Step 4 requires us to do a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This is the step where we begin to see our part in our own lives and relationships. In our inventory we include our behaviors and character defects that have been harmful. This step is not an invitation to be overly critical or harm ourselves, but rather to speak our truth. The inventory process is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves.CoDA’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Workbook
We are encouraged to take our time. Pray, meditate, talk to our sponsor or co-sponsors. When we are ready, begin slowly and carefully. For me, I like the Recovery Patterns of Codependence (RPC’s) as my guide in beginning a 4th Step Inventory. The RPC’s list codependent behaviors I have used throughout my life with myself and others. In the beginning, I reflect on specific relationships and people and go down the list of patterns. I mark the ones that I use or used to gather information on how I tend to show up with others. I’m gathering information about myself. I’m looking for trends. Am I heavy control in work relationships? Am I compliant with love relationships? Do I tend toward avoidance? And with whom? I get to see with which specific relationships I acted codependently. With whom were my behaviors most intense or numerous?
After gaining insight into my behavior patterns and trends, I can go deeper into the individual behaviors that show up most frequently for me. Were there behaviors that I used “across the board”? Sometimes several patterns seem to be my “go to” behaviors. I notice them with love relationships, at work, with friends, family and even acquaintances. They may be things like difficulty admitting a mistake or lying to look good, remaining in harmful situations too long or valuing other’s approval over my own. “Across the board” behaviors may be good ones to look closely at first as they may have caused the most damage to relationships and may hold clues to old beliefs and unhealed areas in our lives.
Discovering the roots of my codependent patterns of behavior can show me why I have tended to act in ways that harm myself or others. I also uncover the underlying feelings that drive them such as fear, shame, grief, anger, etc. I can then go back to the patterns and journal on when I first started noticing them and what benefits I received (protection, attention, the illusion of control or safety, etc) as well as the consequences to the relationship and where I can go from here.
However you get there, it is worth the work! Some of us use the CoDA Workbook while others find help from workbooks like “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and some, like me, create their own ways to work through this step. A helpful new tool being developed by CoDA is called “Working Steps 4&5 using the 40 Questions”.
And don’t forget to stop along the way to take stock in the positive traits, behaviors and areas where you’ve grown! A CoDA 4th step need not be a shaming experience. Rather it is a way we lovingly deepen our understanding about ourselves in an effort to identify obstacles to our peace and happiness. Take it slow and gentle…with lots of self-compassion.
In this moment, I am willing to see myself as I truly am: a growing, unfolding spiritual being resting in the hands of a loving God. I can separate who I am from what I’ve done knowing that the real me is emerging—loving, joyful, and whole.Step Four Prayer