Step 4 Guide

How to Work the AA 4th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

4th Step Advice

“You can not solve a problem on the same level of mind that created it” -Albert Einstein

It is highly suggested to have a sponsor before working the 4th step. Its tough to fix something with a broken tool.

4th Step Review:

A. Complete steps: 1, 2 and 3 before looking at or proceeding with step 4. (Keep it in the day/step)

B.  Please read from the bottom of page 63 through page 65 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous before beginning.

Step 4 Instructions:

In order to do a thorough house cleaning you are going to take three inventories as outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. The first Inventory is of your past and present resentments, called your resentment inventory.

The next inventory will be about fears, and all things that make you nervous, anxious or afraid.

The last inventory is of your sex conduct.

Begin by praying for willingness and an open-mind, also pray for all persons concerned with your writing. (ya, all of them!)

First list all your resentments in column 1 of the resentment worksheet. We complete column 1 first. All inventory worksheets are worked from top to bottom, and not from left to right. We do not move onto column 2 until column one is completed filled out.
Big book reading of the 4th step instructions.

Resentment Inventory Instructions:

Column 1:

List all people, places, things, institutions, ideas or principles with which you are angry with, resentful of, feel hurt or threatened by. What are some situations that upset you? Definition of resentment

Column 2:

Write in column 2 the reason for your resentment: why are/were you resentful, “burned up” or sore at __________? What about them, they, or it make you angry? List all the reasons you have for each name in column 1. You could have more than one resentment toward each person, place or thing. What happened? Be specific, why were you angry, hurt, or threatened.

Column 3:

In column 3 we check off which part of self was affected. Remember, our self-esteem is how we view ourselves. Pride is how we think others view us.

Column 4:

Here we list our part in the resentment, we list where we were at fault (big book instructions for column 4)

What’s the truth here? Where was my responsibility in this resentment, what part do I own? What might I have done differently?

Resentment Work Sheet

AA 4th step resentment inventory prompt sheet

The Seven Parts of Self Defined:

  • Self Esteem – How I Think of Myself
  • Pride – How I Think Others View Me
  • Pocketbook – Basic Desire for Money,Property, Possessions, Financial Security
  • Emotional Security – General Sense of Personal Well Being
  • Ambitions – Our Plans – Our Wants – Our Desires
  • Personal Relations – Our Relationships With Other People
  • Sex Relations – Basic Drive For Sexual Intimacy

Fear Inventory  Instructions

aa 4th step fear worksheet - prompt sheet

Sex Worksheet Example Sex Inventory Instructions

AA forth step sex prompt sheet - worksheet

List all names, Harm Done, Where were we at fault?
Whom did we hurt? What should we have done instead?

30 Responses to Step 4 Guide

  1. Pingback: Step 4 - SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information

  2. michael s. says:

    How long do steps 1 through nine actially take.

    • John Doe says:

      If you take longer than a month. I would suggest you aren’t working it as if your life depends on it…

      • John says:

        I’ve never seen a time frame mentioned of suggested !!!!

        • john says:

          theres clear instructions in the big book WITH timelines. Back when they wrote the book, they didnt have meetings everywhere and a huge fellowship and YPAA events to keep people “sober” there was only the steps, which will cause a change in attitudes, emotions and behavior through action under the Power of God. After we take step three, it says “Next we launched on a course of RIGOROUS action” not, go to some meetings and “take it easy” when we dont understand anything about ourselves(which is revealed in step 4-5) and how to pray on these things which are the real cause in most of our pain.

          no one is going to get it perfect the first time they work the steps in any circumstance, so in my experience, working them fast and getting a relationship with a Higher Power sooner rather than later is best. But hey i dont know shit im just a drunk.

        • Mike Schratz says:

          The Big Book says with the Despartation of a drowning man. And the archives talk about three to four weeks when 75% of folks were staying sober “For Good and ALL” not one day at a time!

      • Joe says:

        Thank you John, finally someone who gets it!

      • WilliePnelson says:

        I may take as long as need be to do a thorough inventory. sir

    • Fred C says:

      Michael S, there is no timeline for the steps per se. Some folks race through them in the first few months of sobriety and others take longer. I struggled with steps 1-3, and while I stayed sober and didn’t drink, it was a year before I started Step 4 and that was the way my sponsor worked it with me.

      I immediately did my 5th step with him after finishing my 4th step.

      It took me a good year to work through steps 6-9 as I had many people to make amends to.

      Don’t overlook steps 6-7 as the foundation for making amends, one has to be willing to have God remove the character flaws and then ask Him to do so.

      One day at a time brother!

    • Rich D. says:

      There are different lengths of time for different people. I read the big book from cover to cover in the penitentiary and began to go through the steps listed in chapter five. Then when I got out, another person took me through the steps, by reading the first 164 pages to me, one week at a time for about an hour and a half each week.
      The fist step was found in The Dr’s Opinion and the first three chapters. Step two was found in chapter four. Step three and for were found in chapter five. Step six-eleven were found in chapter six. And step twelve was found in chapter seven.
      Other people may do it differently. I’ve heard back to the basics goes through the steps in for sessions.
      Thanks, Rich

    • Amanda says:

      As long as it takes you. there really is no set amount of time in which the steps take. it’s your willingness and how much you work. :)

    • Joe says:

      Not long if you really want to get better and are working with someone who understands the book. “Now we launched into a course of vigorous action” don’t putz around with it. Get with someone who goes by the Big Book!

    • Julio says:

      There is no time element in completing the steps as long you complete them accordingly one at a time. Do not go to the next with out the completion of the one that you are working on. One step at a time and one day at a time!!! The key to success!! AMEN

  3. Graham says:

    It just depends how willing and open-minded you are. Some are more sick than others so there is really no set time. You just do them one at a time, in order (They’re numbered for a reason) and with your sponsor from start to finish. (The steps weren’t meant to be worked alone.) I can tell you from my own experience that aa has changed my life more than anything else I’ve ever experienced and it’s all good changes. I hope you stick with it.

  4. ed says:

    i will always be sick and hope to stay sober.and in healing i will spend my life and with that i may help others one day at a time keep it green

  5. Bob says:

    If you follow the A.A. Big Book instructions, it will take 3-4 days AFTER your brain has detoxed (that is usually/often 3-4 days after the last drinking episode) and you can establish a belief in Creator/Higher Power/God. Bill Wilson entered Towns Hospital at 2:30pm on December 11, 1934 (his sobriety date) and was discharged on the 14th and had taken what we now call the first 9 steps (they didn’t exist then as Bill massaged the Oxford Groups 6 Steps of recovery into our current 12, but the principles were still the same, which were published in 1939 in the Big Book). There are constant references in the Book to use haste to complete the steps, in the form of “at once”. As the Book says, we are RECOVERED from Alcoholism after completing Step 9 “to the best of our ability at the time”, and we then use Steps 10, 11, and 12 for a lifetime of recovered maintenance living. We are no longer in possession of Alcoholism, thus we are not “sick”. We are, in fact, recovered (that is used on the title page of our Book, and 11 more times in the first 164 pages of our Book.) We have given our malady to God, along with our lives. Here is a good summary of what our Book actually says about how long it takes to take Steps 1-9:
    Trust God, clean house, help others.

  6. Joe says:

    “Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action” This does not read like we should take our time. We are looking to rid ourselves of the “obsession” to drink as soon as possible. This is why we launch into action. There is a sense of urgency in this matter. There is no reason to putz around with this thing. Go through the steps and start working with others. It is pretty simple.

  7. nadia paul says:

    I need help I am on my 4steps am having a hard time can some one give a feeback of there experience of there 4steps please.

    • Kristin V says:

      I had to get honest about some of the sick things going on in my life. Keep in mind, pages 60-63 should be studied and understood (I read almost daily, even at 8 years sober). Those pages address the 3rd step. Each step taken properly delivers you to the next. I was very very sick but God still helped me. If you study the book it helps. Also I read the 10th step, daily, and follow all of the instructions. You will be blown away!!! God bless you :)

  8. Matt says:

    Weird, took me 3 months just to clear up my head to get 1,2,3. took my buddy 2 days. there is no time table. Some are sicker than others. Time takes time.

  9. Matt says:

    Nadia, it doesn’t have to be any where near perfect. Keep it simple. We tend to make things more difficult than they are intended to be. Start by writing down the names of people that are closest to you. Some will say write down as many as you can think of… how about we start with 1-10… Some will stick out… start there. continue.. etc.

  10. Pingback: What am I afraid of? | Veronica's Breakdown

  11. Ed says:

    I know an old boy from Boston. 30+ years sober. He says he was taught by his sponsor that in many cases in takes a little while to clear the mind (I think in New England they refer to it as being “Mocas” – in a fog.) He likes to say: “I came; I came to; I came to believe”. I know that for me I was so full of self loathing and shame the first few months that I honestly didn’t have any real resentments against anyone buy myself. I couldn’t do a 4th Step like that. I also had some issues because of my religious upbringing with Step 3 – turning my will and my live over smacked of given up my free agency (in my mind). A good sponsor who had gone through similar things helped immensely. I ended up doing a 4th step (actually 4-7) at about 4 months sober, and then again a few months later we did it again, just more thoroughly. At nearly 12 years sober, this past January I found myself deeply “disturbed”. Winter/Holiday depression, being away from home and not having other AA’s to associate with, and being around a bunch of people (inlaws) still drinking with all the emotional turmoil. When I got home I got with my sponsor and we did a 4th Step (actually 4-9). There some things left undone and some new things that came up. It got me back on track spiritually. Soon after I got some new sponsees and I was in decent shape to work with them. This is an ongoing process. And, as the book says – I’ve only got a daily reprieve. I’ve heard the references to the Big Book authors being recovered. I think people need to remember that no one at that time had more than 5 years sober and that a good portion of those that were sober at that time died drunk.

  12. BD says:

    All these posts look true to me, because they are our truths. I don’t know how long it took me to do steps the first time but I do know that the more I read and live not only the steps but also the traditions I have an increased chance of sanity and playing well with others. But I also agree with some of the old timers that got through the steps quickly like a drowning man but p 17 that tells us about Tradition 1 on Unity suggests I not tear anyone down..still working on that bit by bit…

  13. PADDY says:

    not to happy with myself and i dont want to make excuses as to why after five and a half years i have not done step 4 .I did get first sponsor as sugested after 3 months, i was then struct down with cancer when i was getting over this and ready rengage he move away and suggested i find a new sponsor it took over a year .This started well untill his own problem.s surfaced to the point he thought i get another sponor.More time lapsed and i have another sponsor now but i feel its not working i need guidence and as i here constantly someone who will meet with me regular say once a week or so and phone contact. they say ask for help well i;am asking .thankseveryone for their post.
    best Paddy

  14. BD says:


    There’s a lady here that I often go to a 630 in the morning as Bill sees it meeting. She has the same name as you and spells it the same same.
    It’s been very hard for me to trust people let alone God. It’s something I have to practice on an almost daily basis… and even harder to trust someone of the same sex. But the pain finally got intense enough that I was willing to do what others before me had done no matter what. I can promise you, lol, but I got none of the promises until I got further in the steps. I am NOT one of those people that had any miraculous weight lifted off my shoulders when I did my 5th step but I did realize I wasn’t the scum bag that I thought I was. We don’t have to do any of these steps perfectly except maybe the first half of the first step… But that’s up for debate – I think we can grow even if we relapse after many years…. and I definitely was not as much in the herd at 5 years as I am today.
    My suggestion is that you go to a men’s stag and start getting phone numbers and calling to ask them how their day is based on how they shared. If you have to go to a men’s stag gets away from where you live…. I do that too but if you want some of that ridiculous happiness and serenity you see some of the people with you got to do what they did…the stuff in the 12x 12 and page 63-71

  15. Andrew says:

    Hi,I”m Andrew and
    working my 4th step.
    Don’t und er stand all this blurb over how long it should take ,it should take AS long as our higher power as we under stand should take.
    Yes that dos’nt mean Sitting on your bum twiddeling your thumbs “Into Action”.
    I’m praying how to adamit my fears,if any one has any suggestens I would be greatful.Stay sober don’t argue be happy Amen.

  16. Bart B says:

    My first sponsor told me “take a year to get a good grip on steps 1 – 3. Let the fog clear. If you do it too early you will do it incomplete.” It took my 21 months.

    It seemed to have been good advise, so far so good, just for today; But I am in year 32 of my sobriety. Or rather 33, I celebrated 32 a while back.

    So don’t wait too long, but do what works for you.
    And make sure you have a sponsor to discuss all of this.


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