Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Alcoholics Anonymous World Service. Alcoholics Anonymous (Kindle Location 1181). Kindle Edition.
Many people who begin the AA program stall out on Step 5. Some stop moving forward at this point for a time, some never move past it. I would not have been able to stay sober without it.
I didn’t understand why this step was necessary until long after completion. I mean, what has this got to do with quitting drinking? I have to confess all my darkest secrets to stop drinking? Really?!
I didn’t understand how it would help because I didn’t understand why I drank. I thought I wanted to drink. Even though I couldn’t quit, and had been drinking for many years, I was blind to the fact that I needed to drink. Once I could be comfortable in my own skin, being high lost its draw for me. Who knew?
Drinking numbed me to the bad thoughts, feelings and experiences, and to the good ones as well. I was a miserable zombie. To be sober I had to stop avoiding life and face it head-on, all of it, good and bad. Oddly, the good can be as confusing and stressful as the bad, but I’ll leave that for another chapter.
Dreading Step 5 took far more time and energy than actually doing Step 5. The procrastination was excruciating, but the step itself was simple and brief. It was difficult, but since the process was a rehash of events already past, it was not new or unexpected pain.
It is important to take Step 5 with a person you trust and who will be compassionate and non-judgmental. My sponsor was the right person for me. She freed me in ways I could never have done for myself. When she heard the things I had done, her reaction was to simply say, is that it? She told me that the things I had done were merely human and that there was nothing there that couldn’t be cleaned up and left behind. Wow! Really?
I found out that I had a common alcoholic belief that I was the worst kind of person, that things I had done disqualified me from the human race and my value was zero. I was sure I was unforgivable. When I hid these horrible things from the world, or even when I talked about them in a different way, the dark forebodings grew and festered within me and left me feeling damaged and valueless and shameful.
But, when I shared my secrets with a loving person who wanted to help me, I found out that the things I had done were not horrible, merely human. Yes, I had hurt people and I needed to set things straight, but I could do that. I hadn’t known I could do that. I found out that we are not responsible for being perfect, but only for doing the best we can, and taking responsibility when we have hurt others in our selfish pursuits. And, we try to do better going forward. So simple. Why didn’t I know these things? Hard to say. It may be that I was never schooled, or that I never listened. Probably some of both. Of course, to be fair, our society judges many of things I have done harshly, but that no longer matters, now that I have forgiven myself.
The result was that, once I was done with this step, I felt a great weight of shame and guilt lifted from me. I found out that I was redeemable. I could forgive and be forgiven. What a great gift! I felt as if I had moved out of a dark dungeon into the light of day.