Whether you’re doing the 12 Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon, or some other program, the hardest of all steps is probably Step 5. This is the one that tells us to admit, “Ours.” Wrong “and to do so in front of our higher power and another person.
Granted, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t nervous about Step 5, and some people have postponed it for as long as possible. However, this step is also one of the most fulfilling steps on the road to recovery as we can let go of the past.
What Step 5 Says
In step 3 we surrendered to our higher power – our personal understanding of God – and in step 4 we took a detailed inventory of our behavior. The next logical step is to say out loud all the things that we did while drinking or consuming. That leads us to step 5.
Step 5: Admit the exact nature of our injustice to God, ourselves, and another person.
What an order! It is one thing to admit wronging to God and ourselves. To tell someone else that exactly The nature of our injustice can indeed be a daunting task. After years of “keeping secret” and hiding mistakes and flaws, it is a drastic turnaround to admit them openly – and say it out loud to another person.
Purpose of step 5
Just like the 12 steps themselves are in a specific order for a reason, so is the process described in step 5. There is a reason the first admission of injustice is with God as we understand Him. It prepares members for the rest of the step.
But it is through this conversation with a personal higher power in the spirit of prayer that the things that need to be changed are revealed. The exact nature of our errors has been discovered, along with the ways in which they can be changed.
Once you have the integrity to become honest with God, it becomes much easier to become honest with yourself and another person. Perhaps more than any other step in the process, Step 5 provides an opportunity to “grow up” mentally. There is an opportunity to unload and deal with the burdens of the past.
Eliminate pride and overcome fear
The purpose of Step 5 is not to feel ashamed in the eyes of your sponsor or whoever listens to you along the way. Instead, it is time to get rid of the old trash and dark secrets that we have kept within. Very often it was these things that we drank or used.
As you prepare for step 5, many people describe fear. It can really be a stomach tearing process. Our pride wants us to feel like we are doing good and moving away from all of this destructive behavior. Step 4 forces us to look back at all of that, and Step 5 brings it to light and reveals it all.
There is also a fear that your listener will think less of you. However, you have to keep in mind that they were right there too. Who knows, maybe they did worse things while drinking and using days, but it doesn’t matter. In step 5, the focus is on you and what you did.
If you have thoroughly built your inventory in Step 4, this is just a showdown of these issues. Some people – some, in fact – find they need to take a step back and do a more thorough inventory and do Step 5 again.
Don’t worry, the second time is actually easier, especially if you are Completely honestly this time. Honesty is not something that people with a substance use disorder are used to, so it is common to try it again.
Freedom from step 5
Many people feel very free after step 5. It is a relief to have all of the luggage that you have been lugging around outdoors. This is a chance to purify the air internally, and when you finally get to vocalize everything, it is a huge relief.
Step 5 is also an opportunity to determine the root cause of your addiction. While it’s easy to give it titles like envy, jealousy, anger, or whatever, a lot of people find that it is really fear. It may be different for you of course, but the point is that this step and step 4 gives you the insight to find out exactly what this is.
Instead of viewing Step 5 as a fearful experience, think about how clear your conscience will be when it’s done. Many people call it “freedom” and say they experience peace and tranquility that they haven’t felt in years.
Since this type of thinking originates from the frontal cortex, efforts to follow this step theoretically effectively practice the part of the brain responsible for “willpower” and for that reason alone can aid recovery.
This is really one of the most important steps in recovery, which is why it is the most difficult. Still, it is often viewed as the beginning of a whole new life.