STEP FIVE ~ INTRODUCTION
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
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
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
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
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?
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,
The Twelve Steps
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