Step 4: Dirty Urchins, Raggedy People and Drunks

Two weeks after giving up drinking, I journaled:

I feel wonderful! For over a week, I’ve been feeling so great! I doubt that I’ve felt this happy for this long-ever! One person told me I’m in the ‘pink cloud’ stage. Of course, that helped me develop another resentment, but it didn’t help my sobriety.

My journal is a jumbled tale of ups and downs after that. I find that 43 days after my last drink, I dreamed of Dianne Frieden. She was a hero from my childhood. My father was a hall of fame coach and she was his biggest star. I loved her; idolized her. She had beauty, brains and unprecedented success for an Iowa girls’ basketball player. The year after leading Valley of Elgin to the State Championship, her picture was on all the tickets for the state tournament! Thus, everyone was shocked when a few years later, she took her own life by jumping from a cliff in Hawaii.

In my dream, she was leading me around, teaching me things. I wrote:

Since she’s the first person I knew who took her own life, maybe I’m working through the issue of suicide.

If so, the message was clear to me: She gave up before things could get better. At about a month sober, I was no longer extremely depressed or suicidal but the pink cloud was vaporizing.

Anger Walls

It was about this time that I started to recognize the anger that I felt. Since I’d been numbing myself for so long, I had to get re-acquainted with my feelings. Journaling about the relationships in my life, I wrote that I felt like I was physically crawling over a wall that I’d built up between me and those I loved. The stones in the wall were angry feelings cemented with arguments.

I had gradually stopped spending time with anyone except my business partner. I’d argued with everyone before systematically cutting myself off from all relationships. I didn’t even take phone calls from friends anymore. The phone was an interruption to ‘my time’, meaning my drinking time.

The more I drank, the more afraid I got, yet I continued to isolate. Being angry, afraid and being argumentative wasn’t new to me, but was a well-established pattern. Today I realize that feeling anger and then becoming argumentative is how I express fear.

I had no idea how much Step 4 would help me with the anger and the fear. However, being a typically obsessed alcoholic, I put off working on 4 until I had several helpful guides besides the Big Book. I found one just for women, one by Hazeldon, and one (just in case) that was non-specific to alcoholics. Finally, I packed up and retreated to Prairiewoods for my writing weekend.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

While there, I wrote:

Last night I dreamed I lived in total chaos! Everything was dirty, broken, piled up and rusty. I kept gagging and felt confused. There was mud all over inside the place I lived, windows were broken, there was no grass, only ruts and rocks. Lots of dirty urchins, raggedy people and drunks in all the rooms. I had no place to call “mine’ and every time I found a corner or blanket, someone younger would claim it and I’d give it up because I should.


Feel free to psychoanalyze me. All I know is that I was aware of how much the old junk was cluttering my life. I was more than glad to be doing the psychological housecleaning of Step 4. This is the first in a series about my 4th Step. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about that Step?