Step Five

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


Step 5 seems simple enough: read my 4th step moral inventory to a third party. But it's more complicated than that. To fully work Step 5, I need to understand the definition of "wrongs."

"Wrongs" are the actions that I did that were harmful to myself or others. I stole from this person, I cheated on that test, etc. "Wrongs" are also my character flaws that prompted me to do these things. While all the things I ever do wrong are caused by a character flaw, most are. And these character flaws are put into action by the basic needs that are always affected by every interaction I have with people and institutions.

As part of my 4th Step, each event had to be analyzed - as per the Big Book - to determine what basic need had been involved and what was at stake in each situation: Personal relationships, emotional security, physical security, financial security, sexual relationships, pride (meaning the way I think others view me), self-esteem (meaning the way I view myself), ambition. Then each event was equally analyzed with the focus on myself and the overblown instincts in my character that had been active. These were all some form of "self": resentment, fear, pride, self-seeking, envy, criticism, stubbornness, perfectionism, dishonesty, control, manipulation. Some events involved a host of defects - instincts run amok; some involved just a few.

The idea behind Step4 and 5 is that if I am every to going to stop doing harmful behaviors, I not only need to know *what* I did but also know the root cause of my behavior. If I still have an attitude or a belief that causes me to behave in a certain way, I'm going to do that same thing ... maybe in a different form, but pretty similar.

So what I learned is that the "exact nature of my wrongs" involved the actual action, the basic need that had been affected and the instinct gone out of bounds (AKA: my defect of character).

I'll give you an example: it's not enough to say that I held a grudge against someone who gave me a poor work evaluation. Getting more exact means that I look for behaviors that reflected that grudge (gossiping or something similar). And getting every more exact means that I look for the need that was involved in that interaction (personal relationships, ambition, pride, self-esteem, financial security). And getting REALLY specific and exact means that I look for the character flaw/defect that activates all those things (resentment, fear, self-seeking, criticism, perfectionism). That's the exact nature of my wrong. And that's what I tell God, myself and another human being.

So how come I have to go to someone else? I mean, come on, if *I* know about it, isn't that enough? Telling God and myself was relatively easy - I had done that when I wrote my 4th step. But going to someone else? And how come the step specifically says I have to tell *myself*? Didn't *I* write my inventory?

The God part is there because as a child of God, as someone who has just put her life into God's hands, there can't be any secrets between me and my Higher Power. I need to know - from personal experience - that I can tell God anything and that God will still be a part of my life.

The *me* part is equally important. I am such a liar. "Denial" could have been my middle name. "I'm not fat, I'm just large." "I don't eat a lot." "Worrying is normal." "Waking up at 2 a.m. in a terrified panic because maybe I did something wrong or forgot to do something is perfectly normal." When I'm in my diseased mindset, I'll rationalize anything. But when I'm in "recovery mode," and honesty kicks in, *me* is an essential part of that recovery. I had to admit to *myself* that I was a compulsive eater before I would crawl into OA. I had to admit to *myself* that my way of dealing with food (once I came into OA) was not working and that I had to find another way. *Me* has to be satisfied before I'll make any changes.

Then there's the "others." I am by nature an isolator. I don't like to talk about myself to other people or feel indebted because someone did something for me. I don't like to feel needy. As my niece said when she was a baby, "I can do it me own self." The thought of opening up to another person - as Step 5 requires - terrified me. I had a grocery list of reasons why my sponsor wouldn't want to hear my 5th step: she'd be bored, she'd be repulsed, she'd be horrified, she'd quit being my sponsor. Mostly I was afraid that getting that intimate with another person meant that I owed her something in return. I would have to pay her for her friendship because certainly she wasn't doing it for free.

It took a leap of faith for me to do my first 5th Step.

It was a mess. I had written my first 4th step with an eye to exciting my sponsor including things I thought he wanted me to talk about. I was going to be the worst creature he had ever seen. I was a terrible person - and I was going to prove it to him. The OA and AA literature talk about feeling relief and freedom immediately after doing a 5th Step. I felt depressed and deeply shamed. Something was wrong.

I must have been dead serious about recovery because even after this fiasco, I found another sponsor, rewrote my 4th step and did my 5th step with the new sponsor. I felt freedom - just as the literature said I would. And there, as part of my 4th step, was the acknowledgement that I had written my previous inventory with the desire to make my previous sponsor feel sorry for me and love me and approve of me - all at the same time.

Every 5th step since then has ended in that feeling of relief and serenity. I don't know how my sponsor(s) have managed to stay awake while I talked to them, but they have. And God has blessed me with sponsors who know exactly what to say when I tell them about things I have done that have shamed me terribly.

I have done parts of 5th Steps with professionals (therapists) ... there were things that only a professional would know how to handle from a professional basis. It's my decision. The only consideration when I'm deciding who's going to hear my 5th step is that it be someone I trust, someone I know will understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, and someone who I know will keep a confidence.

Step 5 is where I came out of my shell and allowed someone to love me just because I am. I joke that the glazed look of a sponsor is part of the not-so-big bucks that sponsors earn. The reality is that Step 5 is where I finally come to grips with my past - and begin to let go of all the attitudes and behaviors that have caused me - and people around me - so much pain.

It still takes a lot for me to open up with my sponsor. But I do it because otherwise, I'll eat compulsively - and if I do, I'll die. It's pretty simple. There's a saying, "We are only as sick as our secrets." Step 5 starts that healing process as we open up about all our secrets.


1. What's the first thing you think of/feel when you consider working Step 5?

2. How come Step 5 involves more than just telling someone what you did wrong?

3. Why does the step specifically say you need to admit to *yourself* the exact nature of your wrongs?

4. Are you comfortable admitting your wrongs to God? How come? (or if no, how come not?)

5. If you could write a scenario about your 5th Step conversation with God, what would it look like?

6. To whom would you (or did you) give your 5th step? How come?

7. Was that person's response what you were hoping for? (or if you haven't yet done a 5th step: what are you hoping will be that person's response?)

8. Do you relate to my experience with my first 4th and 5th stepwork - doing them for the "benefit" of my sponsor and therefore not being honest?

9. We OA's live highly examined lives. How does Step 5 relate to this thought?

10. Do/Did you have any hesitation about doing Step 5? If so, what are/were you prepared to do to recover?

Yours in Recovery,

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