Alcoholics Anonymous is a national organization dedicated to assisting sufferers of alcohol abuse and addiction with overcoming the challenges faced during the rehabilitation process. The program uses a 12-step program, including step 4, developed and modified based on the experiences of former members and the writings of the group’s founder. Each step addresses a different need that is common to many who struggle with alcoholism, and the fourth step involves taking a personal inventory of strengths and weaknesses of character. This step is a very intimate personal journey. For more information about AA and the 12 steps, visit the AA website.


Alcoholics Anonymous step 4 requires a clear and frank understanding of one’s self. Through the process of discovering the true nature of personal character, a participant learns to understand identify the weaknesses that may have helped contribute to alcoholism. This also leads you to understand personal strengths that may compensate for the weaknesses and focus on those areas that need the most support in order to continue the 12-step program. This step in the process provides a foundation for future steps.

step 4

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The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous requires a very careful personal inventory of character assets. You must make a list of those areas that affect your life and account for the various decisions that have led them to this stage in their lives. Many groups provide members with workbooks that include lists of adjectives to assist with the classification process. It is very important that these discoveries are written down, as writing them creates a concrete form and helps solidify the concepts involved in the mind of the participant. Call our 24-hour support line for additional help or resources if you find yourself struggling to complete this process.


Mental barriers and a lack of personal responsibility can cause major challenges at this stage. Many participants have spent a long amount of time justifying their behavior and must focus extremely hard on being completely honest with themselves to gain the benefits of step 4. Time requirements and writing ability may also hamper a participant. Time requirements may be overcome by devoting a small amount of time each day to the completion of the step 4 worksheet or by rearranging personal schedules to allow a single day or few hours to complete the process in a single attempt. Time spent leading up to this attempt should focus on identifying factors in daily life that may indicate personal character strengths or weaknesses. Writing ability may be removed as a factor by using a computer typing program or asking a friend to assist with taking dictation. If you are unable to confide in a friend, a neutral party such as an AA sponsor or other community member can assist as well.

Ties to Other Steps

The information gathered in the fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous allows the participant to gain greater insight from the next steps. This information provides a frank assessment of strengths and weaknesses, allowing a sufferer to know exactly which areas should be addressed by the subsequent parts of the entire 12-step process. Through this process, a person learns to identify shortcomings and will use these as a list of appeals to a higher power in future steps. The insight gathered here can also be shared in group sessions at meetings and discussed openly with other group members.

Next: Step 5
Last: Step 3