Step Five of Alcoholics Anonymous states:
“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Step Five progresses directly from Step Four, in which we “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” To tackle Step Five, we must admit the shortcomings and problematic behaviors we identified while compiling our moral inventory to ourselves and to our Higher Power. But there is more. We must also share the list with another person.
If you have a sponsor, they would be the logical choice for this person. If not, select someone that you trust, feel comfortable with, and who is supportive of your recovery efforts to participate in Step Five.
Although this is a difficult step, it is not about harshly criticizing yourself for prior misdeeds or character flaws. What has happened is in the past. Instead, the purpose of Step Five is to humbly acknowledge these past missteps, and then to proactively let go of your former way of life.
Working Through Step Five in Alcoholics Anonymous
Few things are more difficult for us to do than owning up to our wrongdoing, and it’s especially hard to admit them out loud. This is because we may feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed about some of our past behaviors. It is hard to admit that our actions might have caused another person pain or hardship.
The prior step, Step Four, had us examine our past and thoroughly assess our behaviors and choices. Taking this personal inventory helped us take responsibility for our former actions. The natural next step of the process is to release those faults by sharing them with a trusted person who will listen without condemnation.
There is something very profound and beautiful about sitting with another person and bravely admitting the things you have done that you now see were harmful or dysfunctional in some way. It may make you feel vulnerable at the time, but in your honesty, you will emerge lighter and freer to forge ahead on your recovery journey.
Consider the insights gained by Alumni Coordinator, Louis M., in his recovery journey:
Step Five is all about sharing your Fourth Step with your sponsor. This was the part that made me feel a bit nervous, because I had never shared all of this deep information with another person before. I may have shared things here and there, to get out of an issue, but never everything.
Once I prayed about it, and decided to walk through the fear, this process was amazing. It opened me up to become more open-minded, honest and willing. I shared a bit of my resentments, and then my sponsor shared his own resentments. He made me feel like a part of A.A., and through this step I got down to the causes and conditions. It turns out, most of my decisions up until this point were based on fear and selfishness.
As Louis learned, important new insights can result from thoughtfully working through Steps Four and Five, both which foster personal growth.
The 12-Step Program is a Journey
When setting out to tackle a project or set a new goal, chances are you approach the process in chunks or phases. By hitting benchmarks along the way, you move closer to achieving your goal.
The recovery process also proceeds on a continuum with each phase bringing you closer to achieving long-term sobriety. The 12-step program is not magic, and provides no silver bullets. Instead, the 12-step program offers a template for helping you reach your desired goal, one piece at a time.
That fifth phase, Step Five, is not an easy one to check off the list. This step, as many of the steps do, require you to check your pride at the door. Although uncomfortable, completing Step Five is essential for helping you make positive changes in your life.
Admitting past mistakes can have powerful and lasting effects. This courageous action fuels you to let go of former behaviors—and forgive yourself for them—preparing you for the next rung on the ladder.
Breaking free from a substance use disorder is aided by indispensable treatment elements like therapy, education, and sometimes medication. Long-term success, however, will depend heavily on two essential components: spiritual development and fellowship. The 12-step program provides the building blocks to guide you toward spiritual growth, and your recovery community provides the ongoing sobriety support needed.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.