My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
Thank you so much for your hard work and perseverance in working the 4th Step. Smoke was coming out of my computer as I read the thoughtful and heartfelt shares!
I greatly admire all of you who are sticking with it. The quality of your recovery will reflect your commitment. if you are behind, do not despair. Keep working the Steps at your own pace. WTS will still be here and so will your disease. We encourage you to stick with us and defy the latter! If you just joined us or need to review any Steps, all of my share that have been posted so far can be found at:
Step 5 Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step Five is a pivotal Step. It calls for action that starts a real spiritual awakening as we back up our faith with verbal works. We share the moral inventory that we prepared in Step Four with another person. We usually “give away” the inventory to our sponsor or some other person of confidence who is compassionate and who understands the process of healing and wholeness integral to the 12 steps.
Many who do their recovery work online share the Fifth Step through this mode of communication. This is a legitimate and effective way to share your inventory. But if it is possible, I encourage you to do this face to face. Why? Have you seen the movie Dead Man Walking? In the scene in which the condemned man is about to be executed, Sr. Helen Prejeen, who has companioned him through the process of recognizing the exact nature of his wrongs, coming to repentance, and facing the consequences, affirms that she will be present at the execution and tells him, “When you look out and see hate and revenge, look for me and you will see the face of love.” For me, sharing that which caused me the deepest shame and seeing the face of love, understanding, and compassion in the eyes of my sponsor, opened the door of self-acceptance and to my living a life of deep integrity.
The principle behind Step 5 is integrity. The dictionary defines integrity as follows: 1) The condition of being free of damage or defect 2) total honesty and sincerity. Although, as members of the human race, we are never absolutely free from damage or defect, sharing this inventory with another person reveals the reality of this wreckage in the light of the truth. If we are sincere and honest in our admissions, HP will provide the miraculous wonder of the healing of the shame and guilt of our past and the transformative freedom to become all that HP means us to be.
I view integrity as aligning my actions with my values. Practicing my addiction did not allow me to do that. I have already shared with you my anguish for eating more than my share in a country in which I see devastating poverty and the effects of malnutrition every day.
Another example of an addiction-induced action that was not congruent with my values occurred when I was the residency director for Ecuadorian women who were in the process of entering my religious community. At the time, there were 5 of us living in the house: 2 women in the initial stages of incorporation, 1 woman in the discernment phase, and a young woman who was the victim of sexual abuse who we were sheltering. We also had some guest staying with us at the time.
Someone had presented us with a box of sugary treats, the likes of which are rarely seen here. One day I was alone in the house and my addicted brain lit up. “Hey!” I said to myself, “With all the commotion of visitors coming and going, who will know it was me?!” So I consumed the entire box in one sitting. When the loss was discovered, true chaos ensued. Everyone was blaming one another and an atmosphere of deep mistrust reigned. Ironically, because I was the director, no one accused me. I am chagrined to say that I did not come clean because of fear of exposure and shame. Instead, I allowed the unhealthy environment of resentment and mistrust to thrive. What kind of behavior is THAT for a woman who is supposedly modeling and companioning the process of integration into religious life?! This revelation caused me profound shame in the realization that my disease had corrupted and compromised preciously held values.
A few years into recovery, I read an article in the OA magazine, Lifeline, which provided some insight into the decaying of integrity caused by addiction. It was written by a woman in Africa who is recovering from food addiction. She shared that women in her OA group have revealed that they have eaten, at times, all of the food available for their family on a given day. The anguish of mothers who have eaten food their children need, whose actions are so contrary to their values, is heart wrenching. It is an astonishing illustration of this cunning, baffling, and powerful disease.
The honesty, sincerity, and humility required in Step 5 clears the path to re-establishing one’s life. We must give our long hoarded secrets to another person if we are to gain peace of mind, self-respect, and recovery from compulsive overeating. The great burden of our past mistakes begins to be lifted from us. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous tells us that we “become nearer to God and more capable of trusting ourselves and others.” We become free to live lives of integrity.
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- How do I feel about sharing the exact nature of my wrongs with another person?
- Do I believe I will encounter the face of love in the process?
- How do I define integrity?
- How has my food addiction compromised my integrity?
- The AABB describes an action that should be taken once you have completed the Fifth Step (p. 75, last 2 paragraphs). Please follow those instructions and answer the questions posed there:
- Is my work solid so far?
- Are the stones properly in place?
- Have I skimped on the cement put in the foundation?
- Have I tried to make mortar without sand?
The Twelve Steps