This is part five of a twelve-part series wherein we will take a closer look at each of the twelve steps of recovery.
Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Why Would I Want to Do THAT?
Why would anyone want to dig up all of the pain and hurt from the past? A lot of that pain has fueled our addiction. The purpose of Step 5 is to attack many of the things that are at the core of our disease in order to free us from our past. This is an opportunity to share with another addict or alcoholic all of the things that we have done wrong that have led to destructive feelings and behaviors. Addiction involves much more than just using, so recovery needs to involve much more than just abstinence if we are to truly be free. In writing a 4th step we identified our character defects and patterns of dealing with problems that were not helpful. This was an opportunity to be completely honest with ourselves. The 5th step allows us to be humble and fearless by sharing those things with another person in the program and our Higher Power. It is a courageous step, but the results are a freedom that most say they looked for in drugs and alcohol but never found.
I CAN’T Do that!
“Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably, they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their house cleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egotism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense that we find necessary, until they told someone else all of their life story.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2001 p. 73)
At the core of chemical dependency is often the thought: If I tell anyone the truth about me, they won’t accept me”. Many addicts have spent their entire lives convinced that if anyone really knew them, that they would reject them. So secrecy becomes a core component of addiction and fear of rejection rules our behavior.
Many addicts have not been honest with themselves and others for a long time, perhaps since childhood. So often this is their first experience facing themselves and their past. Many addicts and alcoholics are tempted to hold something back in their 5th step due to this fear. These are the very things that need to be shared. If we hold anything back, the addiction is still driving our lives. We will truly feel the promises of the program when we allow the whole truth to come out so that we can stop living a double life.
Maybe I can do it. Everything else has worked so far…..
Through the process of sharing all of our resentments, fears, and harms done to others, we learn that we are not rejected and that others have experienced similar things. Many people think: “I have told someone the truth and that person is still there for me”. Until we find the courage to tell the truth we can never feel loved. We begin to realize that we are good people, that we have made mistakes and have done bad things but that we are not bad. We can start to forgive ourselves and believe that we are loved unconditionally by our Higher Power.
Many people feel immediate relief after doing a 5th step. The truth sets them free. For some it may happen more slowly, but if we are honest, we will eventually feel relief. Sometimes it takes a while to sink in. The 4th and 5th step make for a profoundly humbling experience. We begin to see ourselves accurately, and honestly. We are able to look at ourselves with love and understanding, and in a way that we have possibly never felt before.
“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2001 p. 83-84)
Contributed by Primary Counselor, Lauren Haarlow, LCAS, CMSW