A lot of people settle in with steps 1-3. They become comfortable with the ideas that we have a problem and we have a Higher Power who can solve it. However, that solution does not come without work. That is where step 4 comes in.
Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
To me addiction is like an iceberg. The part we see is the actual action (be it binging, drinking, gambling, etc.) The unseen part of the iceberg represents all the reasons we indulge in our chosen addiction. My trouble with food rested on many underlying causes and these had to be rooted out and dealt with in order to find healing.
The process recommended by OA looks at a couple areas. I'm going to discuss two of these. First I analyzed my resentments. I listed everything that made me angry. It was a long list. Most of my life I have been a pretty calm person, but when I 'put down the food' I was flooded with ugly emotions. It was like PMS on steroids! People explained to me that this was a result of all my undealt with emotions bubbling up. I had bought peace with food for so many years and all those pains wanted a turn to get some attention. So, I listed each person, situation, and anything else that upset me. Then I analyzed why it made me angry and how it hurt me. Lastly, I had to admit where I had been to blame in each situation. Had I been selfish, dishonest, frightened, or inconsiderate? As I learned, even when I was the victim, I usually had some negative response that had only served to make the situation worse. I had to own up to my part of my own pain.
For example, I was angry at my children because they were arguing and bossy at times and they didn't listen to what I told them to do. I realized that I was allowing their very normal behavior to make me feel like a failure as a parent. I thought they were making me look bad. I was afraid they would turn out to be terrible people and it would be all my fault. So, where was I to blame? First of all I was indulging in perfectionism. I was holding them and myself to unreasonable expectations. Also, I was allowing myself to worry. These are both self-damaging behaviors.
In other situations where I was angry at someone I felt had deliberately treated me wrongly I found the resentment prayer to be helpful. "(name) is spiritually sick. God, please help me show the same tolerance, pity, and patience I would cheerfully grant a sick friend." I was reminded that 'hurt people hurt people'. If I could feel pity and compassion for someone who hurt me, it usually washed away the anger and paved the road for forgiveness.
The second big area to look at is fears. I was instructed to list anything I was fearful about. At first this confused me because I thought fear was a natural human response, not something to be rid of. Eventually I realized that the danger of fear is that it keeps us from faith and action and leads to worry. After listing the fears, I looked at why I had each fear and how it was affecting me. I admitted that I was trusting myself instead of trusting God. I prayed the fear prayer for each individual situation: "God please remove my fear of _______ and direct my attention towards what you would have me to be." Fear turns our vision inward toward our own problems. We need God to turn our vision back to him and toward our fellow man so the final step is to look at what God would have us be.
Example - This year I had a fear of losing my job. (This was not random. There were things happening that made my position unstable.) The 'why' of this fear was that I was afraid of financial ruin and I was basing my reputation/value on my job performance. Also, I was afraid of being a failure as a teacher. I prayed the fear prayer and looked for what God wanted me to be. I realized that fear and worry would not help me keep my job. I could apply the serenity prayer by making improvements in my classroom and then putting the future in God's hands. I decided that if I should loose my job, then I would trust God to provide our needs in another way.
Some people find step 4 daunting. In fact, many people turn away from OA at this point. It's not easy to face your inner demons. For me, step 4 was an intriguing journey of self-discovery. It was not easy or fun, but it was interesting and it gave me a taste of the healing and freedom this journey promises.
To anyone beginning this step I encourage you to press on at all costs. The best is yet to come!