this is Isabella. I'm a compulsive overeater and food addict, grateful for recovery one day at a time.
Before we go on to step 5, I just want to quickly check in re step 4.
Do you have an inventory?
If not, simply go back to your writings on these steps so far and underline the things you want to change in your life.
There you go. Thatís a start, and enough to move on to the next step.
Which is - tada - Step 5!
Admitted to God,
and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.
The OA 12x12 points out that this step starts with our Higher Power (p. 46).
I have to admit that in some ways, this is still mysterious to me (and I'm grateful for that, it keeps me on my toes). Letís see what I DO think I understand.
My Higher Power is my Highest Power. The most important relationship in my life. I talk to HP daily, and even more important, I listen to HP daily.
So after having done all the work of the inventory, why WOULDN'T I immediately bring this to HP?
In my self-centeredness, I still believe that "confessing my sins" to another human being is the most important thing.
But step 5 is not about confessing sins. Step 5 is the logical continuation of Step 3 ≠ made the decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. If I am willing to turn my whole life over to my Higher Powers, then it surely makes sense to turn over a handful of character defects and assets!
Thatís why, in my experience, it is really important to start any step 5 with a prayer. Any good prayer will do. Here is a fifth step prayer:
"Higher Power, my inventory has shown me who I am, yet I ask for Your help in admitting my wrongs to another person and to You. Assure me and be with me, in this step, for without this step, I cannot progress in my recovery. With Your help, I can do this, and I will do it."
Letís go on to page 47: "When we actually do our fifth step with another human being, we find that we are humbled without being humiliated.
Letís talk about the "other human being" for a moment. This could be a sponsor ≠ but it doesn't have to be. I've actually only once done a step 5 with my sponsor at the time. That was my first step 5. It was an absolutely wonderful experience, truly with our Higher Powers loudly and strongly present with us. I talked about some things that I had never told anyone before. That was really - magical. Yes. It wasn't scary, as you'd expect it to be. It was about some pretty heavy stuff but it turned out that she had had similar experiences. In that exchange, we were truly "humbled not humiliated" (more on humility in step 7).
The sense of kinship we experienced at that moment provided a bond that has kept us connected, even over the years, even through moves across the country.
Was the fact that she was my sponsor important? I'm not sure. All my step fives have been intense and life-changing in big and small ways.
What WAS important though, in all these experiences, was to choose a) a person who understood the steps, b) someone I could trust in all the different ways I needed to trust them, and c) an environment where the sacredness of step 5 would be honoured.
Once, in my never-ending drive to experiment, I didn't take care of this last condition. In that instance, both of the first conditions were 100% there (I was on a mini vacation with two very close friends who know the steps) but I kind of just blurted out my stuff while we were making dinner. Maybe that would work for other people; it sure didn't work for me. The sacred container had not been prepared. I guess I hadn't started with God, as it says in the steps.
But no sweat ≠ after feeling a bit bruised, I got over it and simply turned to an oldtimer and redid step 5 a few weeks later, and that was really good. One of the things he asked me right at the beginning was how I wanted to do this. Did I want to just recite my list, with him simply as a witness? What type of feedback, if any, did I want, and at what point? Did I want to hear his ESH around some of the difficulties I had? I've gratefully adopted that for all my step fives now, both as someone hearing it and as someone giving it away.
"It is only through the process of discussing our shortcomings out loud with an understanding person that we can finally begin to know ourselves and accept ourselves (p. 48)" and "What we need is a loving witness. (p. 49)"
The "out loud" is really important. "Out loud" doesn't necessarily mean literally ≠ I've taken and done step fives online and they worked well ≠ but it DOES mean that we need to get all that junk out of our heads, OUTSIDE of our heads and hearts. You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep and you toss and turn with a gazillion worries? Well, guess what, a lot of the rest of our lives can be like that, too, with all that stuff rattling around in our heads.
Our Higher Powers don't want us to walk around with that burden, with those thoughts and feelings that hang out in our lives "rent-free", as some oldtimers put it. By literally SHARING it with Higher Power and another, we lay down this burden.
How can we know ourselves if we're almost unrecognizable under all the baggage?
And why are we so much better able to accept ourselves without these burdens? I don't exactly know (darn, another thing I don't know :) One reason is because it usually turns out that the other person has been there, done that. A program friend of mine tells the story of choosing a rather elderly lady to do a step 5 with. My friend had some stories to tell of her rather active sexual past. How was that elderly lady going to react to THAT? "Oh Sweetheart," that lovely old lady said, "don't worry, I've done much worse!"
There is something really beautiful happening in all this sharing. Itís like an OA meeting but much, much more intense and intimate. I like to think of it as the breaking of the bread in Christian traditions or the sharing of the pipe in Native traditions. The sharing goes deep inside of us.
The quotes above speak of the loving witness as well as discussion. In this connection, what I said earlier about discussion with your step 5 partner regarding the process of sharing step 5 is important. A loving witness may not do that much discussing. And maybe thatís what you need; or thatís what you need for some of the things you'll talk about. Some of our baggage feels pretty darn raw, itís difficult enough for you to bare your soul ≠ maybe itís a little early to actually engage in a discussion about them. There are many reasons why in meetings we don't engage in feedback and crosstalk, and one of them is because we need to have space to simply speak our piece, without anyone elseís perspective added to it. What we need, then, is a loving witness who attentively listens to us.
In most cases, though, a bit of discussion is a good idea. I personally find it very helpful when I start talking and after a little while the other person begins to see some angles to my burdens that I hadn't seen before. And sometimes they are quite surprising. An online step 5 I did two years ago prompted my step partner to blurt out that I'm taking things way too seriously. What, ME??? I see myself as a rather humorous person, that can't be true!
Well, of course, being overly involved in my own self-image is precisely one of my shortcomings. I build up this self image (of being funny, compassionate, forgetful ≠ whatever illusion takes my fancy at the time) and then I spend all this time chasing my own tail in trying to live up to it. When I truly give over my will to my Higher Power, all I need to do is live one day, one step at a time, simply following my Higher Powerís guidance (much easier than chasing my tail, let me tell you!) Anyway, hearing my step 5 partner pointing out this shortcoming that hadn't even been on the list yet was a little disconcerting ≠ but enlightening and refreshing. ("Wear the world like a loose garment", he suggested).
If this is your first step 5, itís a good idea to choose a partner who has some experience with hearing step fives; that way you are reasonably well assured that you get quite a bit out of this experience.
I have to confess that step 5 is my favourite step. My Higher Power has given me the gift of making huge strides after each step 5. Shortly after one of my step fives, I found my Higher Power. Another one really, really helped me understand step 3. Then there was one that helped me deepen my trust in my intuition in a very significant way. The idea that we truly have a chance to start over, that our Higher Powers fervently do not want us to hang on to our old baggage, was the outcome of another step 5.
What can I say? Try it, you'll like it! :)
Towards the end of step 5, the OA 12x12 says, "from this point on, we begin to leave behind the character defects which have caused us so many problems in the past. (p. 52)"
What a beautiful promise! We leave them behind.
Fear, shame, delusion, self-centredness, procrastination, resentment, gossiping, closed-mindedness, destructive anger, neglectfulness - all these can be left behind. Imagine opening your hands and letting go of them - and then moving on - with your feet fully, squarely planted on the path of recovery.
Questions to ponder:
Are you ready to move to step 5? If not, whatís holding you back?
Have you ever done a step 5? What worked, what didn't?
In my experience, Step 5 is not about confessing horrible sins; itís about laying down the burden of your character defects. Please share your thoughts on that.
What do you need from the person with whom you will do step 5?
How might your Higher Power support you in doing step 5?
Do your shortcomings keep you worried? If so, what will your life look like without that worry?
When will you do your step 5?
Please share on any meaningful passages in step 5 in the OA 12x12.
What is the footwork you can do right now, within the next 24 hours?
The Twelve Steps
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