Step Five

1997

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Step Five Contents:

Part 1 and Questions for journaling
Part 2 and Questions for journaling
Part 3 and Questions for journaling
Part 4 and Questions for journaling
Transition and Questions for journaling

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Step Five ~ Part 1

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Well, here we are. Looks like it's time to get the lead out.

If we've come this far, we have spent a whole lot of time in self-examination. We have sliced, diced and parsed. We have examined our relationships with families, friends, co-workers, list members, and the neighbor's. We have peered into dark corners with the laser light of honesty. We have recognized the insanity of our attitudes and actions. We have found our own concept of a power greater than our very human selves. Some of us have filled journals, scrapbooks and notebooks with our innermost thoughts and fears. Isn't this enough? Isn't it enough that we have searched our hearts and minds and recorded all that we found within.

In a word--No.

Step 5 is described in the Big Book of AA as "Into Action". It's the first time we are enjoined to *do* something. In the first step we are encouraged to start the life-long process of self-awareness. In the second step we make the leap of faith that there is hope. Step three helps us define the source of power which will hold us by the hand if we wish as we jump off that cliff into the unknown world of health and recovery. But we don't have to *do* anything. And the fourth step clarifies it in black & white.

All that changes when we pick up the phone to call a sponsor, member of the clergy, friend, therapist and make an appointment to take action.

Step 5 reads (We) admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

This is a step that I would have written differently. My Step Five would read "We admitted to ourselves, god and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." Frankly, I can't see how it is possible to admit anything to GAWUG without shedding the cocoon of denial, that particular form of self-deception. Be that as it may, the special flavor of this step is one of humility. Note, I said humility, not humiliation. It took me a long time to learn that there was a difference. I mean, it's tough admitting to myself that I have spent time "poisoning the well." (All my character traits show up in my relationships with others). But as long as I'm the only one who knows, what of it? I got away with it, and I'll never do it again (just like that extra hamburger on my plate?)

If all my life I have fooled myself, how do I know I have been honest in my fourth step? Am I really the one to evaluate that? Do I really see myself as I am, as I would like to be, or as others would like me to be? But--the risks of self-disclosure!!! Wow!!! Talk about scary.

Okay, let's try out this loving accepting H. P. whose acquaintance we have only recently made.

For me, it works like this. I talk to my higher power. Out loud. In words. I have these dialogues with a power greater than myself. For me, the out loud part is very important. I need to hear the words as I describe a behavior that hurt me or someone else. The "out-loud" parts the curtain of fog and denial behind which I may still be hiding.

The first couple of times I tried this, I waited for the thunder to roll and the lightening to strike--if not literally, then figuratively. Didn't happen. But what did happen was a loosening of my shoulders and neck muscles. An unclenching of my jaw. An unimaginable relief. I wasn't alone with my secrets anymore. I had shared them with GAIUG.

I was on the road.

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Step Five ~ Part 1: Questions

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

  1. How do I feel about admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to God? To what extent can I be deeply and sincerely honest with my HP about my "wrongs"?

  2. How do I feel about being honest with myself about the exact nature of my wrongs? As I progress in program am I working on new levels of understanding of myself?

  3. What does it mean to me to "admit to myself" the exact nature of my wrongs?

  4. How do I feel about sharing the details of my past with another human being?

  5. How does working Step 5 relate to "willingness".

  6. Recognizing that Step 5 is a life-long process of growth, and the Step Five is a step into action, what action (s) am I willing to begin?


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Step Five ~ Part 2

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

If there's anything I'm good at, it's completing a job. I'm what the pros call "task-oriented." Just wind me up and let me go. So 14 or so years ago when my sponsor said to me, "Now it's time to do the fourth step," I sat down at my typewriter and started pounding away. I wasn't sure if using a typewriter was "kosher." Maybe I needed to prick my finger and write my sins in blood...well, at least use a pen & notebook. But the floodgates had opened (I thought) and I couldn't write fast enough, so I typed. I felt driven. I had to do this. I had to get it done. I had to get it done Fast. It was my "assignment." So within a couple of weeks, there it was...my physical, spiritual and emotional bankbook, ready for auditing.

I knew the drill. Pick up the phone and make an appointment to give it away. Quick. I thought for about 15 minutes and called---my sponsor? Nyah. My clergyperson? You must be joking? My therapist? Nope. A trusted friend? Noooooo.... I called A Stranger. Now, he was a neat stranger. He was someone I had met at Parents Without Partners. He was a recovering alcoholic who really lived his 12th step, throwing his modest home open to alcoholics coming out of rehab back into the world via half-way houses.. He was sort of a half-way half-way house. I learned of his AA work when he spoke to a discussion group I had attended. I can remember the hesitancy in his voice as I introduced myself over the phone and asked him if he would take my fifth step. True to his own recovery, he graciously accepted this assignment and we set a date. I showed up, pages in hand, and when he asked me why I had chosen him (He was not a compulsive overeater), I have no idea what I said. Clearly I didn't know why (until many years later). But we went thru the process. I read; he asked me a few questions; when it was all over we burned the pages in the fireplace, had a cup of coffee and I went home.

When did I tell my sponsor? I don't remember. Did I tell my sponsor? I don't remember. Did I feel a great wave of relief? No. What did I feel? Not much of anything. Was it a waste of time? No. It was the best I was capable of at the time. Why did I do it? Tune in next week....

Love, Sylvia

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Step Five ~ Part 2: Questions

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

  1. Do I view step 5 as a good, positive and valuable action? How can this be good and positive? Do I see this exercise as a work of self-love and positive growth?

  2. When I go back to my 4th step inventory, what are some of the reasons that I did some of my "wrongs"? Can I look at my part of the issue, and identify elements that I can change in myself? Can I separate "my" part of these issues from "other's" roles?

  3. How does "acceptance of things I cannot change" work in my evaluation of the exact nature of my wrongs; and the way in which I identify these things to myself, my HP and another person?

  4. Why do I think the authors of Step 5 made it a 3-part step? Is working with another human being the essence of Step 5 for me? Do I make this a stumbling block? How important is working the first 2 parts of this step (admitting to myself and to HP)? Is any one of the 3 aspects of working step 3 more (or less) important to me?

  5. When will "step into action" and begin my step 5 work with myself, my HP, another human being?

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Step Five ~ Part 3

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Hi, everybody...just a reminder that anything I write is simply my own opinion and doesn't reflect the opinion of OA or anyone else.

"We admitted...the 'exact nature' of our wrongs.'

My dictionary defines "motive" as "an emotion, desire, physiological need or similar impulse acting as an incitement to action." The source of the word is the Latin verb "movere," to move.

What was my motive for choosing a member of another 12 step fellowship (and a stranger to boot!) to take my first Step 5? The clue is in the wording of the step...the admission of the exact nature of my wrongs, but we'll get back to that.

If I told you that I got up at 04:30 although the bus to work doesn't leave until 7 a.m., what would that mean? That I'm an early bird, insomniac, afraid to be late, a slow dresser? Actually, unless I told you that I have a second job that I do from home before leaving for my full time job, and that I did it for money, you'd have no idea. So, if I told you that I volunteered to spend several hours in my office typing up a list of books for the local library, you might think--Oh! What a wonderful, selfless person!! BUT, if I told you that my motive was to curry favor with the head of the library and make someone else look bad, you might have another opinion. See...that's what it is about motives.

The AA 12 & 12 states, "More realism and therefore more honesty about ourselves are the great gains we make under the influence of Step 5. As we took inventory, we began to suspect how much trouble self-delusion had been causing us. This had brought a disturbing reflection. If all our lives we had more or less fooled ourselves, how could we now be so sure that we weren't still self-deceived? How could we be certain that we had made a true catalog of our defects and had really admitted them, even to ourselves? Because we were still bothered by fear, self-pity and hurt feelings, it was probable we couldn't appraise ourselves fairly at all. Too much guilt and remorse might cause us to dramatize and exaggerate our shortcomings. Or anger & hurt pride might be the smoke screen under which we were hiding some of our defects while we blamed others for them. Possibly, too, we were still handicapped by many liabilities, great and small, we never knew we had. Hence it was most evident that a solitary self-appraisal, and the admission of our defects based upon that alone, wouldn't be nearly enough. We'd have to have outside help if we were surely to know and admit the truth about ourselves..."

It eventually became clear to me that the reason I chose someone other than my sponsor to take my Step 5 was because only my sponsor had any idea of the truth about me. She was the only person equipped to say, Hey!! What about X or Y or the time you did Z? And you know what? Everything they say about this program is true. It works if you work it---and *only* if you work it.

The emotion inciting me to action was fear, fear of the truth about myself, fear of my sponsor's disapproval (something which, BTW, existed in my head alone), fear that I wasn't doing it "right," terror that I was one of those people described in Chapter 5 of the AA Big Book ("Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men & women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.")

Do I regret that Step 5? No. It was the best I was capable of at the time, and it made it possible for me to move forward in my step work. As a matter of fact, it took quite some time before I became aware of my fears. Twelve years later, as the result of another fifth step, I came face to face with my defect of perfectionism, an experience that changed my life. But that's another story.

Today I understand that the exact nature of my wrongs includes not only the action, but the "emotion, desire, physiological need or similar impulse acting as an incitement to action." It is no longer enough to face up to what I have done. I need to face up to my motives and share them as honestly as I know how, with GAIUG and another human being--preferably one who knows me well.

Next week--a simple way to do it!

Love to all,
Sylvia

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Step Five ~ Part 3: Questions

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

  1. The AA 12 & 12 states, "More realism and therefore more honesty about ourselves are the great gains we make under the influence of Step 5. As we took inventory, we began to suspect how much trouble self-delusion had been causing us. This had brought a disturbing reflection. If all our lives we had more or less fooled ourselves, how could we now be so sure that we weren't still self-deceived?".

    How can I be so sure that I am not still self-deceived?

  2. Again quoting the AA 12 & 12...."How could we be certain that we had made a true catalog of our defects and had really admitted them, even to ourselves? "

    How can I be certain that I have made a "true catalog"?

  3. Sylvia writes: "It eventually became clear to me that the reason I chose someone other than my sponsor to take my Step 5 was because only my sponsor had any idea of the truth about me. She was the only person equipped to say, Hey!! What about X or Y or the time you did Z? And you know what? Everything they say about this program is true. It works if you work it---and *only* if you work it."

    With whom will I (or have I shared) share my inventory? What are my reasons for this choice?

  4. Sylvia writes: "The emotion inciting me to action was fear, fear of the truth about myself, fear of my sponsor's disapproval (something which, BTW, existed in my head alone), fear that I wasn't doing it "right," terror that I was one of those people described in Chapter 5 of the AA Big Book ("Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men & women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.")"

    Am I constitutionally capable of being honest with myself?

  5. An oft-used analogy in program, "peeling the onion" refers to the life-long quest to reach new levels of honesty with myself. Am I growing in love and respect for the miraculous creation that is me? How do I relate "peeling the onion" with a life-long quest for serenity and abstinence?

  6. Am I a perfectionist? Is it OK for me to make mistakes? Do I still cling to self-delusions of perfectionism and the disastrous effect this has on my compulsive overeating? Is it OK for others to know that I'm not perfect? Have I considered admitting this to God, myself and another human being?

God bless,
Chuck

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Step Five ~ Part 4

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Dear folks--just a reminder that the following is only my opinion.

When I first came into OA, I felt overwhelmed by the jargon, shorthand language, steps, traditions, etc. With the help of my sponsor, I found the slogan that made it possible for me to keep coming back, one tiny baby step at a time...K.I.S.S..Keep It Simple, Sylvia.

Today, I would like to share with you one simple method of doing Step 5 with your sponsor or spiritual guide.

You will need:

  1. A quiet, private place to sit together (I don't do Fifth Steps on the phone.)
  2. Time (don't try to squeeze this into 15 minutes between appointments)
  3. Your 4th step inventory
  4. Something to write with
  5. Something to write on (I prefer a lined tablet)
  6. Willingness
  7. Trust

Now, the Simple Recipe...

A. Make an appointment with your spiritual guide. Before the meeting, read Step 5 from the AA 12 Steps & 12 Traditions. Ask GAYUG to give you the openness and willingness to share your inventory with the person you have chosen.

B. At your meeting, recite the Serenity Prayer together. (I also like to read aloud from the OA pamphlet, "A Twelve Step Guide for You & Your Sponsor", where it describes the fifth step.) I find that a couple of good deep breaths help here.

C. Tell your sponsor you would like to ready your inventory twice--the first time without interruption, and do so.

Now, comes the fun part.,..

D. Fold a sheet of lined tablet paper into 3 vertical columns. At the top of the first(left hand) column, write "My Problem". At the top of column two, write the title, "What it looks Like". At the top of the third column write His/Her/Their Problem. Yep...after all that time focusing on our defects, we are actually going to list everyone else's problem. (Please remember, this is just my system, and not endorsed by anyone else.)

E. Go back to the first item on your 4th step inventory. Maybe it looks like this: "I have a terrible temper. When my ex-husband comes over to pick up the kids, I have to leave the house because he plunks himself down in front of the t.v. His t.v. is broken & he says he doesn't have the money to fix it. I get so angry, I want to strangle him!"

Now...here's where step 5 and step 4 differ. In step 4 I have simply described my actions. In step 5 I begin to examine my motivations.

F. Under column 1, write down the character trait you have identified in your inventory.

Under column 3, write your ex-husband's problem.

Now comes the Motive/Motivation part. Go back to Column 1 and ask yourself, "Why do I get so angry?" Why do I leave the house?" Some possibilities are: "I get angry because I can't change him. I get angry at myself because I let him sit and watch t.v. and do his dirty laundry at my house because his washer is busted, too. I get angry because I am dependent on the money he sends for child support. I hate being dependent on him. I am afraid that if I don't let him watch t.v., wash clothes, etc., he will stop sending the money. I don't really believe that I deserve money for the kids because I really wasn't a good wife/mother. I don't believe I have the right to a decent home and privacy. I leave the house because I am afraid to confront him and stand up for my rights."

Wow!!

Suddenly column 1 begins to fill up, and column 2 is easy. "What it looks like," is, I run away from confrontation. I look angry, but I'm really scared.

On careful examination of the exact nature of our behavior and motives, we discover that the character train we were dealing with at first--anger--turns out to be something else entirely--fear.

G. Continue to do this with each character trait and episode uncovered in your fourth step inventory.

H. When you have completed the process, carefully bend back column 3. It should be on the far right hand side of the page. Tear it off and burn it. What you should be left with is a column entitled "My Problem," and another one called "What it looks Like". (In case you haven't figured this out, this means letting go of His/Her/ and Their Problems).

Sure enuf, the focus is back where it belongs--on us.

I. Ask your sponsor/spiritual guide for feedback, and LISTEN.

J. Read Step 6 together with your sponsor.

K. Share the Serenity Prayer with your sponsor/spiritual guide, and open your heart to the healing power of freedom from secrets.

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This, by the way, is not how I did my first Step Five, but how I did my most recent fifth step. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to do it.

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One quick note to those taking a fifth step from someone else...You have been chosen with great care. Prepare yourself with prayer and meditation. Someone has resolved to be totally honest with you, holding back nothing. What is disclosed must be kept in the strictest confidence. As we listen to the heartfelt sharing of another person, it reminds us of where we have been, and as we identify, we disclose similar experiences. We accept, non-judgementally, as we have been accepted, knowing that our job here may be to clarify, but never criticize. Patiently, we allow each halting statement to come forth in its own time. Remembering our own first attempts at clearing away the clouds of self-delusion and denial, we encourage our sponsees in their attempts to accept personal responsibility. Helping them to discard the labels of "good" and "bad", we help them look instead at what has created positive or negative results in their lives so that they can begin to chose paths for the future. Lovingly, we remind them that "we are only as sick as our secrets," and that by sharing their secrets, they have taken a giant step toward spiritual and emotional health. Remind them of the assets they have uncovered in this process. Welcome them on the road of recovery and dignity.

- - - - -

Thank you for letting me take part in this WTS study.

Much love to all,

Sylvia

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Step Five ~ Part 4: Questions

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Dear WTS Fellowship,

Please join me in a warm and loving thank you to Sylvia for her sharing e/s/h on Step 5 this month.

Here are journal questions from me to accompany Sylvia's Share on Step 5, Part 4.

  1. What role does willingness play in discussing my wrongs?

  2. When I look at my side of the issues in my 4th step inventory, what were my motivations for my actions?

  3. When I look at my side of the issues in my 4th step inventory, what are my feelings about my part of these issues?

  4. When I share my inventory with God, myself and another human being what have I learned about fear?

  5. When I share my inventory with God, myself and another human being what have I learned about trust?

  6. When I share my inventory with God, myself and another human being what have I learned about honesty?

  7. When I share my inventory with God, myself and another human being what have I learned about acceptance?

God bless,
Chuck

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Step Five ~ Transition

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Before moving on to Step Six, here are a few questions for journaling that you might want to consider spending some time on.


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Step Five ~ Transition Questions

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

  1. My writing on Step 5 focused deeply on willingness, honesty, acceptance and truth. How do see this introspection as a step toward loving my self?

  2. Do I like the person I see in the mirror each morning?

  3. As I review my Step 5 journal, to what extent am I able to accept myself without self-criticism?

  4. Can I "see" the path between loving and acceptance of others and loving and acceptance of my self? How does this work for me? How does this affect working my program? How does this affect my day-to-day life?

  5. Do I postpone self-acceptance (and acceptance of others) until I reach a self-imposed goal (a weight goal)? Or am I able to accept the fact that I am a miracle and worthy of unconditional love and acceptance today, as I am?

  6. What is my morning meditation? Am I reaching for things that "I" want? or am I seeking insight and acceptance of HP's will for me in my life?

  7. Recognizing that I have worked hard, and that I have taken working the steps very seriously, I quickly recognize the love and help of those who love and support me and are worthy of my sincere gratitude. Who are these people? Do I express my gratitude and return that love?

    How and what am I doing to say:


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