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

My journey

Completing my Step 5 was as if a huge burden had been lifted from me. I was not alone anymore. All the shame and pain I had been carrying around with me for so many years was out there for everyone to see. When working the 4th Step I found the shame over some of my actions was so intense that I needed to work Step 5 in conjunction with Step 4. I shared my resentments with my sponsor after I wrote them. She helped me to see my part and my defects of character as they appeared. In the OA 12 and 12 they talk about the gifts of this step. These for me were Trust, Honesty and Acceptance.

Trust: My entire life had been about doing it alone. I was taught by a well meaning family that I didn't need anything or anyone. Those I trusted abandoned me and the only thing that did not was my best friend; my addictions. Well that worked really well. My step 1-4 showed me where that lack of trust had gotten me. Sure I had it hard. It was not easy to grow up in the abuse that I suffered but the beauty of OA was that from the time I was in program I received unconditional love and acceptance. My sponsor often says, "Dawn, What evidence do you have that I am going to abandon you or treat you like you were treated as a child?" That helps me to realise I can trust her and she is not trying to kill me.

Honesty: The gift of this step was knowing that another person knew all about me and didn't run away. I remember the fear that came up as I shared my sexual inventory. The deepest and darkest secrets about what I had done. I held so much shame as I shared it all. But she sat and listened and didn't judge. By being as honest as I could be at the time I found the shame lifted and I was free of the pain that it had caused me all these years. The OA 12 and 12 states, just as the AA big book before that it is our dishonesty that keeps us eating. The lies are what keeps me from my Higher Power.

Acceptance: Acceptance came in two forms in this step for me. The first was the acceptance from my sponsor and my Higher Power. I was loved despite all that I had done. The second was the acceptance that I was not perfect and that was ok. For as long as I can remember I did not even try to do things because I was afraid of failing. When I did my Step 4/5 I learned that even by doing 10% of my best that was enough. The steps are in order for a reason and they are a circle. I was as honest as I could be and I could accept that this was enough. By living in the miracle of recovery I would be able to deal with anything else as it came up in my future. Since this time I have worked many steps around different issues in my life. I often repeat Steps 1-3 and when I do a Step 10 it follows the format of Step 4&5.

The Step

Admitted to God – What did it mean to admit to God? Who was this God? Again my self will balked at this idea. I was again challenged to go back and look at my Step 2. God for me was the all knowing all accepting force that had helped me through my Steps 1-4. In writing each and every transgression, emotion and feeling in my Step 4 I was admitting to God my wrongs. Now this was very hard for me. I was ready to be "smited" for my wrongs. But it didn't happen. Instead as I wrote each and every thing down it was as if a huge weight was lifted from me. I felt lighter, healthier and more in touch with life. I felt held by the idea that so many other OAs had worked this step and were ok. I felt in touch with something greater than I was and knew that I would be ok.

To ourselves – As pen touched paper the denial lifted. That is what these two words say to me. By admitting to myself that I have done wrong I am able to begin the healing process of making the wrong into a right. That started with the admission of powerlessness in step 1 and continued with the admission to myself of what I had done wrong not just in my eating but in every area of my life. It was not until the denial lifted that the food was not the only area of my life that needed work that I was able to open up to the solution presented to me. I had become a compulsive overeater because of all of the things listed in my Step 4. Worse I had continued to be in bondage to the food for 29 years because of these things. By admitting to myself that they existed I could begin to heal from the side effects of them.

And to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. "No, she is going to abandon me." I remember receiving another persons Step 5 a year ago and feeling so moved by the words that this young girl used. She said to me, "Dawn you are going to get up and leave the room and never speak to me again if I tell you these things." I was moved because these were the words that my head was saying to me when I did my step. I didn't abandon her and in fact it was one of the most moving experiences I have had in recovery to be trusted with her step.

It was late summer in 2006 my sponsor came to my house. This was huge for me as I had been on my own for 2 years and never had anyone over. I was used to the isolation, shame and loneliness of being an overeater and never thought that my house would be enough. Well enough of that I did invite her over and she was so lovely about my house and how beautiful it was. I had made it my own in recovery filling it with beautiful things that reflected my growing self esteem.

She sat on my couch and I told her how nervous I was. She told me to do what I could and I began to read. I cried as I read out all of the things I was resentful, fearful, lustful, angry and dishonest about. We stopped periodically to reinforce how beautiful I was by reading from my list of positive attributes. The entire process took a few meetings but I was able to share it all with her.

She sat the entire time and didn't blink. She just listened and I watched as her concern and love came through as she read the step. It was like I had the ears and love I always needed. She understood me and loved me anyway. She occasionally commented how she had done that too or just nodded in agreement. It was as if I was not alone in my shame and by the end of it I felt FREE!!!

I had finally trusted another person enough to listen to all I had done. I felt like a new chapter in my life had started and I had a chance to heal.

Two years ago when the young girl shared her Step 4 with me I felt so moved as I understood the bravery it took. I asked my higher power to be with me and receive this step with me. I felt his presence when she was reading her step and in each and every step I receive today I do not feel alone. This was the gift of this step. To know I was not alone and nothing I had done was so terrible that another person who loved me would reject me for. It was the first time I truly felt loved and accepted totally for who I was.


Once again a gentle set of reminders of how I worked this step that may help you:

  • Select a home group (this can be on-line, on email, in person etc.) and attend meetings regularly and share about your step work and your feelings.
  • Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
  • Get a journal and write down your feelings around this step. I am a great procrastinator and tend to put things off. Journaling helps me.
  • Think about asking someone to be your sponsor if you don't have one. A sponsor is like a kind older brother or sister. They are a bit further down the road and they have what you want.
  • Work with that sponsor on what comes of this step work. They are a great source of inspiration, clarification and support.


Read Step 4 in the OA 12 and 12 page 45-52.

Share your feelings around this what you have read with your OA home group (whether on line or in real life), this step group and a trusted friend or sponsor.


  • What are your fears around doing this step? List them.
  • Choose a person to share your 5th Step with. This can be a sponsor, therapist, religious leader, trusted friend, person in recovery. My experience was that the person understood OA and that they would need to actively listen but not comment or fix. It is recommended not to share this with a spouse or lover as the emotional attachment can often cause issues with this person trying to "fix" or our own need to share everything before we are ready.

Questions to assist in choosing your Step 5 receiver:

  • Does this person have experience in 12 step or keeping confidences?
  • What are the characteristics I choose in the person I will share this with?
  • Why did I choose to share this with that person?
  • Can I trust this person? How can my higher power help me to trust them?
  • Can you be totally honest with yourself, your Higher Power and this person of the exact nature of your wrongs?

Now the tough part! For me this felt gargantuan but you can do this! I promise the weight lifted from your shoulders is so worth the anticipation and pain you feel today.

  • Set aside some time to pray (suggest that Step 3 prayer again!) and schedule in some time with that person.
  • Why do you think I ask you to pray? How can your connection with your higher power help you to share your inventories?
  • Share your inventories with them

There is no format for how long a Step 5 should take. I did mine in about 4 sessions of about 2 hours each. It is up to you and your receiver as to how you wish to share this step. I have found it helpful to do this face to face or on the phone but know others who have received it on the Internet as well.

I found it really helpful to have my Step 4 worksheets to hand when doing my Step 5. The column marked Effects my I filled in as I went along. My sponsor was able to help me to see these patterns of behaviour and pointed them out to me. Lack of Self care was huge for me as it has been with most people I have worked with in recovery. This helped me to understand how the resentments, fears, dishonesty, pride and lust had effected my life. Examples for me were: self esteem, personal security, financial security, self care.


Step 4
Step 5 Step 6&7 Step 8&9
Who/What? Short Description of What Happened? Affects my ? Defect/Coping Mechanism? Amends?
Examples: My Father Inability to be present for my brothers and I when my mother was dying Self Esteem    
  Told me I would never get a man unless I was thin Self Esteem    
  Verbally abused me for being overweight Self Esteem    

Now be sure that you share your list of positive attributes as well. This is very important as you are a whole person and have many good attributes. It was my experience that my sponsor was able to point out lovely things about me that I hadn't even considered. She added credence to the saying that OA would love me till I loved myself.

WOW it's done! You did it! What a miracle you are!

Questions for reflection:

  • What did sharing your step 5 help you to understand about trust, honesty, humility and fear?
  • How do you feel now that you have shared with another person?

My experience was it was as if a huge weight was lifted. A person truly knew me and didn't run away. She sat and listened and did not judge.

Now review all the work you have done! Wow you are amazing. I am so proud of you. Way to go. You have come so far and your higher power still loves you. You are incredible!

Take some time out.. go for a walk, call a friend in recovery, have a bath, light some candles put on some soft music and love you! You deserve it. This is VERY important after this step as for me the shame could send me right back to the food and I needed to experience the happy feelings as well as the lifting and I needed to stay honest abstinent and gentle on myself to to this.

Ok now we've done this.... let's do a step 3 prayer, the serenity prayer and move onto extra credit.

Extra Credit

These questions are gathered from various places but helpful for me:

  • Why do you think Step 4& 5 are the most often skipped steps?
  • How in the future can I learn to trust this process, trust another person, and trust myself to do it?
  • What has this step taught me about fellow OA's? Do I feel less alone by reading others work?

Walking with you,
Dawn B

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