Leader's Share and Step Questions
STEP FIVE: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
SusanB here and still a recovering COE, sugar addict, emotional eater AND relapse survivor.
Your shares the past week were courageous and inspiring. Thank you!!! Please keep working even if you fall behind. Keep on keeping on and sooner than later you will put the pen down after completion of Step 12. Please, don't stand still… I admire your guts (and also mine).
Before I begin sharing my own experience, strength and hope on Step Five, I want you to listen to two videos on Step Five:
Take some time to meditate what you just saw and heard. This is digging DEEP and going to any lengths to recover. We got so far because we are worth it! Don't you think?
I completed my first Step Four at the end of 2009 and shared my work via E-mail as I completed them with my first sponsor who lived across the ocean on another continent. When I asked her "What about Step Five?", she said it was done… I felt disappointed… Done? Just like this?
Now, after four years and four months in programme I know that working the 12 steps online, especially the housecleaning steps, are not ideal. Today Skype communication helps to overcome this challenge for individuals who do their step-work online.
My second Step Five came when I worked the WTS and again I shared via E-mail and I lost my abstinence between Step Four and Step Five. My sponsor at the time was very busy with service work for OA and could not listen to my inventory via Skype, and I moved between recovery friends to share as soon as possible. Again, this was not ideal. For me it was a fragmented and challenging experience. I needed my sponsor and she was not available. Face to face was and still is not available where I live. Today I can share my inventory with an experienced person from Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous in my home town, but the closest OA is four hour's drive from where I live.
(While we are on the topic of sharing our inventory: Did you make an appointment your sponsor? This is important. Please do this today, if you can.)
Then came my next Step Five in 2011 and it was powerful. I was between sponsors and a recovery friend (who later became my sponsor and still is my sponsor up till today) received my inventory.
I worked my Step Five in a much more ideal situation. Eye to eye (via Skype) I could share my life (the good, the bad and the ugly) with another human being. We talked for HOURS and my ego was deflated, but I never felt humiliated ~ only humbled. My friend made comments, probed me for information where applicable and gently encouraged me. She told me that she had similar experiences in her life. I was not “as bad” as I thought I was. It took much longer than I anticipated, and the only word to describe my feelings afterwards is "RELIEVE!!!" It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.
About our ego's the AA 12 and 12 says:
“When it comes to ego deflation, few Steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind than this one.” (page 55)
When I shared my OA HOW inventory with my inventory sponsor earlier this year, it happened via Skype again and with yet another candle light ceremony. My sponsor took notes for the work I still need to do in Steps Six to Nine and also nudged me for more information where applicable. I was tired afterwards, but felt so much lighter.
The next day I went to an empty Muslim Prayer room at the college where I worked at in Saudi Arabia and prayerfully went through the lists. I can remember the day was hot (no air con in the prayer room) and I was in a haste to get it done. Reciting it verbally out loud helped me to hear the truth about myself and I knew by then that the truth set free!! I also understood better why I behaved like I did. I felt very much part of the human race ~ in a prayer room on a plato on top of the mountains in the south of Saudi Arabia. Who would think?
So you can see that there are various ways to work step five. I believe that face to face is the most beneficial way to share our moral inventories, even though I never had this experience. This is a very sensitive and intimate conversation and just passing a tissue would have helped me so much. By the way, I did cry and I had some Kleenex handy at my computer... Also a hug at the end of such a conversation would have meant SO much. I did the next right thing and this was perfectly imperfect... I had no remorse.
However, for many of us face to face is not possible. Skype is second best, and telephonic (without seeing the other person physically) can also be done, but is not ideal.
E-mail as the only option was better than nothing (for me) but I think this should only be used as a last resort. Instant messengers like Whatsapp can also be used if you have young eyes, clever and fast fingers. For my 56 years old eyes and fingers that would take forever.
The thing is, we need to share our moral inventories if we want to recover.
You may ask, like I did “Why share with somebody else? Is it not enough that God knows about this?”
In the AA 12 and 12 I read:
“Until we actually sit down and talk aloud about what we have so long hidden, our willingness to clean house is still largely theoretical. When we are honest with another person, it confirms that we have been honest with ourselves and with God…. …what comes to us alone may be garbled by our own rationalization and wishful thinking. The benefit of talking to another person is that we can get his direct comment and counsel on our situation.” (page 60)
It is not easy to find somebody suitable and then actually share our whole truth to this person. It takes a lot of courage and willingness to push through, but for me it was worth the fear and discomfort.
“No one ought to say the A.A. program requires no willpower; here is one place you may require all you've got.” (AA 12 and 12, page 61)
The principle of Step Five is: Integrity.
Integrity is defined as, "the state of being whole; soundness, adherence to a code of values, and completeness.” (Google)
A pre-fifth step prayer:
God, please help me to complete my housecleaning by
admitting to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
Please remove any fears I have about this step and
show me how completion of it will remove my egotism and fear.
Help me to see how this step builds my character
through humility, fearlessness and honesty.
Direct me to the right person who will keep my confidence
and fully understand and approve what I am driving at.
Then help me to pocket my pride and go to it,
illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past
so I may complete this step and begin to feel near to you."
(paraphrased from page AA Big Book page 72; 73; 74; and 75)
Reasons the AA 12 and 12 gives to do Step Five:
- “we shall get rid of that terrible sense of isolation we've always had.” (AA 12 X 12, page 57)
- “[The] loneliness. Even before our drinking got bad and people began to cut us off, nearly all of us suffered the feeling that we didn't quite belong.” (AA 12 X 12, page 57, additions between brackets my own)
- “Either we were shy, and dared not draw near others, or we were apt to be noisy good fellows craving attention and companionship.” (AA 12 X 12, page 57)
- “[Being] among people who seemed to understand…” (AA 12 X 12, page 57, additions between brackets my own)
- “[A] sense of belonging [can be acquired]” (AA 12 X 12, page 57, additions between brackets my own)
- “Step Five was the answer. It was the beginning of true kinship with man and God.” (AA 12 X 12, page 57)
- “…the feeling that we could be forgiven, no matter what we had thought or done” (AA 12 X 12, page 57)
- “[We become] able to forgive others, no matter how deeply we felt they had wronged us…” (AA 12 X 12, page 58, additions between brackets my own)
- “…we inwardly knew we'd be able to receive forgiveness and give it, too.” (AA 12 X 12, page 58)
- “…humility... recognizing our deficiencies. No defect can be corrected unless we clearly see what it is” (AA 12 X 12, page 58)
- “…a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be... we lacked honesty and tolerance, that we were beset at times by attacks of selfpity or delusions of personal grandeur.” (AA 12 and 12, page 58)
- “…our defects… we soon found that we could not wish or will them away by ourselves…” (AA 12 and 12, page 58)
- “[We learned] more honesty about ourselves…” (AA 12 and 12, page 58, additions between brackets my own)
- How could we be certain that we had made a true catalog of our defects and had really admitted them, even to ourselves? Because we were still bothered by fear, self-pity, and hurt feelings, it was probable we couldn't appraise ourselves fairly at all. Too much guilt and remorse might cause us to dramatize and exaggerate our shortcomings. Or anger and hurt pride might be the smoke screen under which we were hiding some of our defects while we blamed others for them.... We'd have to have outside help if we were surely to know and admit the truth about ourselves — the help of God and another human being. Only by discussing ourselves, holding back nothing, only by being willing to take advice and accept direction could we set foot on the road to straight thinking, solid honesty, and genuine humility.” (AA 12 X 12, page 59)
In the AA Big Book the importance of working Step Five is also stressed:
"If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome [our addictive food behaviours] drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk [relapsed]. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story." (AA Big Book, page 72, additions between bracket mine)
Having a "stage personality" or character, showing others only what we think they should/may see, or hiding behind a mask, only portraying a false-happy face, are all common actions among addicts. I did this for years… I was the happy extrovert, thinking I was an open and honest book for all to see. I was not. DENIAL – Don't Even kNow I Am Lying. (Acronym) I discovered in programme that I was the introvert God created me to be. All these years I was an introvert under cover, pretending to be this extrovert… Boy, did this make me tired and drove me to the food!!! Read what the Big Book says about this:
"More than most people, the [person with addictive food behaviours or] alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn't deserve it…. These memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think someone might have observed him. As far as he can, he pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes they will never see the light of day. He is under constant fear and tension - that makes for more drinking [or addictive food behaviours]." (AA Big Book, page 72, additions between bracket mine)
Years ago (I was 36) I was sitting in a psychiatrist’s office. She was treating me for major depression and often she used quietness to break through the dry spells of her psychotherapy. She asked me what I was thinking… My immediate answer was “Ek skaam my dood…”, translated “I want to die of shame…”.
This makes me think of the programme slogans:
"We're only as sick as your secrets."
"Face your stuff or you'll stuff your face."
I shared a step Four with a recovery friend in July, 2011 and disclosed secrets I planned to take to my grave. I’m so glad that I pushed through and told her my darkest secrets. I have never felt such relief EVER before.
“Certain distressing or humiliating memories, we tell ourselves, ought not be shared with anyone. These will remain our secret. Not a soul must ever know. We hope they'll go to the grave with us”. (AA 12 and 12, page 56)
“…the need to quit living by ourselves with those tormenting ghosts of yesterday… We have to talk to somebody about them.” (AA 12 and 12, page 55)
I know when I worked previous Step Five’s I chose to not disclose that ONE secret, but I paid a price that is described in the AA 12 and 12):
“Even A.A. old timers, sober for years, often pay dearly for skimping this Step. They will tell how they tried to carry the load alone; how much they suffered of irritability, anxiety, remorse, and depression; and how, unconsciously seeking relief, they would sometimes accuse even their best friends of the very character defects they themselves were trying to conceal. They always discovered that relief never came by confessing the sins of other people. Everybody had to confess his own.” (AA 12 and 12, page 56)
I was also plagued by projection (seeking my own mistakes in others), self-pity, depression, anxiety and lots of irritability. I had to do my own inventory if I was to become emotionally free and find long-lasting abstinence. This meant I had to look deep inside and get away from the opposite side of street. I'm so happy that the Gift Of Desperation (GOD) gave me to courage to spit out my biggest, darkest secrets.
“Most of us would declare that without a fearless admission of our defects to another human being we could not stay sober [abstinent from addictive food behaviours].” (AA 12 and 12, page 56, additions between brackets mine)
Maybe this was the reason why I became a chronic relapser. My fear to admit that one secret… This was the reason I stayed in the stranglehold of my disease, always picking up after a few weeks of abstinence. Do you think you can use all the willpower to your disposal and get rid of secrets you thought you would never share?
In OA 12 X 12 I read that word “Integrity” again:
OA 12 and 12, page 104 ~ In Step Five, we learned integrity as we faced the truth about our defects of character. We have the integrity to show the world our true selves. No longer needing to appear to the world as perfect people, we can live more fully, having the courage to face up to our mistakes and test our strengths in the challenges of life.”
Getting rid of the stage character… The one we portrayed to the world and sometimes even to ourselves.
The principle of integrity is also mentioned in the AA 12 X 12:
“…through years of compulsive eating we have become experts at rationalization. How, with God’s help, we leave rationalization behind and begin to practice integrity. We face the reality of our mistakes. We see the part we ourselves have played in creating our own misfortunes, and we realize the futility of continuing to blame others for our compulsive eating and our unmanageable lives." (AA 12 and 12, page 46, emphasis mine)
We have come a long way in this study: We made an inventory, we understand the reasons for sharing this inventory with somebody, we most probably already shared it with God and ourselves, but who will this other human being be we share our secrets with?
Step Five says: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
First to God. Then to myself. Then to another human being. AGAIN: Who will this other person be?
In the You Tube (at the beginning of this post) we heard about a few people we can share this inventory with: Our sponsor, our spiritual counselors, our psychologists, understanding strangers… Remember not all the recipients of our inventory are obliged to secrecy.
The Big Book says that this person should have the following characteristics:
… be able to keep a confidence, that he fully understand and approve what we are driving at; that he will not try to change our plan." (AA Big Book, page 74)
"We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world. Rightly and naturally, we think well before we choose the person or persons with whom to take this intimate and confidential step.” (AA Big Book, page 73)
It is not this person’s task to judge or criticize us, neither to approve of us. Our person is not God, and cannot forgive or minimise our wrongs.
This whole exercise is about cleaning our souls and unblocking us from the debris of the past, so that the sunshine of the spirit can come through. Remember the pebbles and objects in the second You Tube you looked at? This is what working Step Five is about.
The “human being” with whom we are going to share our inventory is a witness that helps us to see the truth about ourselves. S/he does this by listening and by drawing our attention to the parts that we cannot see clearly. This is exactly what my OA HOW sponsor did in June this year when I shared my inventory with her. She pointed me to some character defects and asked me to write them down for future reference.
The Big Book also mentions that we should prepare ourselves for a long talk and that we should not waste time in sharing our inventory. Did you make an appointment with your sponsor (or a person of your choice) to share your moral inventory yet? If not, now is the time.
"When we decide who is to hear our story, we waste not time. We have a written inventory and we are prepared for a long talk. We explain to our partner what we are about to do and why we have to do it. He should realize that we are engaged upon a life-and-death errand. Most people approached in this way will be glad to help; they will be honored by our confidence." (AA Big Book, page 75).
A sponsor most likely went through this process before, maybe more than once or twice. Priests, rabbi's and other spiritual guru's listened to similar stories.
Of course we need some humility to share our inventories, but if we choose our sponsor to tell our story to, s/he most likely also felt this discomfort before. They have heard many things: about abortions, rape, robberies, lying, insane food behaviours, cheating and stealing, etc. Other addicts like you and I have done similar horrible things, and nothing under the sun is new… or the worst.
For me the prospect of opening up, was so hard that I relapsed between completion of one of my 4th and 5th steps. I’m so glad that I pushed through in spite of picking up to numb the pain, because I learned that I was not unique. My sponsors shared similar stories… I was accepted 100% each time I shared my inventory.
That sense of freedom after I told everything was indescribable. The AA 12 and 12 says:
“Provided you hold back nothing, your sense of relief will mount from minute to minute. The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement, and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed. As the pain subsides, a healing tranquility takes its place. And when humility and serenity are so combined, something else of great moment is apt to occur… [they] felt the presence of God. And even those who had faith already often become conscious of God as they never were before. “ (AA 12 and 12, page 62, additions between brackets mine)
The Big Book talks about something I’ll call 'debriefing':
"Returning home we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have done. We thank God from the bottom of our heart that we know Him better. Taking this book down from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the twelve steps. Carefully reading the first five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last. Is our work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place? Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation? Have we tried to make mortar without sand?" (AA Big Book, page 75, emphasis mine)
What are the proposals? About.Com calls a proposal “A document that offers a solution to a problem or a course of action in response to a need.”
My understanding is that the five proposals include the first five steps. Going through these steps prayerfully and carefully will help us see if there is still something that needs attention or clarification.
(i) Reading for this week
(ii) How long have you been living with your secrets?
(iii) Are you willing to be completely honest about the mistakes you’ve made? How? HOW (Honest, Open-minded and Willing)?
(iv) What do you expect to achieve from sharing your 5th step with someone?
(v) Why is step 5 (admitting to God, to yourself and to another human being the exact nature of YOUR wrongs) necessary to recover?
(vi) With whom shall you share your moral inventory? What are your reasons for this choice? What form of communication will you be using?
(vii) Have you noticed any reoccurring themes in your Step Four? For example have you picked up some character defects you have and if so what are they?
(viii) Read every one of the first 5 steps on page 59 of the AA Big Book. For each step ask yourself if you have omitted anything. If you did, are you willing to complete it now or as soon as possible?
(ix) If you have already shared your 5th step, how did you feel afterwards? What did you learn from the experience?
In loving fellowship,
The Twelve Steps
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