“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
This step is listed in Chapter 5, How it Works, from the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous” (affectionately known as the Big Book) (see p. 59). There’s more in Chapter 6, starting on p. 72. And there’s even more about it in the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
When I was growing up, I hated cleaning my room. My mom once said, “How could you not have seen that?” She had just watched me step right on a sock on the floor, next to the pile of clothes on my chair that spilled onto the floor. “How can you live like this?” she asked. Of course I got punished, but that didn’t change my behavior. I continued to “live like this” until I got sober and started working the steps. This came to mind when I began to think about Step 5, our topic for the first week of the fifth month.
Looking back at that behavior, I see the parallels with my drinking. Just like that sock, I simply could not see, or chose not to see, what I was doing to myself and others. The consequences of drinking were certainly more dire than leaving a dirty sock on the floor, but alcohol only deepened my denial (Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying — to myself, first of all). Maybe that’s why it has taken me quite a while, and repeated Steps 4 and 5 many times, in order to really come clean.
Step 5 continues to help keep me honest, open and willing. For me, there’s no possibility of being completely honest if I’m only talking to myself. Step 5 is where I began to learn that opening up to another person was the key to being released from my own prison full of secrets. And for me, there’s no possibility of staying sober if I’m not honest, open and willing. It’s not the threat of punishment that keeps me sober — it’s the loving presence of my higher power, my own self-acceptance and close relationships with trusted AA friends that give me the courage, strength and wisdom to admit my mistakes, make sincere amends and have a chance at living a happy, joyous and free life.
I may still find an occasional dirty sock, but it’s easier to see if I’m in the habit of keeping the place clean to begin with!
I look forward to your shares on Step 5 or on whatever else might be going on with you now. Thanks for letting me share (and chair!).