The 4th step: Momentum is a spiritual force

By Greg Metzger

Greg Metzger

“Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision is a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions”
Many people in recovery balk at this step.  Many say that their recovery came to an abrupt halt at this crucial step. Many started their 4th Step and never finished it.  Many who relapse say that they never finished or started this step.

Momentum is so very important in everything.  Newton’s laws of motion are as applicable to spiritual principles as they are to physics.Lex I: Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare.

Apologies to Newton for this translation:  a person in motion through the steps will remain in motion until compelled by a force that acts upon the motion.”

What are the forces that “compel” us to change our momentum to go through the steps?     What forces can we harness to propel us through this important step?

We are “driven by a hundred forms of fear and self-delusion. . .”  Fear is a powerful force within it is great energy.  It can paralyze and it can propel.  I have learned to harness the energy of fear to maintain momentum and to use fear energy to create movement when I become stuck.  My fear of returning to active addiction is a very compelling force.

The force of self-delusion is also powerful.  I once deluded myself into believing that I could stay sober without working the steps or doing the things that sober people did to stay sober and grow in sobriety.  This delusion led to relapse and cost me dearly.   I came close to that place of no return.  So, when I came back I had new forces to propel me into action: Fear and Desperation.

I heard once that if I am stuck on a step, it is wise for me to look to the prior step for the cause.  The source of my delusion may have been that I “completed” the 3rd step – that I decided to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him.

“Though our decision is a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us.”

I came to discover that Step 3 is more than the mere recitation of a prayer; it is the decision and the attachment to the obligations of that decision.  Prayer is a means of obligating ourselves to our decision and asking for help in its fulfillment.

I found that to work any of the 12 steps, I had to be working all the prior steps, on that day, in that moment.  To work step 4, I had to be exercising my 3rd step decision.  I had to surrender to the truth that I could be returned to sanity.  I had to admit that I was alcoholic, that my life was unmanageable.  The further I get from step 1, the easier it is to die from the delusion that I am not alcoholic and I do not need to treat my disease today, in this moment.

I take a moment every morning to reconnect with the pain, fear and despair of the worst moments of my last “experiment”.  I follow this with an exercise to connect with my gratitude for life and all its blessings.  My worst and by best, a 1st and 2nd step, combine to reinforce my 3rd step decision.   With that, I can “attach” myself to the 3rd step and its attendant prayer and truly, “launch out on a course of vigorous action. The first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted.”

I have found that unlike the objects that Newton was writing about which respond to external forces, people in recovery are most influenced by internal forces.  So, when working with others, I try to help them to find within themselves the same forces of fear and gratitude to apply them in their own unique way to maintain their momentum and counteract the forces that slow them down.

I also try to be a force of attraction, which like gravity is a powerful force.  When we stay in gratitude, we attract others to that path that we walk.  As we move, we create a force that pulls others along.

The best way to get into action is to stay in action.  I am hopeful that these suggestions will help you create and maintain momentum for yourself those you help.

3 thoughts on “The 4th step: Momentum is a spiritual force


  2. Dear Greg
    Your post caught me as I write a chapbook, The Twelve Steps and the Craft of Compassion. I m working on that pivoting, steps 3 and 4.
    Step 3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to gratitude and Love as we understand it.
    Might I quote you? Your reflection on fear and self-deception are superb.
    Blessings to you brother. I am much moved by your writings on recovery and peacemaking.

  3. This definitely makes perfect sense to anyone

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