“Few people have been more victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics. […] Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely. These ‘dry benders’ often led straight to the bottle.” Bill W., Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Because “an unexamined life is not worth living” and our drinking is a symptom of other, deeper problems, we look at ourselves in Step 4 to get down to those causes and conditions that led to our problem drinking. While there are many ways to do this, the inventory as laid out in Chapter 5 of the BB is simple and effective.
First Things First
If you’ve ever wondered why AA seems so fixated on anger and resentments, well, there’s a saying that goes–shoot the ‘gators closest to the boat first!–and that’s what we are doing here. AA’s founders discovered that resentment is “the number one offender.” Unresolved anger and resentments can kill anyone, if only from the stress they add to our lives. They’re especially toxic for us alcoholics, and so we list everyone and everything we’re angry with, and take a close look at why we’re angry.
Do not beat yourself up while making this list! There is no need for judgements or blame-fixing. To judge ourselves at this point is to miss the point of the entire process. Be non-judgemental as well as honest and thorough.
“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” Gautama Buddha
I’m not going to duplicate the instructions here. If you don’t have a copy of Alcoholics Anonymous, you can read it on-line atAA’s official website. This link will take you to Chapter 5, where the instructions for Step 4 are found. When you get there, or if you have a copy of the book in hand, the instructions for the inventory begin on page 64, first full paragraph.
Read carefully for understanding. The authors were writing about themselves in the past tense, so where it says “we wrote,” write; if it says “we referred back,” you should refer back to the same place. Whenever it says they thought about, considered, contemplated or whatever, you should take the time to do the same.
Before you even get to the bottom of page 64, you’ll come to this: “In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper.” Hey, sounds like they just ‘did’ something! Since we are going to do what they did, grab some paper and a pencil/pen. What to write? The very next sentence says “We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.” So start writing them down. This list will become the first column in your “Grudge List.” There are two more columns to the grudge list that you’ll discover in the instructions.
To help get started, here are some suggestions for the list: The ‘people’ referred to can be literally anyone you know, have known, or know about–relatives, friends, exes, celebrities, politicians, the jerk who cut you off in traffic yesterday, even yourself. Examples of institutions that might make your list could be AA itself, Child Protective Services, church (religion), correctional system, education system, any government agency, marriage, health/mental health system, society-at-large. Some principles that you could be upset over could include: abortion, death, disease, honesty, humility, justice (as in lack of), poverty. Bottom-line is that if it is someone or something that angers you, write it down.
“I had a lot of resentment for a while toward Kim Novak. But I don’t mind her anymore. She’s okay. We’ve become friends. I even asked her before this trip for some beauty tips.” Kim Novak