The Other Step Four

Step Four blues? Double up! A couple posts ago, I wrote about Tony A’s Laundry List. The Laundry List is Tony’s list of characteristics and issues of adult children of alcoholics. Since then, I’ve received my thirty-five dollar used (underlined!) copy of his book. It published in 1991. The book is titled, The Laundry List: The ACoA Experience. It’s by Tony A. with Dan F.

The book is one of the first for us, and unlike others (by doctors) it speaks about us by one of us.

I was curious about the book because I wanted to see the Laundry List itself but also because I’d heard that Tony A’s Step Four was different from the standard Step Four. So, Step Four was the first topic I turned to.

Tony A’s Step Four:

“We Made A Searching And Blameless Inventory of Our Parents Because, In Essence, We Had Become Them.”

Who? Them? This step is quite a bit different from the one we’re familiar with–undertaking a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Us. Just us.

Before agreeing or disagreeing with Tony’s Step Four, I’ll say that what I’ve always been drawn to about ACoA (as opposed to Ala-non) is the encouragemetn to focus more on me and not them, the addict, in an ACoA meeting. I think the most fundamental lesson to be learned by us is the importance of learning to re-focus our attention away from the addict and onto ourselves. It’s fundamental to get to know ourselves, to learn how to stop reacting to others, and to begin to have the courage of our convictions–just plain be who we are, no apologies.

Thanks to a reader of this blog, you can read a scan of Tony A’s book The Laundry List – here.

Getting there is, naturally, a process.

I really appreciate Tony’s approach to Step Four. It is kind to the adult child, it acknowledges that we have inherited behaviors and character traits that we didn’t choose but are, rather, part of a long line of inherited behaviors. I agree that by examining our addict parent and identifying their faults, we can actually unearth and identify our own.

But! My concern is that Tony’s approach to Step Four lets us off the hook too much. It leaves us out of the equation. I feel both inventories should be done: one of our parents as a means for seeing ourselves more clearly and one just of ourselves. This is the best way to take ownership of who we are.

There is value in both approaches. I used to hate how my father would cut-off friends and family for various reasons which only he felt strongly about. Months or years would pass, and he wouldn’t see his friend, or brother. It seemed that when his friends or brothers made decisions in their lives that didn’t reflect my father’s values–it was grounds for cut-off. Eventually I asked myself if I do that. I did do that. Seeing that behavior in my father, and disliking it, was integral to identifying that it also existed in myself. His fault helped me see mine. I began to learn to lean into the intimacy of relationships and be comfortable in the face of difference instead of running from it.

Because there are behaviors that I’ve inherited from my alcoholic mother and also from my alcoholic father, I see great value in taking on Tony’s Step Four. There is no doubt that I can learn from it. And because there are behaviors of my own that I can benefit from examining and inventorying, the standard Step Four is also needed. It’s more work, for sure. But doing both steps is like viewing your Self and your life through not just one informative, illuminating lens, but two.

The adage I’ve always trusted its this: if something about a person bugs you, it’s somewhere in you, too.

Have the will and compassion to see who you really are, and still like yourself.


  1. Partrick says:

    I agree to do both 4th steps and yet this is the first I’ve heard of Tony’S.I can see the benefit in his also.Especially since the other programs tell us to keep the focus on us.I remember in my teens when I was having a very difficult time telling my mother ,”I am falling into the mirror and becoming my father”Three decades latter and I still feel the same way.I also see I did internalize traits of my mother.They both had good and bad.Through it all I realize I am connected and yet very seperate from them.I am more in touch with my inner feelings now than I ever have been and it scares the hell out of me to realize(acknowlege)it!I never knew I carried so much pain growing up .It is great to find (educated) people in recovery that have had similiar experiences I also know no amount of intelligence will teach me how to cry and let this pain out.I just have to remember that little boy had alot of magic too!Maybe if I continue to cultivate it I won’t have to cry(as much).Thank You,Amy!It is great to be in kindergarden with you.Patrick

  2. amyeden says:

    It is great to be in kindergarden with you, too, Patrick! You’re right – it’s about finding and cultivating that wonderful, unique magic in you from childhood as well as releasing the old pain. All best – ae

  3. Patrick says:

    “The book is one of the first for us, and unlike others (by doctors) it speaks about us by one of us.”
    Hello Amy,
    I still haven’t found a copy in the used book stores I am still looking.
    I was shocked when I came across the book called “your Inner child of the Past” written in 1963 by W.Hugh Missildine
    Although this guy was a doctor his book sounds as if he has lots of insight.
    I wonder if Tony A. may have read it. I have found it very helpful it is a bit out dated but mentions the inner child and reparenting and many interesting stories.
    I have been trying to locate Tony A’s steps. I have listened to the audible speach by Tony A. releasing these steps at the ACA WSO website. I was not able to catch the wording of all of them.
    I did start an ACA meeting! Many are interested in Tony’s step.
    I was told the copyright is no longer in effect and someone could legally copy his whole book if they wanted to do so.
    Maybe one day I can get them online somewhere!
    Anyway thanks again Amy!

    • Cindy D. says:

      Since ACA WSO published the Big Book for ACA organization, Tony’s book became popular once again and swept through the second hand market.
      If you have a Kindle, you can purchase the book in that format at Amazon.

  4. amyeden says:

    Patrick, you can buy a copy of Tony A’s book The Laundry List (used) on I just checked and there are a few copies available…
    All best,
    amy eden

  5. patrick says:

    I wanted to share the rest of Tony’s steps. Thanks for all the work, Amy!
    Tony A’s 12 Steps of Recovery as listed in his book
    The Laundry List
    by Tony A
    with Dan F
    Published by
    Health Communications, Inc.,
    Deerfield Beach,
    1. We admitted that we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could bring us clarity.
    3. We made a decision to practice self-love and to trust a Higher Power of our understanding.
    4. We made a searching and blameless inventory of our parents because, in essence, we had become them.
    5. We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our childhood abandonment.
    6. We were entirely ready to begin the healing process with the aid of our Higher Power.
    7. We humbly asked our Higher Power to help us with our healing process.
    8. We became willing to open ourselves to receive the unconditional love of our Higher Power.
    9. We became willing to accept our own unconditional love by understanding that our Higher Power loves us unconditionally.
    10. We continued to take personal inventory and to love and approve of ourselves.
    11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry it out.
    12. We have had a spiritual awakening as a result of taking these steps, and we continue to love ourselves and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    http://www.higherpo htm

  6. Lexxie says:

    Patrick, how did you find out that the copyright is no longer in effect? I am very interested in confirming that information.

  7. Patrick says:

    I hope I did not mislead anyone. The book The Laundry List was copyrighted in 1991, when I first posted on Amy’s website a past ACA WSO board member (I assumed was well informed) told me the Laundry List was no longer copyrighted, or past the copyright date. Since that time, and what little I learned about copyrights it is a 75 year copyright and still in effect.
    I did order the book used for $26.00 I think it was…they wanted $105.00 new. Obviously, the book is gaining in value! His book is very informative about the un-resolved family of origin hero roles acted out in the rooms in service positions.
    Thanks Amy!

  8. T says:

    Amy…GREAT work here. Your presentation is priceless.

    I know I’m ridiculously late in joining the conversation here, but I just found this post today. =]

    I have worked the steps in AA (I do not have a physiological addiction to alcohol, but drinking has caused me PLENTY of problems), in Al-Anon, and in ACoA. There was always a haunting feeling that I just wasn’t ‘punching through’. I seldom felt satisfactory release or progress.

    Due to some recent insanity — after some years of not attending any kind of meetings — I have returned to ACA-DF. This time around, I found Tony A.’s 12 Steps. About two weeks ago, I started doing some Step 4 work, using Tony A.’s Steps.

    Just doing the prep work has given me as much or more ‘success’ than ANY Step work I have done in the past.

    You wrote:

    “But! My concern is that Tony’s approach to Step Four lets us off the hook too much. It leaves us out of the equation. I feel both inventories should be done: one of our parents as a means for seeing ourselves more clearly and one just of ourselves. This is the best way to take ownership of who we are.”

    Maybe it’s because I have done a goodly amount of step work before…or because I have I have experienced and suffered enough as a parent (and now grandparent)…or whatever… But I don’t feel at all “off the hook”…or anywhere near “out of the equation”.

    Yes. I agree. It IS essential to take ownership of who we are. And my parents each contributed half of my genetic makeup, and almost exclusively jointly shaped the nature of my most formative years. When I look at the two of them, I see ‘all of me’ — in essence.

    Making a blameless inventory of my parents because, in the most basic understanding of ‘essence’, I became them is nothing AT ALL like “taking the inventories” of others who have little-to-no impact on who I AM.

    Thank you for broaching this topic and allowing me to respond.

    Best wishes…and peace to you and yours,


Leave a Reply to Cindy D.