“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” — Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Step Five
Note: In this blog post, we reference Step Five as outlined in the AA Big Book interchangeably with Step Five as outlined in the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Basic Text.
After we’ve completed a “searching and fearless moral inventory” in Step Four, we’re choosing in Step Five to “quit living by ourselves with those tormenting ghosts of yesterday” (as the AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions aptly states). We choose, therefore, to share fully and completely “the exact nature of our wrongs” with our higher power, another trusted human being and ourselves. When our secrets are brought to light, shame doesn’t survive.
How do we choose “another human being” with whom to share the “exact nature of our wrongs”? The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions explains, “The real tests of the situation are your own willingness to confide and your full confidence in the one with whom you share…” We might add that this other human being will ideally be able to view the information you share objectively and without bias. This person might be a member of the clergy, a sponsor, a therapist or even a close friend or family member. Some even find it more comfortable to share with a complete stranger.
Understandably, we might have the urge to keep our most distressing or disgraceful experiences tightly tucked away. But, with full disclosure, we begin to break down the walls that have served as barriers between us and others. By admitting (referred to some as “confessing”), we also begin to sense that our wrongs can be forgiven (and that, in turn, we might also be able to forgive others for their wrongdoings).
So much of our time prior to seeking recovery was spent in the preservation and bolstering of our own egos—a fool’s errand that is contingent upon (often rapidly changing) external factors. Step Five, therefore, aims to break down the ego and continue the work we began in the first four steps of building our humility “muscles.”
By the time we’ve completed Step Five, we’ve really begun to “grow up” spiritually. We’re rewarded with a clear conscience and a feeling of freedom we haven’t experienced in awhile (if ever).
For further reading on Step Five, check out the AA Big Book (pages 72-75); the 12 Steps and 12Traditions (pages 55-62);the NA Basic Text (pages 29-32).