Step 4: Are You A Friend Among Friends?

I was not. I’m still learning.

At one time I thought I had the perfect life but it was built upon the proverbial shifting sand of illusions about myself. The mental image of my perfectly put-together life toppled into rubble abruptly on the evening before the first day of Spring in 2007. I was drinking, as usual, and it was past bedtime. I heard a knock at the door and one of my best friends made the statement we all cringe to hear, We need to talk. The following is from the notes I took  regarding my increasingly offensive and unacceptable behavior:

  • easily angered
  • constantly critical
  • filled with mistrust and doubt
  • alternately chastising and questioning
  • lacking the ability to give anyone else credit or praise
  • treating all my friends and family as if they’re accountable to me

It was summed up with Nothing I do is right unless I’m acting just like you. It was clear that I believed I was in charge of those around me. Not just in charge, but their judge and jury, as well. I was not an equal, a friend.

We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it. This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.  ~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 2012, p 53

When I read the following discourse on Step 4 in the 12 x 12 book, I knew this was the program for me.

The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend upon them far too much. If we lean too heavily on people, they will sooner or later fail us, for they are human, too, and cannot possibly meet our incessant demands. ~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 2012, p 53

In order to do a thorough Step 4 inventory, we include all relationships that have an element of recurring trouble, or puzzlement. No relationships that fall into that category? Then you don’t ever need to do a 4th step. Simple. The symptoms that force us to do a thorough inventory are symptoms of low self-esteem: worry, anger, self-pity and depression.

The main reason to do a fourth step is the desire to face oneself. Caution. The following are precursors:

  • Gut-level willingness to change
  • Completion of Steps 1, 2 and 3
  • Guidance from someone familiar with the 12 Step program

Usually, as in my case, it’s the direct result of pain too great to bear. Sometimes, however, it’s the result of personal growth and wanting very much to continue to grow in truth. It may never feel like the perfect time to attempt this work. Perhaps if you are questioning the necessity, you could ask someone who knows you well. In my case, I got the answer before I asked the question. Lucky me. Truly.

PS: The sequel to this emotional encounter: Why Would Someone Who’s Doing Fine Turn to AA?