On page 58 of the Big Book, prior to the steps that appear on pages 59 and 60 are the following words ..
If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to take certain steps.
One has to want this program. Further one has to be willing to go to any length to get it.
So, IF you want this program, and are willing to go to any length to get it, THEN you are ready to take the suggested twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Step 2 : We acknowledge that we need outside help from a greater power. We acknowledge that we have not solved our own problems with alcohol and need help.
Step 3 : We make a decision to get this outside help.
The time has come to take action. In AA, this means taking a moral inventory.
Step 4 : Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Bill Wilson, our co-founder, began to write the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, in March of 1938.
The book was completed in April of 1939. Basically the book sat idle in the publisher's warehouse for a few years into the early 1940s.
The point is this : From May of 1939 until the early 1940's, the steps were not-in-daily-use by the members. Yet the early members of the fellowship were getting, and staying, sober. Without them we would not have AA as we have it today. So don't beat-yourself-up over step 4.
A friend in Detroit, a true long-timer, used to carry matchbooks in his pocket. When a newcomer would appear in a meeting, after the meeting, he he would sit down with them. Discuss steps 1 - 3. Then he would take out a matchbook, rip out the matches, hand the empty matchbook to the newcomer, and tell him to write down the things he was going to take to his grave on the matchbook cover! Sit and wait with the newcomer, and when finished, do a Step 5.
My first sponsor had a sponsor. My Grand Sponsor was sober in 1938 before the AA Big Book appeared. On Step 4 I was given one hour, with an 8-1/2 - 11 lined pad, and told to write down the things that I was going to take-to-my-grave.
In my humble opinion, we are making far-too-much out of Step 4.
In Step 10, we will continue to take inventory and admit our wrongs. So what we may miss in Step 4, we have ample opportunity to catch in Step 10.
Here is my final thought on Step 4.
Before you begin to write your Step 4, and as you are actually writing it, DO NOT decide whom you will share it with in Step 5. IF you decide to whom you will share it, you may begin to think to yourself, "I don't want him / her to hear this." and you may begin to tailor your Step 4 to who will hear it and leave out things you don't want them to hear.
I repeat : Step 5 simply says for us to share our 4th Step with another human being. Step 5 does not say to share Step 4 with one's sponsor. Certainly you may share it with a sponsor, but it is not mandated that you do so.
Radical? Not to me. I lived this process.