When I did my very first 5th step, 17 years ago, the biggest gift I received, was the wonderful feeling that someone was finally willing to listen to me, and hear all the things that were rattling around in my head for 40 years. (Even therapists only gave me 50 minutes, and I had to pay them!) Because this person was a very neutral, patient and non-judging presence, I felt free to admit so many feelings that previously Iíd felt I had to edit or deny. I was very angry at a lot of people in my life, I was completely confused about why relationships seemed to go away so quickly. Iíd never taken a tally of how many people had affected me throughout my life, never named names like this. There were 47 people on my first list. The feeling I had after Iíd done my 5th step, was that I was now a member of the human race, I had been willing to do ďthe workĒ as it had been explained to me, even if it was just a beginning, and someone finally knew my long held secrets: how I felt about everyone that ever seriously upset or confused me. I offloaded an entire lifetime of resentments. It was a wonderful feeling.
One of the conclusions Iíve come to over the years about doing a 5th step, is that it doesnít matter how thorough you are, just that you do it. Not only will there be many more opportunities to inventory and resolve problems, but we are growing and changing and we can only do what we are capable of doing at the present time. One of the things I always share, always, when I am in a 5th step meeting, is that me doing an inventory is like Congress investigating itself. I donít become instantly capable of being brutally honest and thoroughly aware just because Iím doing an inventory, but making a start, and believing in the process is key. It shows God that I am doing my part, and keeping my end of the covenant we made.
The 5th step is the thorough housecleaning mentioned in the Big Book, there are also mini-inventories that we do as tools to sort out issues that are bothering us. Iíve done several thorough inventories, under various circumstances. Iíve done them with sponsors that Iím working with, Iíve done them with sponsor s Iíve hardly gotten to know (not recommended!), Iíve done them with a sober nun Ė this was an interesting year. I was very emotionally fragile and had done an inventory that was mostly about long standing emotional resentments, involving family of origin, historical issues. When I was ready to do the 5th step, I couldnít envision anyone I knew receiving it. I felt very vulnerable talking about such sensitive emotions. I had gone to a weekend retreat at a monastery, and during that weekend I met with a sober nun in my weekend spiritual consultation, and I asked her if sheíd hear my 5th step. She said yes. So I took a day off from work, traveled up to this monastery during the week ond day, and met with her. We had a lovely day. We talked for an hour or so, went to have a nice lunch with some of the priests who worked there, then went back in and talked for another few hours. It was very healing. Some people do inventories with complete strangers. Well, strangers who would be suitable people to hear such personal information. You may have someone in mind whoís not your sponsor, but someone who you admire and who you would trust hearing your 5th. This is not unusual in program, asking someone to hear your 5th. Sometimes people just listen, sometimes they help you sort out your part in situations in a way that would be most healing for you. A fearless and thorough moral inventory is one of the key healing processes in this 12 step program. I encourage you to invoke Gods help in going forward with this important step.
Questions for reflection:
If youíve had experience doing a 5th step , what can you share about the difference between what you thought it would be like, and what it was actually like?
If you havenít done a 5th step yet Ė what would be your ideal circumstances to feel open and comfortable talking about personal information with another? What type of attitude would you want your listener to have toward your shares?
Knowing that disclosure Ė sharing personal information with another - is an age old practice dating back hundreds of years among spiritual people, what do you understand now about why disclosure is a spiritual tool of this program?
What do you now understand about the relationship between understanding your resentments and living abstinent from destructive eating?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps