To anyone who believes in the single fourth step, let's look at this:
"Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke."
I do hope none of you run businesses. Perhaps you might take over a business and do a full inventory of the stock when you acquire the business. Great!
But do you never do a full stock take again?
Would you trust a business that hadn't done a full stock take since 1983 or 1994 but had simple done the daily rounds of the stock room, looking for the most obviously obsolescent stock, as it appears on the surface?
Just like a business needs to periodically stand back and do a full inventory, not just of its stock, but of every aspect of the business, most people in recovery will need to do the same.
I have sponsored a LOT of people who believed, before they asked me to sponsor them, they would never need to do another fourth step, yet who discover their lives absolute train wrecks after 5, 10, or 15 years of sobriety, just trying to muddle through with the last three steps, without having a deep and comprehensive look at their lives.
Interestingly, a disturbing proportion of the first 100 died drunk, I am reliably informed, so perhaps we might want to avoid mimicking their experience with LONG-TERM sobriety, as effective as their initial experience was. Bill W.'s own experience is ample testament to this: it took a long time before he relented and reworked the steps with Father Dowling, again as I am reliably informed.
A few people do succeed without ever systematically reviewing their entire life as a coherent, comprehensive exercise. These are a minority, in my experience.
One of the major reasons that, when you look round an AA room, there are few people over 20 years sober, yet that same room was full of enthusiastic, grateful, sober alcoholics 20 years ago (I've observed this first hand!) is the phenomenon of the ego regrowing. Without periodic major soul surgery ... good luck, frankly.
I have experienced doing the semi-annual or annual housecleanings described in the 12 x 12, which are effectively a rerun of Step Four, in contrast to the daily or spot-check inventories also described in the same work. I have also experienced not doing them. The difference is like day and night.
What is interesting also is that the proponents of the 'one Step Four-only' approach have usually never experienced rerunning the exercise on a periodic basis.
It's best to ask people who have experienced both approaches to AA which one is more effective.