Last month, we noted in our article on the Third Promise that it was technically only one half of a longer sentence contained within Chapter 6 of the Big Book. The second half of that sentence has been turned into the Fourth Promise, which is much shorter than the Third Promise yet no less important. In many ways, the Fourth Promise is connected to each of the Twelve Promises, especially those which we have already covered since beginning this series. This is something that will be examined in further detail below.
Remember that the Twelve Promises are generally supposed to be fulfilled around the time we begin our work on Step Nine. That said, the Fourth Promise will begin its fulfillment long before then, provided that we are working our program with absolute conviction. If we are “white knuckling” it—simply gritting our teeth and fighting the urge to drink without attempting to better ourselves—then the Fourth Promise may never be fulfilled. We must use the recovery tools at our disposal if we are to experience everything the Fourth Promise has to offer.
The Fourth Promise will be defined below, along with some advice on how we may usher in its fulfillment. Remember, however, that the Twelve Promises take time. They cannot be forced. But if we maintain our faith and do our best to minimize our resistance, it may not be long before the promises are fulfilled in our life. This is as true of the Fourth Promise as it is of any other. And while it may be fulfilled at different times for different people, it will in many ways begin its fulfillment from the moment we enter recovery.
Fulfilling the Fourth Promise
The sentence in the Big Book that originally included the Fourth Promise is as follows:
“We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”
Once this was cut in half, we were left with the now generally accepted incarnation of the Fourth Promise:
“We will know peace.”
In some ways, it may strike many as inadvisable for this sentence to have been cut. The differences between serenity and peace are negligible at best. But as we noted in our article on the Third Promise, comprehending serenity and actually knowing the sensation of peace are somewhat different animals. Once the Third Promise has been fulfilled and we have come to understand what sobriety can mean for a peaceful way of living, we can begin to truly experience it for ourselves.
We may not begin to understand peace until we have worked at least a few of the steps. Upon completing Step One, we should begin to reach a point of acceptance, admitting to ourselves addiction is truly a disease and that we have been afflicted. But we may still have some reservations about the program, believing that we can recover on our own. After Step Two, we should begin to accept that isolation is the enemy of recovery and that we must ask for help (this is also when we will likely begin embracing aspects of the First Tradition). Then, we will finally begin to seek this help in Step Three.
After Step Three, however, we will still be full of turmoil. Up to that point, few of us will have begun much actual work on our character defects. This work begins in Step Four, at which point we begin listing resentments and fears that have created difficulties in our lives. Even then, however, these issues have yet to see much in the way of resolution. We cannot begin to truly know peace and begin fulfilling the Fourth Promise until we finally take Step Five.
There will still be much work to do at this point, but the completion of our Fifth Step is generally when most recovering addicts and alcoholics will begin to know a sense of peace that they have likely not experienced since entering recovery. Everything we previously called serenity seems to pale in comparison. This is because our Fifth Step is when we finally admit our faults and wrongdoings to another human being (preferably our sponsor) without omission. Perhaps we are still suffering from some guilt, which will not be resolved until we begin our work on Step Nine. But having gone through our moral inventory with another human being, and having discovered that they were still willing to accept us for who we are, a new peace will flow through us that should help motivate us to continue our efforts in sobriety.
Various Ways of Defining Peace
From our statements regarding Step Five and Step Nine, some might think that the peace offered by the Fourth Promise is nothing more than the lifting of a burden. And this is certainly one part of it. We have saddled ourselves with a great amount of guilt and self-loathing over the years, and it is about time we begin to appreciate who we can be. Acceptance of self is actually a major part of humility, so we must work toward it if we are to stand any chance of remaining sober.
Not only does peace stem from acceptance of self, but also from acceptance of our circumstances. We will not reach peace until we have overcome our reservations against sobriety and accepted that recovery is truly our best option. More importantly, we must accept that much of the harm created by our actions under addiction cannot be undone. Many of those who have been hurt by our actions will learn to trust us again in time, but some will never be able to look past the things we have said and done.
The Fourth Promise will begin to see fulfillment when we have accepted these things, and it will grow stronger as we learn that we can become much better people than we have previously been. This will happen as we learn to expand our support network, making more friends and acquaintances who support our efforts to remain sober. Unlike friends we have had in the past who were quick to leave us when we stopped using, these friends will remain steadfast even when we occasionally stumble in sobriety. And when our family and former friends see us embracing virtues such as temperance, kindness and charity, many of them will learn to trust us again in time.
But more than anything, peace is a life free from worry. It is everything embodied by the Serenity Prayer, a life in which we may face hardships but will always have faith that we can overcome them if we simply try to be our best selves. Peace is a life in which we can look in the mirror and not only accept the person staring back at us, but actually be truly happy to see them.
Relationship to Other Promises
If we wish to gain the sort of peace described above, the Fourth Promise will not be the only one fulfilled. Upon fulfillment of the First Promise, we will learn the sensation of freedom when we do not feel the overwhelming mental obsession driving us to drink or abuse drugs on a daily basis. There cannot be peace without freedom, so the First Promise is all but essential if we wish to see the Fourth Promise come true within our lifetime.
The Second Promise is also quite necessary to the Fourth Promise, as this is when we learn to let go of our guilt over the past. Some may even find themselves feeling something in the way of gratitude, for it was their addiction that ultimately brought them to a better way of life in recovery. Not all will necessarily be thankful for their past experiences, but at the very least they will learn to accept that their actions are forever a part of them. And if you can truly say that you are happy with who you are today, your experiences—good and bad—cannot be discounted.
Given that they were originally written as one sentence in the Big Book, it is no surprise that the Third Promise and the Fourth Promise are quite linked. In fact, some may begin to know peace before they truly understand the word serenity as it has been described to them. After all, hearing a word is one thing—seeing it in action is quite another. But regardless of the order in with these two promises are fulfilled, it is a safe bet that few will experience one without experiencing the other.
The Fourth Promise may seem simple, but the sensation of peace after years of darkness can almost be overwhelming. Be careful not to let it trick you into thinking that you are cured, that you can use again without consequence. Many have made this mistake. But provided you do not take this peace for granted, you will find that it opens doors to a whole new life that may have once seem closed off to you. This is what recovery can do for you if you continue to work your program. If you or someone you know is still struggling with alcoholism or addiction, give peace a chance by seeking help as soon as possible.