This week’s HTYH is about Step Five: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Step Five requires a sponsor, and if you don’t yet have one, its time to get one! During the first three steps we admitted, became willing, and made a decision, the Fourth Step, we made a list but, Step Five requires help from God, and another human being. Not everybody works their Fifth Step with their sponsor; some work it with a priest, minister, rabbi or some other spiritual advisor, but it specifically requires the help of another human being. My first sponsor warned me: never attempt to work these steps with a spouse, significant other, or family because the object of the steps is to remove resentments, not cause more.
Bill Wilson wrote a book titled, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and in it he said about Step Five, “All of AA’s Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires…they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few steps are harder to take than five. But scarcely any step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind than this one.”
Experience has taught us we cannot live alone with our pressing problems and the character defects, which cause or aggravate them. If we have swept the searchlight of Step Four back and fourth over our careers, and it has revealed in stark relief those experiences we’d rather not remember, if we have come to know how wrong thinking and action have hurt us, and others, then the need to quit living with the tormenting ghosts of yesterday, gets more urgent, and we must talk to somebody about them.
So intense, though, is our fear and reluctance to do this, that many people try to bypass Step Five. We search for an easier way—which usually consists of the general and fairly painless admission that when drinking we were sometimes bad actors. Then for good measure, we add dramatic descriptions of that part of our drinking behavior, which our friends probably know about anyhow.
But, of the things, which really bother and burn us, we say nothing. Certain distressing or humiliating memories, we tell ourselves, ought not to be shared with anyone. These will remain our secret. Not a soul must ever know. We hope they’ll go to the grave with us.
If our Step Five experience means anything at all, this is not only unwise, but a perilous resolve. Few muddled attitudes have caused us more trouble than holding back on Step Five. Some people are unable to stay sober at all; others will relapse periodically until they really clean house. Even old-timers, sober for years, often tell how they tried to carry the load alone; how much they suffered of irritability, anxiety, remorse, and depression; and how unconsciously seeking relief, they would sometimes accuse even their best friends of the very character defects they themselves were trying to conceal. They always discovered that relief never came by confessing the sins of other people. Everybody had to confess his or her own.