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Alcoholics Anonymous Step 4: Make a Moral Inventory

What Is Step 4?

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

What Is the Purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous Step 4?

Begin to determine the cause of your drinking. You will examine your emotional problems in order to prepare yourself for a life of sobriety.

How Do You Complete Alcoholics Anonymous Step 4?

  • Be sincere about your moral defects: They can give you insight into why you started drinking in the first place.
  • Accept that the problem is within yourself and drop the word “blame” from your vocabulary: You and you alone are responsible for your behaviors.
  • Work closely with your sponsor: They will share their weaknesses with you, too, for comfort and security.

Examples of What Would Go on a Moral Inventory

writing a checklist

  • “I lie to the people I care about, and it’s 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.”

What Are Some Tips for Completing Step 4?

  • Don’t hold back: You won’t benefit from this step or AA if you don’t own up to your shortcomings.
  • Trust yourself and your sponsor: Remember: You are more than your mistakes.
  • Be thorough and write down your inventory: This will be the first tangible evidence of your recovery.

What Are Some Myths About This Step?

  • This step is meant to tear you down: Members who complete this step say they feel a newfound confidence once they’ve finally faced themselves. They are ready to start the next chapter of their lives as sober and better versions of themselves.

Read more about the 12 steps

Go Back to Step 3

Continue to Step 5


Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. (1981). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Available at:

Perspectives on Step 4

By Dominica A.

My years of addiction got me in some pretty painful circumstances.

Due to using alcohol and other vices to cope, I ended up hurting others and myself. I did things I am ashamed of. I wore a disguise, lived a lie, and still walked around with a big smile on my face pretending all was okay.

By the time I reached recovery, I was broken, ashamed, depressed, confused, and hopeless. I needed help. Working the 12 steps has been a gateway for serious transformation.

Get to the Roots of Addiction

Step 4 is where the rubber met the road for me.

This is the step that really scared me. But at the same time, it got me excited. This is a step that could help me get to the root of my insane thoughts, behaviors, and addictions. I mean, why in the world did I continue to use booze to numb or use people to fill the void? What were the underlying causes?

If there’s one thing this step taught me, it’s that to get to the buried treasure, you’ve got to get your hands dirty!

Step 4 prompted me to dig through a lot of “junk” and begin a journey toward healing old wounds and rediscovering the beautiful person I am at my core. Turns out I’d simply forgotten.

The Inventory Step

Step 4 is called the Inventory Step. This simply means taking an honest look at all of your good and bad character traits. Peeling back the curtain and exposing IT ALL. When you take inventory, you take notes or write down ALL that you have on hand.

Wait. I have to write down all of my negative character traits? My defects? I have to admit that I hurt others? Own my insanity? Take responsibility for all the times I manipulated, lied, stuffed, etc.?

Yes. Believe it or not, it’s important for a solid and life-changing recovery.

Attend to Your Wounded Inner Child

You’ll be writing a lot in Step 4. You’ll be looking at your past. You’ll be able to get a glimpse of some childhood wounds or traits that you picked up along the way. You’ll feel some things you may have been numbing for decades and work through them. You’ll courageously tackle any character defects, shortcomings, or internal programming that kept you in bondage.

I felt a huge relief after I completed this step. I squared my shoulders and faced a lot. Then, as I began to heal, I began looking at myself with a new perspective—a loving and compassionate perspective. I forgave myself for my past. Shot my emotional baggage to the moon.

My advice for heading into Step 4 is to allow courage to rise and be completely honest with yourself while doing it. Dig deep. Shed layer after layer of pain, lies, shame, and anger, and get to the guts of who you are: a beautiful and courageous soul!

Author bio

Dominica A. has a love for the 12 steps, as working through them several times has helped her steer clear of addictions and grow personally and spiritually.

She is committed to living out the 12-step philosophy and sharing the message of hope to those still suffering in addiction—and to those in recovery as well.

Dominica has attended both Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous meetings over the years and appreciates the support she’s received. She’s got a deep-rooted passion for helping others heal emotional pain and trauma, as her own journey through love addiction has served as a catalyst for her own healing and transformation.

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