When The Men Stopped Shaving *

A Russian commander said in a report after pulling out of Chechnya that he can trace their loss back to one starting place. It was when he noticed that the men stopped shaving. Just one break in discipline was the start of everything going downhill and they eventually lost the war despite having way more men, air support, and power.

It's a slippery slope in our lives. It starts with just not reading the scriptures one day and then a week later we relapse and we wonder, why? Well our discipline went down a week ago, and without noticing, we stopped doing our dailies and other things.

So how do we fix it? There are so many things we are supposed to be doing that we aren't. We can't change everything at once. We have to work our way through them slowly.

Col. David Hackworth** was a colonel during the Vietnam war. He was given command of a unit in complete disarray. They had no discipline at all, and this was getting men killed. He knew that not everything could change at once, it would be impossible. So he choose five small regulations for his unit to work on everyday. They eventually became the best unit in Vietnam.

We can get overwhelmed by all the things we are doing wrong. So take it slow and eventually we will get there. Jason texted me this this week: "To Him our direction is ever more important than our speed."



* This post was written by Spencer, a good friend in the ARP program.

** His combat successes included wiping out 2,500 North Vietnamese soldiers while his troops suffered just 25 casualties. -NY Times

Just Keeping Busy Is Not The Solution

"The way to avoid relapse, 
        is to just keep busy."

I've heard myself and others say that too many times. But "just keeping busy" should not be our goal. It's not the solution.  Sure it's difficult to relapse when you don't have any free time. But it's not changing us -- it's not changing our heart -- it's not bringing us closer to the Savior. It's just a short-term stopgap -- and not a very good one at that.

Of course many of the things we do to "keep busy" are great and wonderful, like:
  • Studying the scriptures
  • Reading or Listening to Conference Talks
  • Doing Step Work
  • Praying
  • Doing our Church Callings
  • Giving Service
Yes, those are all great activities.  But what is our reason for doing them.  Is it just to keep us busy so we won't have time to fall back into our addiction?  Is that the reason???

I'm sorry to say that for many of us that is exactly our motivation.  If we fill our lives with good things then we won't have time for bad things.

Are we doing the right things for not the best reasons?

Now I'm not saying that we should stop doing any of these good things. But perhaps we should adjust our motivation for doing them. It's been suggested that our motivation for doing those things should be to bring us closer to Christ. And then Christ can help us change our heart so we don't desire our addictions.

I know our Church leaders and the General Authorities are very busy.  But I doubt their motivation for being busy is just to keep them from doing bad things and thinking bad thoughts. I have to believe that they do what they do because of a love of Christ and a love of their fellow men. And we should try to do the same.

Let me quote from a text, on this same subject, sent to me by a good friend, James:

Good - doing dailies, step work and service out of fear of relapse because I am backing away from my addictions and bad behaviors.

Better - doing dailies, step work and service out of a desire to change who I am because I no longer wish to be who I was, but want to be someone new and different.

Best - doing dailies, step work and service out of a passion to draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, because I want to live with them again and become what they would have me be.

Some Additional Thoughts

"Just keeping busy" may help keep me sober in the short term, but, remember, sobriety is not my ultimate goal. Recovery is my goal and sobriety is just a starting point on the road to that goal.

The 12 Steps are not designed to just help us become sober. The Addiction Recovery Guide suggests that many of us can become sober by Step 5.  It says: "As we took step 5 ... Some of us were already free from our addictions." Thus, the remaining steps (6 through 12) are designed to get us to recovery.

So let's get rid of our "keeping busy" mentality and really work on recovery, by drawing closer to Jesus Christ and allowing Him to bless us with His atonement.


This Is My Work....



A friend of mine sent me this photo.  He enjoys studying the scriptures outdoors, in nature.

This photo is worth more than a thousand words!

It speaks volumes about my friend!


I added the caption at the bottom of the photo.




"Kill Something!" "Eat It!"

Our Reptilian Brain

In our fat heads we have what some call a reptilian brain.  It doesn't think.  It doesn't know right from wrong.  It just reacts to stimulus.

It's that part of the brain that initiates fight or flight.  We see fire--we run.  We see an enemy--we attack.  If there is no stimulus to wake that part of the brain up, it just sits there dormant.

There is cartoon showing how this reptilian brain works, I'll call it the T-Rex Day Planner.  On it are the entries: "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"  --  "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"  -- "Kill Something!"  "Eat it!"


That part of our brain wakes up whenever we notice a "trigger."   "See something!"  "Act out!"  --  "See something!"  "Act out!"

The see something is the stimulus and the act out is the food it consumes.

And because that part of our brain is so powerful (used for flight or fright), it takes over the rational thinking part of our brain and says, "Shut up!  I'm now in charge!"  So one of our goals should be to keep negative stimulus away from our reptilian brain and keep it asleep as much as possible.

That's why we have boundaries: "I won't take my phone or tablet into the bathroom or bedroom with me."  "I won't listen to that music!"  "I won't go to YouTube!"  or whatever our personal boundaries happen to be. What we are trying to do with our boundaries is eliminate or at least reduce the stimulus that will wake up that reptilian brain.

But there is a catch. That brain may not know right from wrong, but it does have a memory.  And it can wake itself up to eat based on what you have pre-programed it to do.

Here are a couple of examples:

"I need to stay sober so I can go to my sister's wedding"  What that brain hears is, "Go to sleep till the day after his sister's wedding, then you can eat."

"I need to stay sober so I can baptize my son."  What that brain hears is,  "Go to sleep till the day after his son's baptism, then you can eat."

"I need to stay sober till my wedding date."  You know the answer.  And that list goes on and on.

Another version of that is "I have been sober this time for 12 days, I at least need to make to 13 days next time."  

So what does that brain say to itself?  "I can wait for 13 days, no problem. But then I will eat." "And then next time I'll wait for 14 days.  I like this pattern. I can depend on it."

Does this sound familiar to any of us.  It sure does to me!

Where Does Satan Fit In?

What I've listed above is based on psychology and physiology.  But we also have a spiritual side to our lives.  And that's where Satan comes in.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  

He knew us before we came to this earth and he can remember where we can't.  He knows how our brain works.  

So when we say, "My goal is to stay sober till July 15" Satan will make a note of that.  He may even reduce your temptations leading up to July 15 just to make you become more complacent.  

But he will hit your with a temptation out of left field on July 16 that will wake up your reptilian brain with an unusual hunger for the addiction.  So when we actually set a date that we want to reach, he might help us reach that date knowing full well that he can keep this same cycle going for as long as we allow him to.

Relapse Is Just Part of Recovery -- WRONG!

Sometimes we accept statements that are just not true, like the statement "Relapse is just part of recovery."  That's not true!  Relapse is part of addiction not part of recovery.

Here is what is being given to our wives and girlfriends who attend the the Women's Support Groups. This quote if found in the Spouse and Family Support Guide.
"Because relapse is so common, some may rationalize that it is part of recovery as long as they are doing their best. However, it is important to remember that relapse is part of the addiction process, not the recovery process. We should be careful not to condone our loved ones’ excuses or justifications for their poor choices. . . . If our loved ones try to minimize the seriousness of a relapse, our clear and honest perspective can help them see that they are deceiving themselves and need additional help."

So what should be our reaction to relapse?  And how does relapse relate to full recovery.

Some well-meaning individuals will have you believe that a relapse is inevitable.  I don't believe that.  I believe that it's entirely possible that any one of us could go to the end of his life without another relapse.  Do we really believe in the atonement?  Really?  Then why do we discount that the Savior can keep us from relapsing?

I know of some guys whose current goal is to "minimize the negative feeling of a relapse."  That way they can continue to look forward to future relapses and not feel bad about them.  I don't think that's a worthy goal.  Sure, if I do relapse, I want to get back on my feet as soon as possible and move forward.  But that is not the goal of ARP.  If that is our goal we have our ladder leaning against the wrong wall.



I honestly feel all of us could go the rest of our lives and never act out again. Relapse is not necessary -- only a possibility!

What if your first day at an ARP meeting you found out that over half the group had over 250 days of sobriety.  What might your expectation of yourself then be?  I find this to be an interesting question.

Our Extraordinary Group

I attend an unusually supportive group!  We really do care about each other!  But what should our goal be?

Our goal should be to support each other in obtaining FULL RECOVERY -- without relapse.  Our goal should not be to just minimize the pain of relapse.

Please keep in mind that just staying sober should not be our goal either.  Sobriety is just one step in the recovery process.  If you get the chance check this out: Sobriety is to Recovery as Confession is to Repentance

So let's set our sights higher. Let's make sure our ladder is leaning against the right wall and let's not feed our reptilian brain.

Barriers vs Boundaries

With an addiction, there are things we are trying to avoid.  And for many of those bad things we try to employ either a Barrier or a Boundary.

Let me discuss each of those two approaches.

Barriers


A barrier is like a brick wall. Something keeping you from accessing what’s on the other side.  In our case it might be a filter on our computer, laptop, or smartphone. Do filters work?  Yes and no.  They are not perfect but they are necessary in some situations.  Like on a home computer with children around.  You don’t want them to accidentally run into stuff they shouldn’t be exposed to.

But these filters probably only work with young children, not with tech-savvy teens or adults. The problem with a barrier or filter is that our natural man rebels against barriers. You already know by your own experience that when you have a barrier in your way, at some point, you will test that barrier to see if you can get around it. And invariably you will.

I was attending a non-ARP recovery group a couple of years ago and one guy said. “I put a filter on my PC but the other day it quit working, so I got access to pornography. It was the filter’s fault!

Another guy in that same group said, “My roommate lets me use his laptop.  He knows I have an addiction so he put a filter on it.  But he turns it off when he is using the laptop.  The other day he forgot to turn the filter back on. So I got access and acted out. It was my roommate's fault!

About a year ago, I asked my bishop to lock down my smart phone, so I couldn’t access the internet. We used a locking program and he locked it down using a pattern that he chose.  However, after several weeks, I became “curious.”  So I tried entering a pattern.  The first pattern I entered worked and unlocked my phone.  So in this case, “It was my bishop’s fault!”  ……  NOT!

Do you see a problem and a pattern here?  I do.  Barriers just don’t work all that well. And they remove responsibility from us, to maintain our own sobriety, and put that responsibility on outside forces.

So am I saying let’s open up the floodgates?  No, not at all.  In fact, some barriers are necessary, like removing all internet access from our home or apartment for a period of time.  Please see my post regarding “TheLaw of Moses

Boundaries

Barriers are external walls.  Boundaries, however, are internal decisions or promises we make to ourselves and others.

Here are some examples of possible boundaries:
  • I will not take an internet-enabled device into the bathroom or bedroom
  • I will not use a computer at school if no one else in the room can see my screen
  • I will not go to Seven Peaks
  • I will not watch anything on YouTube without another person watching it with meOr better yet, I will not access YouTube
  • I will not watch television alone
  • I will not have cable TV in my home
  • I will not stay up at night past x:xx.
  • I will not drive down a certain street or go to a particular location
  • I will not use Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook if they have ever been a problem
  • I will not test out someone else’s filter on their device
  • And the list goes on and on……
For some strange reason, these boundaries came easily to my mind….

The advantage of a boundary, is that it's internal, it comes from the heart. It is not imposed by someone else. However, it's only as good as our commitment. 

So for a boundary to really work we need to:
  1. Write it down, so we and others can read it.  
  2. Share it with Heavenly Father.  
  3. Share it with at least one other human being.  And commit that we will confess within 48 hours if we ever break that boundary.
If we don’t do those things, it will only be a “wish” not a real boundary.

I love this quote from Karl G. Maeser, talking about barriers and boundaries:

“Place me behind prison walls [a barrier] - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground.  There is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape.

But stand me on that floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor [a boundary] never to cross it.  Can I get out of that circle?  No. Never. I’d die first.”






An Aha Moment

A couple of weeks ago, while attending our 12 Step meeting, I had an "aha moment."  Jonathan was sharing, and he stated that he now viewed all the good things he was doing in a different light.

Things like:
  • Prayer
  • Fasting 
  • Reading the scriptures 
  • Doing step work in the Recovery Guide
  • Attending the temple
Those things now had a different purpose for him. 

Previously he felt that those actions would help him in the recovery process by removing him from temptation.

But then it occurred to him that those things were not designed to protect us from temptation.

That the purpose of each of those actions was to bring us closer to Christ.  And that Christ and His atonement was the only way to recovery.  It didn't matter what actions we took, if they didn't bring us closer to Christ, they weren't helping our recovery.

When he shared that thought, it was an immediate aha moment for me. Of course what he said was true!  Every principle and ordinance in the gospel is designed to point us to the Savior.  He is the only source of redemption from sin and temptation.  His way is the only way to fully recover.

Jonathan went on to say that once he changed his view of the purposes of doing dailies, etc, that those various actions became much more purposeful and easier to do.

I asked Jonathan to write up, in his own words, what I just tried to explain. Here is what he wrote:

"Scripture study, prayer, church and temple attendance and all the other good things we learn to do in the recovery process are not as much about removing us from temptation as they are about bringing us closer to Christ.

When we draw close to Christ we will naturally remove ourselves from the triggers of temptation and we will be better able to deal with the temptations we face. 

 Focusing on what we don't want will not help us get what we want, which is recovery. Only by drawing near to Christ and having recovery in view will we achieve our goal."

Since listening to Jonathan's share, I am now trying to change my own perspective on why I'm doing what I'm doing. I too need to keep the Savior in view as I work the steps of recovery.



Accountability -- Which Is Better?

Which is better between these two statements?


1) I want to be accountable! -- Please pray for me!

2) I want to be accountable! -- I just relapsed!


What is the difference between the two???

About 30 minutes!

I pray we will all be at least 30 minutes sooner
in our accountability!





Actually there's a third option:
I want to isolate! --  I don't want to be accountable to anyone!

The Importance of Step Work



What exactly is Step Work?  And why is it important?

As best I can determine, Step Work is comprised of three main components:

  1. Reading and studying each of the 12 Steps.
  2. Actually doing the things mentioned in the Action Steps located at the end of each reading.
  3. Studying and answering the Study and Understanding questions found at the end of each step.
So let me address them one at a time.

1. Read and Study Each Step

I already read one step each week in my ARP meetings but Step Work should be more than that. Each of us is on a different step. I need to study and make sure I understand and agree with that step I'm currently on before I move on to the next one.  To do that I should spend time on my step during the week -- both reading from that step and looking up the references. I should also pray about my step to receive a better understanding as to how I can apply it in my recovery.

I've heard it said, "If you don't know what step you are on -- You are on Step 1!"

2. Do the Action Steps

I also read the Action Steps each week im my ARP meetings, but they are called "Action Steps" for a reason.  If I don't do the action I am missing out on the "homework" for that step.  I need to actually do the action if I wish to receive the blessings found in that step.  And that action has to be done outside of the weekly meeting.

Here is one of my favorite scriptures on that subject: "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."  D&C 130:20-21

3. Answer the Study and Understanding Questions

The Study and Understanding questions are found at the end of each step for a reason.  They are not just filler.  I am actually expected to study out each question and try to answer it as best I can.  Once again, if I skip this part, I am cheating myself.  I am not learning what I need to learn.  I am trying to take a shortcut in my recovery.

Because I type better than I write, I created an MS Word version of the Study and Understanding questions. If you'd like a copy of that document for yourself, you can download it here.

So What Is The Best Approach for Me?

So what should be the best approach for me to do my Step Work,  There seems to be only one good answer, and that would be to do at least some Step Work each day. That could be just one of the items listed above or parts of any of the three. But for me to recover, I really need to do some Step Work each day!  And that would be in addition to my daily reading from the Book of Mormon and my prayers.


What Works and What Doesn't

In overcoming an addiction, some things work well and some things just don't.

Let me cover both topics, but I'll cover the negative ones first.


What Doesn't Work

I have been attending 12 Step Meetings for over three and a half years.  Over that period I have tried lots of things and observed lots of things that just don't work!

However, some of the things that don't work happen to be very popular -- but they still don't work.  Here are a few:

Tapering Off Doesn't Work

Trying to taper off from an addiction provides a false sense of hope, but it never works.  Does this sound familiar?

I was sober for 7 days last week, so this week I'll shoot for 8 days.  And then if  he hits day 8 what happens -- he celebrates his accomplishment and relapses.

So after his relapse he shoots for 9 days and then relapses and so on and so on.  

When I relapsed last, I had been sober for 11 months.  Should I now just shoot for 12 months and then relapse???

It never ends -- it really doesn't work!

Setting a Sobriety Goal Doesn't Work

This approach is also very popular.  But it too doesn't work.

Here are some examples:
  1. I had a friend who wanted to stay sober so he could attend the sealing of his sister.  He made it .  But he relapsed the night after the sealing. You see he met his goal.  So he let down his guard and rewarded himself.
      
  2. I have a friend who wanted to attend the temple with his younger brother when he received his endowments.  Well he made it to his goal.  But you already know what happened afterwords.
      
  3. I know more than one guy who wanted to stay sober so he could get married in the temple. That was his goal. Well each of those guys met there goal. But each relapsed within weeks of getting married.
Setting a sobriety goal only works up until you hit your goal.  It's not permanent.

Plus when we set a sobriety goal, our reptilian brain, remembers that goal and says: "I can probably wait till that date, and then I'll get my reward."

Counting Days Is Neither Good Nor Bad

The only thing I have against counting days is that it emphasizes something negative (the emphasis is on the last time you screwed up). 

I would prefer counting how many times I avoided a temptation or trigger and then reward myself accordingly. 

One writer suggests keeping a 3 by 5 card in your pocket and making a check mark every time you avoid a temptation so you can see how well you are really doing with recovery!



What Works

Here are a few things that I've observed that work:

Decide That "This Time" Is The Last Time

Believe it or not, some time has to be the "last time!"  So when will that "last time" be???  If we keep pushing that decision into the future, we will never have a "last time."  So decide right now that the last time you relapsed will actually be the "last time!"  Go ahead -- do it!!

The Lord wants you to make that decision.  Satan wants you to postpone that decision.  

Your spirit wants you to make that decision,   You natural man wants you to postpone that decision.

Now I know what you're thinking.  Your thinking, "But I don't trust myself.  I've promised myself that countless times in the past.  How can I make that decision this time?" 

One big difference is that this time you will involve the Lord in that decision.  You won't be doing it by yourself.  That 's the whole purpose of the 12 steps.  

Now I admit you might make that decision and fall on your face.  But at least that decision has already been made -- it is still in force.  The Lord will support you in your honest efforts.


Other Things That Work

Here is a list of other things that work in recovery:
  1. Attend at least one ARP meeting a week and be consistent.
     
  2. If you attend more than on meeting a week, at least make one of them your "home group."  Get to know the guys -- get their phone numbers, etc.
     
  3. Reach out to other guys and ask for help or reach out and offer help.
     
  4. When you reach out, you bless TWO lives.  (This ought to be scripture)  :-)
     
  5. The opposite of addiction is connection.  Reach out to someone at least once a day.
      
  6. When tempted, use PMS: Pray, Move (or change your environment), and get Support.
     
  7. Do your dailies DAILY!  Include as a minimum, sincere prayer and reading the Book of Mormon.
     
  8. Meet with your bishop on a regular basis.
       
  9. Ask for a blessing on a regular basis.
      
  10. Be accountable to at least one other person, daily if possible.
     
  11. Read your patriarchal blessing often.
     
  12. Fast with a purpose and do it more than just on Fast Sunday.
     
  13. Give service to others and forget yourself.
     
  14. Do NOT isolate!
This looks like a long list.  But nothing on the list takes a long time.


Bonus

I have a good friend (Mike) who is a Computer Science Major.  He coded a most special App. It lists the various "call in" ARP meetings around the country with their days and times.  He gave me permission to share it with you.


So if you are unable to attend a local ARP meeting, for any reason, and you want to feel the spirit of a meeting, just select one of those listed and it will dial your phone to that specific meeting.

It lists two kinds of groups: 1) PSAG -- for men dealing with pornography,   2 ) GEN -- for general addiction and may include both women and men.

Try it -- you'll like it!

The One-A-Day Challenge

One of the keys to recovery is the ability to Reach Out and get support from others.

We should reach out -- by phone, text, or in person -- to those who can empathize with what we are experiencing and who can give us support and pray for us -- and that's usually other guys in our 12 Step Program.

We should reach out when we are feeling
  • Triggered
  • Tempted
  • Anxious
  • Scared
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Bored
or any other negative emotion which might lead to relapse or acting out.

Reaching Out actually works!

When we are feeling any negative emotion it adds air to our "relapse balloon."  And if we do nothing, that balloon will eventually burst and we crash.


​​​
But when we Reach Out we are letting air out of our balloon. 

Just by sharing our emotions and fears with someone else who understands and will pray for us, is a huge step in recovery.  

We are also showing the Lord that we can be humble and that we know we can't do it by ourselves.

But that is not why I'm writing this post.

There is another purpose to Reaching Out, and that is to be a support to someone else, especially when they have not asked for it.

When we call or text someone else and even just say "Hi, I was thinking about you," here is what they hear:
  • I am important
  • I am accepted
  • I am loved
  • I have a friend who understands
  • I have someone I can contact if I need help
  • I am not alone
I think you get my point.  It's all positive!!!

So here is my challenge to you.  No matter how your day is going, I challenge you to reach out at least one other person and let them know you care about them.

Just One-A-Day, that's all I ask.  If you are willing to do that, I promise you great blessings!  

And I have a hunch that after you reach out to just one person, you'll have the desire to do the same for another.  It just seems to work that way.

But my challenge is for just one person a day -- even if you are struggling yourself that same day -- especially if you are struggling -- you need to get outside yourself and serve someone else -- and this is a way to do that.

I can testify, with all my heart, that this works for me -- and so it will work for you!




And please remember:

"When you Reach Out, you bless TWO lives!"

That's not scripture -- but it should be. :)

It Takes Courage and Humility

I have been in the Addiction Recovery Program for three and a half years.  And in that time I have made many friends. I now have over 200 numbers in my phone of guys I've met.

Out of that group of guys, there is a small number, who, as I view them, are in "true recovery." So recently, I paid special attention to that small group to try to figure out what they had in common.  And in doing so, I discovered something surprising -- something I had not expected to find.

Let me use just two of that small group as examples. One is a facilitator who now has over 900 days of sobriety. The other has over 400 days of sobriety. So what is one thing they have in common? They still reach out for support on a regular basis. My friend with over 400 days of sobriety reaches out and asks for support and prayers from the group, on the average of once per week. My friend with over 900 days of sobriety reaches out at least twice a month, if not more.

I didn't expect that. I would have expected that those who are successful in recovery would no longer need to reach out for support -- that they would now be self sustaining. But that's not the case. They continue to reach out on a regular basis. Keep in mind, it takes both courage and humility to reach out and admit you can't do it yourself -- that you need help, both from the Lord and from friends. And these guys have that courage and humility to do just that.

I could have used others as examples, but with these two, I actually knew how many days they had been sober.

Now what about the larger group -- those who are not in true recovery. What is their experience? Well I would guess that the average rate of messing up or acting out for this group might be as often as once a week. And yet, as a group, they hardly ever reach out and ask for help. And if they do reach out, it's usually after they have relapsed. So why is that? I'm guessing it's because they haven't internalized Steps 1, 2, and 3. They are still trying to recover on their own without admitting they need help. They are still struggling with pride. They do not have the courage or the humility of the smaller group of successful men.

I was in the latter group for a long time. But I am now trying to recognize and admit much sooner when I am starting down a dangerous path and then do PMS.  Pray to Heavenly Father, Move or change my environment, and get Support from my brothers. I've discovered that reaching out, to both God and my friends, actually works!

The Bare Minimum

A therapist once told me about a client who came into his office and said the following:

“I hate this addiction! I hate it--I hate it--I hate it!  It’s ruining my life. It’s ruining my family. It’s hurting my job. I’ll do anything to get rid of this addiction.  So tell me doctor, what’s the bare minimum I have to do to overcome it?”

How many of us are like that client?  We acknowledge that we hate the addiction--that it’s affecting our family, our job, our church service, our faith, our testimony, our self-respect, and virtually all aspects of our lives.  But then what are we really willing to do to overcome it?

Are we all talk but little action?
  
Are we looking for the minimum effort to overcome our addiction--such as:
  • What’s the fewest number of minutes I need to spend daily in the scriptures?
  • What’s the fewest number of times I need to pray each day?
  • When I do pray what’s the least number of minutes?
  • Can I get away with only fasting once a month on Fast Sunday?
  • Is it OK to just fast one meal?
  • What is the fewest number of ARP meetings I need to attend?
  • Can I get away with only going to a meeting when I’m feeling triggered?
  • Can’t I just read the guide and not go to any meetings?
  • Can't I just read through the steps and not do the writing part?
  • Do I really need to write in a Recovery Journal?
  • Can I avoid getting a support person?  It’s so embarrassing.
  • Isn't it good enough to just have a support person on call in case you might need him?
  • Can't I just keep this problem between me the Lord and not tell anyone else?
  • Can't I just confess to the bishop each time I act out and leave it at that?
We may not be asking those questions out loud.  But might that actually be our attitude?
Where exactly is recovery on our priority list?  Is it near the top or near the bottom?
If someone were to monitor our actions would our actions correspond with what we say?

Let's go back and read the above list again.  This time let's be more honest!
Are we willing to make any changes in our attitude and our actions?  If so, what?

Preparing for Steps 4 & 5




In the three years I've been attending 12 Step meetings I estimate I have listened to shares regarding Steps 4 and 5 at least 21 times.

And in listening to those shares I have written down several notes which may be helpful for anyone who has not completed these steps.

First there is no right or wrong way to do the Step 4 Inventory.  I think the ARP Guide is purposely vague so that we each can rely on
the Spirit to guide us.

Suggestions Regarding Step 4

These are suggestions I have heard over the last three years.  Hopefully, as you read through these the spirit will prompt you as to which suggestions, if any, are right for your situation. They are in no particular order.

  • Pick the person you are going to read your Step 4 Inventory to up front, and make an appointment so that you then have a mental deadline to work towards. That way you will not be one of those who takes months or years working on your inventory. The future date can be anytime, even months away, but just pick a date!
  • Pray before you begin each writing session
  • If a thought enters you mind, write it down
  • If you feel like skipping something, write it down
  • If you feel too embarrassed to share something, write it down
  • If you feel this incident it too minor to write down, write it down
  • There is a reason these things are entering your mind, so include them
  • Once you begin, try to write down at least one incident a day
  • Not everything you write down has to be connected to your addiction
  • Some things may only pertain to character weaknesses
  • Include your strengths
  • Some guys have used a spreadsheet format; others have just written free form
  • One friend shared that since he already had asked someone to listen in Step 5, he shared what he was writing while he was writing it. That way the person who was going to listen to his Inventory could give him suggestions along the way. He still felt he had to read the entire inventory to his friend, even though the friend had already read most of it.  He said the reading was necessary so he could hear his own voice confessing what he had done.
  • One friend admitted that he took over a year to write his inventory, it was about 80 pages in length and took him 8 hours to read it out loud to a friend.  (I don’t recommend this, but it was necessary for him to feel thorough)
  • Keep in mind that the things you are writing down are things Christ is going to take from you! So if you consider not writing down something -- think again -- stuff you don't write down is stuff you are going to keep! And you don't want to keep anything.

Thoughts Regarding Reading Your Inventory in Step 5

  • Pick someone you feel comfortable sharing with and someone who will keep what you read to them confidential. The ARP Guide states: "We tried to select Someone who had gone through steps 4 and 5 and who was well-grounded in the gospel."
  • You are not expected to read your Step 4 Inventory to your Bishop. He doesn’t need to know all the details of your life. He only needs to know enough to be your judge.
  • Ask someone who has already been through Steps 4 and 5 themselves to be the one to listen to your inventory. They will have empathy for you and will not judge you because they already know what it’s like to be addicted. 
  • It’s probably not a good idea to read your inventory to your wife or girlfriend (unless you both feel good about it).  The "Support in Recovery" document or "Step 13" states: "Participants may decide not to share their personal inventories with immediate family members or people who might be hurt by hearing those inventories." I did not read my inventory to my wife or my bishop.
  • If your inventory is long, you can read it over more than one session.
  • Choose a quiet safe place to read your inventory so you won’t be interrupted.

My Experience

I have been privileged to listen to five Step 4 Inventories. Each one was totally different because of the method used by the person who was writing, and his own background. But the one thing they had in common is that it was a spiritual experience, both for me and the other person.

We began with prayer and they read at their own speed. I just listened and gave encouragement.  I did not judge!  My respect and love for each of those guys was greater after they finished than it had been when they began.

Please don’t be afraid of either of these steps.  They will bless your life!