The following is my fifth entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
Step 5: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Step 5 is found in Chapter 6 (Into Action) page 72 through page 75 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. In step 4 we discovered the deeper causes in our nature that were creating our problems. Now we need to start the process of healing by telling them to another person. We have to stop hiding from life and others, we have to finally find the courage to remove our mask and be entirely honest with another person. The book gives the reason why this is so important on page 73; “More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. They are very much the actor. To the outer world they present a stage character. This is the one they want others to see.” This mask or “stage character” is the lie that is presented to the world and the alcoholic is terrified that the lie will be discovered. This makes for a life of constant fear and tension which empowers the addictive behavior.
It is vitally important to pick the right person with whom to do this step. Many choose a sponsor or person who has been working with them in their recovery. We want someone who can keep our confidence and is understanding of what we are doing. They must be objective and not involved in any of what we wrote about in our 4th step. We do not do our 5th step with someone that may be harmed by what we discuss. Once we decide, “we pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny from the past.” We have our 4th step and we tell it all to our chosen person. Fear may tempt us to leave something unsaid but this leaves us vulnerable to relapsing back into addiction. Rely on the new connection to your “Higher Power” that you found in step 3 for the needed courage to do this step fully and completely.
When I first did step 5, I was terrified. I had things in my past of which I was ashamed and had vowed to keep secret for life. I had admitted them to myself and God in my fourth step but that was easy compared to telling another person. How would another person react if they knew this about me? What would they think of me? I knew what I thought of me concerning these things, so how could another not think the same? I imagined being marched down Main Street with a placard strapped to my body announcing my badness to the world. This is where I needed the connection to my higher power I had found in step 3. I did this step with a man who had been helping me. Looking back, he was the perfect choice. I told it all to another person for the first time in my life. It’s funny, he didn’t think anything I told him was much of a big deal. His nonchalant reaction was weird to me. I just couldn’t believe that it was not that big of a deal. He didn’t think me any better or worse than the rest of humanity. It was very healing for me to see that I was not what I thought, that others might not think of me as I thought of me. The relief I felt from this experience was wonderful! A big bag of fear, guilt, and shame had lifted off me as if by magic. This put a giant crack in those destructive beliefs I had been using to define myself and the world for so long.
How do I know if I did step 5?
You have told everything you discovered and uncovered in step 4 to another person. Nothing was purposely left unsaid.
How should I feel after doing step 5?
“Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience.” (p. 75 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)
Next we will do Step 6.
David Saffold is a Professional Life Coach and student at the Estuary. He has been helping people use the 12 step spiritual program to recover from alcohol and drug addiction for over 25 years.