Preparing for Steps 4 & 5

In the five 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 Writing Your Inventory in Step 4

These are suggestions I have heard over the last five 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
  • Also include your strengths. If you're not sure what they are, ask a good friend.
  • 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!
** The ARP Guide suggests possibly using a spreadsheet, but I didn't do that.  My inventory was just free-form, in a Word document, in chronological order.  However, Brandon, a good friend and facilitator, sent me a spreadsheet template that he created, which he said was very helpful when he did his Steps 4 & 5.  You may download it from This link.

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."  That person is NOT your bishop.
  • 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, like what happened when you were 11 years old, etc. He only needs to know enough to be your judge, like in giving a temple recommend interview.
  • You should ask someone who has already been through Steps 4 and 5 to be the one to listen to your inventory.  For that person you should share what happened when you were 11 years old if it had an impact on your future life.  He will have empathy for you and will not judge you because he already knows 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.  
  • A friend recently gave this advice: "Do not read your inventory to anyone who is mentioned in your inventory." -- Good advice.
  • 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 multiple 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.  I promise you that they will bless your life!

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