Get help today 888-319-2606 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Alcoholics Anonymous Step 4: Make a Moral Inventory

What Is Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The 4th step of AA is: “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

What Is the Purpose of Step 4 of AA?

The purpose of step 4 of AA is to begin to become willing to move forward in recovery by honestly examining your past substance use and actions and how it has affected you and others.1 Step 4 of AA is a path toward learning to take more responsibility for yourself and your actions.

How Do You Complete Alcoholics Anonymous Step 4?

  • Be honest about your moral shortcomings: They may provide insight into why you started misusing alcohol.
  • 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, which may help you feel more comfortable sharing your own.

How a person completes their moral inventory in step 4 of AA can vary depending on what method works best for them. Some people may journal about it, while others may create a more structured document that lists people they’ve hurt or specific examples of ways they’ve hurt themselves and others.

Some examples of what you may include in your moral inventory in step 4 of AA are:

  • “I lie to the people I care about, and it’s hurt them.”
  • “I desire power, so 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 have taken my anger out on my family and friends.”

What Are Some Tips for Completing Step 4 of AA?

  • Don’t hold back: Be honest as it can help open you up to the other steps of AA and your recovery process.
  • Trust yourself: It can be challenging to trust yourself if you’ve made mistakes; however, taking a moral inventory can help you develop trust in yourself over time.
  • Work with your sponsor: They can offer support and suggestions on how to take moral inventory in a way that works best for you.

What Are Some Myths About Step 4 of AA?

Some people believe that this step 4 of AA is one of the hardest to work through because it can feel tiring to relive challenging moments. However, many people who complete step 4 of AA say they feel newfound confidence after they honestly face what they’ve been through and done. They may feel more ready to start the next chapter of their lives as sober and better versions of themselves.

Perspectives on Step 4 of AA

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 shortcomings? I have to admit that I hurt others? Own my recklessness? 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.

More Information on 12-Step AA Programs

If you would like more information about addiction treatment options available in your area, contact American Addiction Center’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private consultation today. Our professional and caring admissions navigators are here for you 24/7.

You’re not on this journey alone. Use the form below to see if your health insurance provider could potentially cover the costs of rehabilitation and associated therapies for addiction.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.