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What is Step 5 of AA?

“Admitted to God (higher power), to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

In the 4th step, you admitted the nature of your wrongs through a moral inventory. In the 5th step, you confess them to yourself, your higher power, and another person. For many, this other person is their AA sponsor or another AA participant. 

This person becomes an important part of the healing process and helps you become aware of your self-delusion and destructive behavior. They help you be honest with yourself and stop believing whatever lies you’ve told yourself as an addict. 

The admission of our defects is challenging but freeing and provides peace of mind. The confession of personal wrong-doings can be painful for many, but it offers mental and emotional relief.

How Does Step 5 Work?

In step five, you admit your mistakes and begin to understand the nature of those mistakes. You speak with another person, often your AA sponsor, and tell them your secrets, character defects, and behaviors that have hurt others. It’s not easy, but nearly everyone who completes this step says that it feels great to no longer carry this burden alone.

Most people discover there are patterns in their behavior during this step of the recovery process. The self-appraisal and sharing of their feelings and experiences help them discover why they act the way they do. AA teaches that these patterns are character defects and the things you do are a reflection of those defects.

This step requires honesty and vulnerability. Most people reveal their defects with their sponsor because this person understands alcoholism. They do not judge or shame you. They listen with compassion and give you space to free your mind and heart without any conditions or shock.

Step five sets you up for steps six and seven, just as the previous steps laid the foundation for this step. This step is the beginning of an in-depth examination of how your defects played a role in why you developed AUD and is necessary before you can ask that your higher power remove those defects.

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Why Should You Do The Fifth Step?

Many find the fifth step to be one of the most difficult of the 12 steps. They experience discomfort, embarrassment, shame, and other negative emotions admitting their worst secrets to someone else. 

However, the relief that comes from sharing this information makes this step valuable. It’s after this step that you can begin to return to sanity and have a clearer understanding of who you are.

According to AA, this step is important because it reveals beliefs and memories that only survive in the dark. Sharing them shines a light on them and banishes them from your mind and memory.

Many people with AUD feel as if they are living a double life or acting as a character. They are acting out a story that is not completely true. Once they’ve revealed their defects to someone else, they no longer need to live this double life. This step allows you to let your fears drop away and gives you peace.

Questions to Ask Yourself While Following Step 5 of AA

There are several questions that you can ask yourself and answer that will help you work through step 5, including:

  • How long have I kept my secrets and my defects to myself?
  • How do I feel about admitting them to someone else?
  • Am I ready to tell someone my secrets and let go of them so I can move further through recovery?
  • Do I have any reservations about this step?
  • Am I able to acknowledge and accept the exact nature of my defects?
  • Do I believe this step will improve my life? If so, how? If not, why?
  • Have I scheduled a time and place for my fifth step? Where and when?
  • Has my relationship with my higher power changed because of this step?
  • Has my view of myself changed after this step?
  • Have I forgotten or omitted anything?
  • Is there anything I continue to cling to that doesn’t work and am I willing to ask for help to let it go?

Tips for How to Complete This Step 

  • Choose the person with whom you will share your defects. For most, this is their AA sponsor. If you don’t have a sponsor, choose someone with whom you are comfortable sharing.
  • Choose a time and place to share your defects that offers privacy and where you won’t be distracted.
  • Bring the personal inventory you compiled in step four.
  • Remind yourself that AA offers a safe and supportive environment. Other participants have struggled just like you and they aren’t there to judge you.
  • Put aside your fear of sharing as best as you can. This is a challenging step – it’s supposed to be – but it’s worth the effort.

How Will I Feel After Completing The Fifth Step?

AA participants call this step “painful but rewarding.” It offers emotional and mental relief. It also allows you to gain profound personal insight. 

After this step, you no longer need to run your life according to self-will. Most people are pleasantly surprised to experience less pain and feel serene about their situation. For many people, this is the first time in their lives they’ve felt OK with who they are in the present. They’re able to accept themselves as they are while still committing to improvement in the future. 

AA participants also say that it’s after this step that their relationships begin to change. This not only includes their relationships with other people but also with their higher power.

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Related posts:

Resources

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“Why Is Spirituality an Essential Part of a Recovery Program?” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-craving-brain/201706/why-is-spirituality-essential-part-recovery-program.

“What Makes AA Work?” Harvard Gazette, 12 Sept. 2011, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/09/what-makes-aa-work/.

Schneider, Kathleen M., et al. “Evaluating Multiple Outcomes and Gender Differences in Alcoholism Treatment.” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 20, no. 1, Jan. 1995, pp. 1–21, 10.1016/0306-4603(94)00037-y. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1981.tb05352.x.

Stone, David A., et al. “Therapeutic Factors and Psychological Concepts in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Journal of Counselor Practice, 1 Jan. 2011, 10.22229/nav074629. https://journalofcounselorpractice.com/uploads/6/8/9/4/68949193/stone_et_al_vol8_iss2.pdf.

Suire, Jared G., and Robert K. Bothwell. “The Psychosocial Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous.” American Journal on Addictions, vol. 15, no. 3, Jan. 2006, pp. 252–255, 10.1080/10550490600626622. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16923673/.

“Alcoholics Anonymous: Is A.A. For You?” www.aa.org. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/is-aa-for-you.

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