The acronym HOW is a simple and expressive way to explain how AA works. It stands for Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness.
There is nowhere else that this is more important than in Step Four. We made a fearless and searching inventory of ourselves.
What are we fearful of, and what are we searching for?
We are searching for truths that we have long been hiding from and running away from. It’s the shame of what we have done and revealing the person who did these things.
I feel it is the hypocrisy of the person I wanted to be. The image of the person I thought I was wouldn’t do the things that I did. But he did.
Buddha urges us to adopt three Higher Trainings which, if perfected, will lead us to nirvana. They are Moral Discipline, Concentration, and Wisdom. These are called higher trainings when motivated by renunciation.
Does the fourth step aid us in a similar quest?
Samsara and Sobriety
There are parallels between renunciation and recovery from addiction, don’t you think? In the first we are attempting to escape samsara through rigorous training, and the latter is escaping repeated behaviour that has increasing and never-ending suffering. Same!
Here are three important similarities between Buddhist philosophy and the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous:
- The importance of introspection. Both Buddhist philosophy and the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous emphasise the importance of introspection, or looking inward to examine one's thoughts, feelings, and motivations. This can be a difficult and painful process, but it is essential for understanding oneself and making positive changes.
- The willingness to face one's flaws. Both Buddhist philosophy and the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous require a willingness to face one's flaws and shortcomings. This can be a difficult and humbling experience, but it is essential for genuine growth and healing.
- The importance of forgiveness. Both Buddhist philosophy and the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous emphasise the importance of forgiveness, both of oneself and of others. This can be a challenging task, but it is essential for letting go of the past and moving forward.
Here are some additional thoughts on the similarities between Buddhism and the AA’s Fourth Step.
- Both traditions emphasise the interconnectedness of all things. In Buddhism, this is known as the concept of “dependent origination,” which holds that all phenomena arise in dependence on other phenomena. In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is expressed in the saying “We are only as sick as our secrets.”
- Both traditions view suffering as an inevitable part of life. However, they also offer pathways to liberation from suffering. In Buddhism, this is achieved through the practice of mindfulness and compassion. In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is achieved through the Twelve Steps, which are a set of spiritual principles that guide recovery.
- Both traditions emphasise the importance of community. In Buddhism, this is expressed in the concept of “Sangha,” which refers to the community of Buddhist practitioners. In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is expressed in the group meetings, where members share their experiences and support each other in their recovery.
Overall, the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous shares many similarities with Buddhist philosophy. Both traditions offer powerful tools for self-reflection, forgiveness, and healing.