Step Five is really the first where you must admit to an external entity how your life was affected by your powerlessness over alcohol. After turning over every stone in Step Four and creating an all-encompassing moral inventory, you share the wholehearted truth down to the core of your being with your sponsor without fear of being judged.
In a way, Step Five reminds me of confession in the Catholic Church. It’s stated that you should review “your mortal and venial sins… express sorrow for sins, hatred for sins, and a firm resolution not to sin again” before seeking absolution for your wrongdoings. Regardless of why, admitting our shortcomings, putting them to paper, then sharing them can be terrifying. We are beginning an honest and thorough evaluation of our faults. This part of the fifth step helps remove your self-centeredness and minimize that fear. Part of recovering from alcohol addiction is rebuilding your self-esteem so you realize you are worthy of a better life.
I remember doing my fifth step for the first time. It seemed so strange to sit down with another human being and talk about my character defects, secrets, and bad behaviors or share how I had hurt people. With my stomach in knots and stumbling through my words, I managed to complete it in just a few hours, and I felt incredible afterward. I wrote everything down and was worried she would judge me for the things I did, especially because I had never told anyone about some of the things I wrote down.
Then there are the things I was unsure of because I wasn’t clear about the role I played. I turned to my sponsor for guidance and asked for her help to understand how I was involved. For example, a guy once said something incredibly hurtful to me and for years I let his words affect my peace of mind. I had no idea what I did to deserve those words or how I played a part in the argument. She said my mistake was holding onto his words. For years I carried his hurtful words in my heart and let them have control over me. It was time to let go and shed the weight of his words – it lightened the emotional baggage.
I’ll never forget it was a fall afternoon when I completed Step Five. I was ready to let go of my wrongdoings, we went out on the dock in my backyard overlooking the lake and burned all the paper in a glass vase. It was very symbolic for me and felt like turning the page to a fresh start.