoid falling back into old habits. Identifying which of your negative self-perceptions is based on shame, and which are based on guilt will help you identify which behaviors you need to change.
Another aspect of self-examination is to look at your life situationally, and identify what circumstances have weakened you and opened you up to addiction. Some examples of these circumstances may be childhood neglect or trauma, peer pressure, or unmanageable amounts of stress. If you can pick out the situation where you were unable to thrive and turned to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, you can avoid putting yourself in these situations in the future.
Another part of Step 4 is to look outside of yourself and examine your primary relationships. You need to be candid with yourself about how you’ve influenced others, and how they’ve influenced you. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How has my behavior hurt others?
- How have I relied on codependency as a way to function?
- How have I hurt myself through my relationships with others?
The answers to these types of questions will form a foundation that you can work from to build new relationships and repair existing ones.
Cataloging Strengths and Weaknesses
Step 4 isn’t just about identifying your shortcomings, it’s about identifying your strengths as well. Recognizing the areas you are successful in is just as important to your recovery as working on your weaknesses. Your natural talents and strengths will buoy you up as you rebuild your life, and give you something positive to focus on.
A successful recovery takes a great deal of confidence and self-esteem, which usually has to be rebuilt after being destroyed by addiction. If you can find the areas you excel in, you’ll discover your unique tools for recovery, and you’ll see a surge in your confidence as a result.