Topic for the week: Step 5 Admitted to God, ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
I worried a lot about Step 4, mainly because of how hard I heard it would be. Of course, it was not easy, but it was incredibly freeing. My early Steps were done with my most sincere effort and awareness, mixed I can admit, with fear. I wanted to stay sober and I was determined to do what it takes.
I really hadn’t realized that Step 5 was scary too! I was told that I am as sick as my secrets and since I buried so many of them so deep, I wasn’t really aware of all of their nature. But I did know, ‘soul sickness’ as the Big Book calls it. Such spiritual sickness, fear, isolation from my fellows, and shame were quite apt to make me drink rather than look squarely at myself. It kept me from exercising the honesty I needed to advance in sobriety. Once again, I was afraid. I’d chosen a loving God but my resistance blocked out His love.
I think of Step 5 as the application of the character defects I uncovered in Step 4. For me, not making the connection allowed me to imagine that I might own the defects, but surely I hadn’t acted on them! Examples were the way I became enlightened. I did need the ‘coaching’ of a sponsor with whom I was doing my Step 5 to be assured I was not unique, not the worst, and I could allow myself to recall and say out loud what I’d done in my past. We are not bad people getting good, but sick people getting well.
I had another misconception. I assumed that the fifth step referred only to those missteps I’d taken when I was drinking. That belief would have cut my list in half if I hadn’t learned that the ‘ism of my alcoholism had affected my behavior from early on, way before I picked up a drink.
I came to the rooms very short on trust. I was sure I was the worst, I was sure that anyone I told the exact nature of my wrongs would blab it all over the neighborhood, and my admission would just send me home feeling worse for even opening my mouth. It didn’t happen that way.
The quality of my Step 4 and Step 5 improved over the years. These steps are not one-and-done and support my sobriety all through my life. Some ‘wrongs’ were not available to my conscious mind for many years. Some I’d rationalized and left off the list. And lo and behold, I’d created some new ones along the way! The 10th Step can keep me out of that muck and mire if I am faithful to examining my actions of the day before I go to sleep. And owning them.
An example: It wasn’t so many years ago that I became aware of the need to do a 4th and 5th step on some behavior of the past that had come to my consciousness and began to bedevil me. It started to make me sullen, depressed, fearful and angry. I knew it was going to cause me a lot of trouble unless I took action. That soul-sickness I spoke of.
I had just moved to a new area and had no one to talk to. I chose a priest whose spirituality matched mine and made an appointment. My idea, yes, but the closer the appointment came, the colder my feet became. But I prevailed. I needed help to get out the details, time to cry, time to feel shame. In the process the priest revealed that he too was in AA and was well able to help. I cried some more. A huge burden was lifted from my soul. I was ready to start anew and once again felt the love of my Higher Power who put this person in my life.
When I got home, I was so ecstatic that my husband believed I was having an affair. Never did. In fact, he believes that even today and I have not been able to persuade him otherwise. The irony of that makes me laugh so hard! In a certain way it is once again my Higher Power’s sense of humor. hgz, b. 9/21/84
We are all invited to share, at any time this month, on Step 5 and Tradition 5. The steps are our blueprint for living sober lives. The traditions are what guide most AA groups. The traditions certainly inform our group conscience decisions and the original structure for GROW. We look forward to your shares.
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.
*** Where to get the books, Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions ***
You can find these books at many f2f AA meetings; you can order them online from many places. And they are available from the AA General Service office, to read online, in English, French, and Spanish. See www.aa.org/