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Alcoholism and the Fourth Step Inventory in Alanon

Updated on May 8, 2017
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah has several alcoholic relatives. She became active in Al-anon, for families of alcoholics, over 37 years ago, often helping others.

The Fourth Step Encourages Us To Think About Our Strengths and Weaknesses

Don't dwell on your mistakes.  Think about your strong points, too!
Don't dwell on your mistakes. Think about your strong points, too! | Source

What is the Fourth Step?

In most 12-Step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Alanon, each member must eventually come face-to-face with the dreaded "4th Step".

The exact wording of this step is to affirm that wemade a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

At first, this may seem scary to some people who feel they have made a mess of their lives. On the other hand, there are people who feel that they are the ones that held their family together despite active alcoholism on the part of one or more family members. These people may feel that they have not made any mistakes and, if they did, they were completely justified.

In either case, we all know that eventually we will be asked to share our 4th Step with your personal Higher Power and at least one other person. When we do that, nearly all of us may will discover that we have a few amends to make. These steps can seem difficult at times, but they are absolutely essential if we want to restore our lives to peace and sanity.

I remember doing my own 4th Step about 15 years ago. I still have the "Blueprint for Progress" workbook which I often pull out and review when I am helping newcomers work on their 4th Step.

Once you get into the steps, you may discover that they are not as hard as you feared and that you actually have a lot of good attributes!

Most Members Use the Al-Anon Blueprint for Progress

Blueprint for Progress: Al-Anon's Fourth Step Inventory
Blueprint for Progress: Al-Anon's Fourth Step Inventory

The Blueprint for Progress workbook will help you recognize your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. I have kept mine for years and often pull it out when I work with newcomers.


Using the Blueprint for Progress

In Alanon, unlike some of the other 12 Step programs, we have been given a wonderful tool to help make the 4th Step easier. It is a workbook, written in journal form, called "Blueprint for Progress." This book is invaluable in helping us do an Alanon 4th Step.

In most 12-Step groups, the members must write their personal inventories using only a blank sheet of paper and the guidance of their sponsor. When a Fourth Step is handled this way, people usually list all their good and bad qualities, and behaviors. Often they go on to write their complete life story. When we do an Alanon 4th Step, however, we can use the "Blueprint for Progress" to guide us through all of the qualities and behaviors that make up our personality. We don’t have to write an autobiography. Instead, the booklet asks us a series of probing questions that really help us see ourselves in a fair and balanced way.

Remember that when we do an inventory of any kind, the purpose is not to just discover what is missing or used up, but also to learn what we have in abundance. This is also true when we do an inventory of our own traits. In completing an Alanon 4th Step, we are guided not only to look at the personality traits that are negative, but also to consider our good qualities!

What Qualities Do You Have?

What are some of the qualities that are covered in our Alanon 4th Step? You will be analyzing your ability to be honest, responsible, trust-worthy, grateful, loving, mature and a good communicator. Most of us will discover that we have a lot of areas of our lives that should make us feel good about ourselves.

You will also be looking at some of your attitudes towards sex, intimacy and your own self-worth. In addition, you will be considering how you handle anger, resentments, finances, guilt, shame and fear. The question and answer format of the book will gently guide your thoughts in these areas.

You'll soon discover that you have accomplished a lot in your life, although you may have some areas that could stand improvement ... and that's OK!

There's No Hurry

Although going through all these traits may seem like a lot to cover, please realize that most Alanons will spend months going through their "Blueprint for Progress" and completing their Alanon 4th Step. Once you have completed it, this self-inventory will be something that you will cherish. In years to come, you will often go back, look at what you wrote, and realize the true progress you have made in your life. It becomes a marker that helps you see where you were emotionally when you joined Alanon, as well as a valuable journal deep into your soul! Don’t be afraid to do a Fourth Step. Instead, take the time to enjoy this journey of self-discovery!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Deborah-Diane


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    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Orange County, California

      I agree Au fait that this is a good way for people to learn about their talents and skills, and which areas of their lives they would like to cultivate. You made a good point!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Still think this is a good way for a person to learn about their talents and skills more so than their negatives because so many negatives are subjective. Concentrating on the traits a person wants to cultivate or improve on might be better than working on the negative unless a habit is truly unquestionably negative.

      Sharing again.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      This is a good way to discover one's skills and talents. So often people see themselves in a negative light and don't even think about the good qualities and talents/skills they have to offer. This is a great way to see oneself anew! Hope my followers find this helpful.

    • Deborah-Diane profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you everyone for reading and responding to this article. Many people in 12 Step programs like Alanon are fearful of doing their 4th Step because they don't want to do a fearless inventory of their character. However, once they have completed it, most people feel that it is one of the most worthwhile actions they have ever taken to improve their lives and let go of their past guilt and fear.

    • moonlake profile image


      6 years ago from America

      Great information about this group. Voted up

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 

      7 years ago

      Al-Anon is a miraculous program and fellowship. It has helped so many people to help themselves whether their family member or friend is drinking or not. I have been told by some members that it is a good idea to work this step thoroughly and to try not to drag it out. 4th steps can bring up a lot of emotions so it's a good idea to move onto Step 5 as soon as you can in order to process the emotions with someone who wants to help. Thank you so much for sharing here.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've heard a lot about how effective ALANON is for family members of alcoholics. I think it is important to have more information about support groups like this. Thanks for the info!


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