Step Five


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

Step Five Contents:

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

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Step Five ~ Introduction

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



Dear WTS Loop Members ~

Hi, my name is Severt and I'm a compulsive overeater who is grateful to be in recovery today. I've been fortunate enough to have been asked to be the chairperson for this months Step Study and am looking forward to the opportunity. Although I've been a member of WTS for probably a year or so, I haven't been active in it due to involvement in my other loops. I've looked back through the archives and hopefully have gotten a general understanding of the structure and protocol. If I do it wrong, I ask for your patience and tolerance.

I will be making 4 submissions on Step Five along with related questions beginning tomorrow. They will be divided generally along these lines:

Part 1: Reasons for doing a Fifth Step
Part 2: Choosing who you are doing a Fifth Step with.
Part 3: Doing your Fifth Step Part
Part 4: Results and follow up to the Fifth Step

Direct quotes from our literature won't be used so as to avoid copyright infringements, but I have used the following books as resources to help me write these Step Studies:

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (AA)
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous
The Twelve-Step Workbook of Overeaters Anonymous
Twelve Step Sponsorship - How It Works A Sponsorship Guide for 12-Step Programs

By way of introduction, I thought would take this moment to tell my Fifth Step story here rather than try to weave it into the four Step Studies themselves. Although brevity isn't my strong point, I'll make an effort at it! :) It took me over 4 years to complete my Fourth Step and probably the biggest reason it took me so long was that I feared having to do the Fifth Step. There was a part of my mind that told me there were some things that just didn't need to be shared with another human being, that some secrets were meant to be taken to the graves with us. I had the bulk of it done, but just couldn't bring myself to write down those last few sentences. Fortunately, I moved to a remote area of Arkansas that has no face to face recovery for compulsive overeaters and somehow this added distance made me feel safer about completing my Fourth Step, and with the assistance of a sponsor that I had met online, I was finally able to complete it.

No such procrastination existed about doing the Fifth once the Fourth was actually done. There existed in me an almost instinctive need to get rid of what I had written down and I made immediate plans to do my Fifth Step. I toyed briefly with the idea of doing my Fifth Step by e-mail or even by phone but I feared that this might be a type of avoidance for me, that I would be trying to avoid the true humility that comes from sitting across from someone and fessing up to all those ugly details of the past, so I made arrangements to make the 7 hour trip to St. Louis where my sponsor lives to do the Fifth Step the old fashioned way. There was nothing "fearless" about this step for me and I wasn't completely comfortable with walking into this whole thing cold, so I wrote my sponsor an e-mail with the two worst things from my past just to see how she would react. Since she didn't run away screaming, although I could tell she was a little shocked despite all the literature's promises that our sponsors can handle this stuff, I took my 4th step in hand and made the trip to St. Louis. We met in a public yet fairly private place which seemed best considering we were of opposite gender and had never actually met before. I was so nervous that my hands were shaking which isn't a common thing for me at all. She tried to put me at ease, but I don't think there was any way around it - this was gonna hurt! :)

So I got as good a grip on myself as I could, said the Serenity Prayer and the Third Step Prayer, and started going over the stuff on my Fourth. She listened without comment through the entire process which took about 3 hours, for which I'm very grateful. Afterwards, she gave me a big hug, we enjoyed a little tension reducing chit-chat, and went our separate ways.

Having completed my Fifth, I took my inventory down to the Mississippi River and tossed it in and immediately did my 6th and 7th Steps. After another prayer, I quoted my favorite line from the movie "Cujo" that was part of a ritual to keep the monsters away... "Over. Done with. Gone".

OK, maybe not a classic quotation, but I can find recovery in almost anything! These days, when people are wanting to point out my character defects, I politely tell them they must be mistaken because I left my character defects in St. Louis and they are probably somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico now. :) The best part of the Fifth step is that you only have to do it once! The second best part is that it lead to doing the rest of the steps which has given me over a year of continuous abstinence now and the maintenance of a 130 lb weight loss. The Big Book tells us that we do the Fifth Step because to not do it will probably kill us. It is an essential part of this path to recovery. Thanks for letting me share.

Love, Severt




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Step Five ~ Part 1

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



(Reasons for doing a Fifth Step)

In doing the Fourth Step, most of us have taken a good hard look at who we were and what those things are in our past that seemed to drive us toward the food and if we have spent much time working on the Second and Third Steps we have probably already become able to admit to our Higher Power our wrongdoings. What that leaves, of course, is the need to admit the exact nature of these wrongs to another human being.

Why is this necessary? Our literature and the experiences of those who have recovered or failed to recover confirm that doing the Fifth Step is absolutely essential to any hope for long-term recovery and peace of mind. If we skip this step, we may never overcome our eating compulsion. To live happily in this world, we must be willing to be humble, fearless, and honest, but we haven't learned enough of these three things until we share with someone else our entire life story, leaving nothing left unturned. Some say that this act of being honest with another person confirms that we have also been honest with ourselves and our HP.

We are told in the literature that if we do this Fifth Step, many things will begin coming true for us. We will finally begin to know and accept ourselves and we will feel a sense of relief. We will have nothing more to hide and this will mark the start of our release from isolation. We will be making an important step toward freedom from the resentments, guilt, and shame rooted in our past. We will be able to look the world in the eye and be at perfect peace and ease. Our fears falls from us and we begin to feel the nearness of our Higher Power.





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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) Are you willing to tell someone ALL of your secrets? Is there something from your past that you are still considering taking to your grave in silence?

2) What are your fears about dong the Fifth Step?

3) Why can it be more difficult for you to admit your wrongs to another human being than it is to yourselves or to your Higher Power?

4) If you aren't yet willing to do your Fifth Step, where can you find this willingness?

Love in Recovery,
Severt





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Step Five ~ Part 2

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



(Choosing someone to hear your Fifth Step)

The Fifth Step is one of the most important yet difficult steps we will ever face and much thought should be put into choosing the right person to hear it. Although there are no set rules, the experiences of those who have already done their Fifth Step offer us some valuable guidance. Prudence should be exercised in this decision and it may be beneficial to remember that in doing the Fifth Step, although we are baring our inner-most selves to another human being, we are not asking them to tell us how to manage our lives.

There are certain traits we are advised to look for in potential recipients of our Fifth Step. First and foremost it should be someone who is trustworthy and can keep a confidence, who can understand why we are giving away our inventories, and who will not try to deter us from our path. Someone who has done a Fifth Step of their own and is remaining abstinent as a result is an ideal candidate.

Some thought of the sensibilities of those we are thinking of choosing may be helpful. If the worst thing they have ever done is steal a few flowers from their neighbor's rose garden, they may not be the best choice for hearing of our murder conviction! :) Also, their current life situation could possibly be taken into account. We are looking for an objective listener and if our primary character defect was having sex with married women, telling this to some guy who just learned his wife was having an extra-marital affair may not be the best idea

Most of us choose our sponsors to do our Fifth Step with. We have usually already established a certain level of trust with them and they may already know some of our worst secrets, especially if they have helped us work the previous four steps. However, if we decide on someone other than our sponsor, we should not think of it as a personal rejection of our sponsor, and if our sponsor is well grounded in the program, they won't take it as a rejection either.

Some people choose a close-mouthed friend, a family member, or even a complete stranger but special care should be taken in these cases. There are no laws of confidentiality that will protect you legally from a friend's or sponsor's possible indiscretion and this is one reason, among others, that people sometimes choose a clergyman or therapist for their Fifth Step.

Whoever it is we choose, it should be someone who is happy to do it. Many, especially those in 12-Step recovery, will consider it an honor. If nobody appropriate for hearing your Fifth Step is available, it may be put off until someone suitable is found. Great care must be taken though that we aren't just looking for a means of putting it off.

All of the above was written after consulting the available literature on the Fifth Step, both approved and non-approved, but none of them addressed the question presented to many of us here on whether we can give away our Fifth Step over the computer via e-mail or chat room technology. Although my instinctive answer is that it is necessary to do it face to face, I haven't been able to fully substantiate that with our literature and it may reflect nothing more than my own experience and personal bias. Although I met my sponsor online, I chose to travel do my Fifth Step face to face and I encourage my own sponsees to find someone they can set down with in a physical sense to do theirs with.






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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) What are some examples of those who would not be a good person to do your Fifth Step with?

2a) If you've done your Fifth Step, who did you choose and what was your reasoning?

2b) If you haven't yet done your Fifth Step, who will you choose and what is your reasoning?

3. Did you or will you have complete trust in who you choose to share your deepest secrets with?

4. Have you ever been chosen to be the one to receive a Fifth Step? How was that experience for you?

Love,
Severt





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Step Five ~ Part 3

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




(Doing your Fifth Step)

Hi, my name is Severt and I'm a compulsive overeater. In learning about this step, I studied what I refer to as my "other big book", meaning my Webster's Dictionary. By looking up the words "exact", "nature", and "wrongs" I can come up with a couple of interpretations but the one most relevant seems to be "a precise, meticulous, and factual presentation of the fundamental character or disposition of things we did that run contrary to morality, the law, and our own conscience. If you are like me, that definition probably didn't help much either!

The reason I'm maybe making this more difficult than it needs to be is that I have seen many misinterpret the term "exact nature" to mean that no specifics of wrongdoing has to be mentioned in a Fifth Step, that only the nature or the reasons behind our actions are important. An example of this would be to admit that we are dishonest and greedy rather than admit that we stole money out of our mother's purse. There are some specifics mentioned in the Big Book though that may help us understand what is expected of us in this step. The first is "We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past." (AABB, page 75) This concept of fessing up to every wrong, in a specific way, is further backed up with "We have already admitted this (criminal offenses) in confidence to other person, but we are sure we would be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known." (AABB, page 78) These two passages seem to clear up the misconception that the Fifth Step does not require that we admit these specifics to another person. Simply giving the reasons for our behaviors is not enough.

Our literature gives us some other directions about how we do our Fifth Steps. We are to bring our Fourth Steps with us to our Fifth Step. Some use the Fourth as a general outline, others read it verbatim. The OA 12x12 specifically says that only through the process of discussing our shortcomings out loud can we begin to know and accept ourselves. It appears then that just giving our sponsor a copy of our Fourth won't suffice.

We are directed to waste no time in doing our Fifth Step and that we are to explain to our listener why we are doing it. We not only recite the wrong doings of our past, we also talk about why we did these things, what we were feeling at the time they took place, and how we felt afterwards. We search for patterns in our thinking and our behavior and we discuss how the negative feelings and actions affected us materially, emotionally, and spiritually.

The average Fifth Step takes about five hours to complete, depending on the individual and the thoroughness of the inventory. Our sponsors, if that is who we chose to have listen to our Fifth Step, will often share stories from their own pasts to make us feel more at ease and less unique. In my own experience, I found that it wasn't the worst things I had ever done that were the most difficult to tell another person, it was instead those things which caused me the most embarassment or humiliation. I could never have found any level of humility at all without having gone first through this process.

Only one Fifth Step is required of us unless we do another Fourth. Next week I will focus on what is to take place after giving your inventory away and will highlight the benefits we are promised for our willingness to complete this uncomfortable task.






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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) In what way did you/will you use your Fourth Step in doing your Fifth? Will you read it word for word, or use it as a guideline?

2) Were you, or are you, tempted to hold back on any specific details when doing your Fifth Step?

3) If you have completed your Fifth, did you find the actual process to be as uncomfortable as you had imagined?

4) What patterns in your thinking and behaviors of the past were you able to identify?

Love,
Severt





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Step Five ~ Part 4

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




(After Giving Away Your Fifth Step)

Hi, my name is Severt and I'm a compulsive overeater. Now that you have sat down with your sponsor or whoever it was you selected to hear your Fifth Step and have explored all those wrong doings from the past and looked for and discussed each of your character defects, it is now time to finish the last part of your Fifth Step. The Big Book is quite specific about what action is to be taken but this part is often overlooked due to the larger focus on sharing your innermost secrets with another human being.

We are instructed to go to a quiet place in our homes and think about the step we have just gone through. We take our Big Books in hand and turn to page 59 and read again the first 5 steps, looking to see if anything has been omitted. Have we been thorough and honest? Is there anything we have done half hearted or inadvertently left out? We give thanks to our Higher Power.

It says we give thanks for getting to know our Higher Power better, but is that all we are thankful for? Every step has some "promises" implied and Step Five is no different. Oftentimes people think of promises as not coming true until Step Nine, but a careful reading of the text shows us that there are certain things we can expect as a result of doing our Fifth Steps. What are these promises?

We are delighted

We can look the world in the eye.

We can be alone, at perfect peace and ease.

Our fears fall from us.

We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator.

We begin to have a spiritual experience.

The feeling that the food problem has often disappeared

We feel we are walking with the Spirit of the Universe.

Yes, doing the Fifth Step was quite difficult for us and took a lot of courage, but the promise of reward is great.






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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."



1. What kind of feelings did you experience while giving away your inventory? Were you relieved it was over?

2. Was the experience different than you had expected? If so, in what way?

3. What, if any, of these "promises" have come true for you? Do they remain true for you today?

Love,
Severt





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