Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Well, I guess, the one thing that is worse than the making of the list is the confessing of its contents out loud to another human being. One of the many great secrets of the steps is learning that being open and honest in the naming our faults, resentments and fears is the key to removing their power over us. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem so big and so damaging once it is out in the open. More often than not, we find that the person listening to our list of complaints against ourselves and most, if not all of humanity, not only understands us, but has either had similar feelings, been through similar situations, or have done the very thing we thought would ensure our rejection. There are a lot of people in AA who fear that once they spill their beans that the organization will kick them out. That their sponsor or accountability partner will smile and nod and then not return their phone calls. All sorts of wild scenarios occur in the minds of those who haven’t completed the 5th step.
The thing is we do this to ourselves in our own lives all of the time. Well, at least I do. One of the many pieces of wisdom I learned from my own journey through the steps is that I have this pattern of pre-determining anyone’s reaction to anything I have in my past, present or future (including my own reaction). I already know how person A, B & C are going to respond to this information so why even go there? Why be vulnerable? Why even start this friendship or this relationship? Okay, so maybe you’re not as bad as I am, but we all do this to a certain extent in out lives. And yes, there is a healthy and helpful version of this pattern that we also use, but when we take ourselves out of the game based on our presumptions about how other people might respond - we are definitely on the unhealthy side of the spectrum.
Doing the 5th step taught me that I am not as alone as I once thought. Other people have similar feelings, fears and insecurities. The 5th step also taught me that some of the things that were done to me have also been done to others. And that some of the things I have done that I prefer to never speak of again - have also been done by other people on this planet. We sometimes get it in our head that no one will ever understand or that no one has ever gone through what we’ve gone through or done what we’ve done, but the simple truth is - they have! We aren’t as alone as we think we are and this is a gift from Step 5.
In my personal step five journey, I learned that some of the events I was holding myself accountable for had to go off my list because they belonged on someone else’s list and in turn, I learned that I needed to put my reaction to those events on my list because that was the part I was responsible for. Step five, for me, was the beginning of the healing process. I learned about myself, I learned about my sponsor and I learned about how the events in my life had shaped me for better and for worse and I learned that the ones that shaped me for worse didn’t have to stay that way. I could learn to let the bad experiences shape me for the better. But it all started with the decision to be vulnerable and confess my past and present to my trusted sponsor and be willing to dive in and discuss as my sponsor deemed necessary.