A 12-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step 5 reads:
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
The fourth step, creating our inventory, follows directly into the fifth step. Simply put, the fifth step can be seen as sharing your inventory with another person. Naturally, you will be sharing with your higher power as you do this. For me, this meant sharing my defects of character with my sponsor. By sharing all of my fears, resentments, sexual partners and harm done to others, I essentially told my life story.
Sharing With More Than One Person Is Helpful
Bill Wilson, author of 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, says that it’s not enough to discuss your shortcomings with your higher power alone. We have seen people in history who have been overzealous with their higher power, unchecked by other human beings. The author also mentions that the discussion of shortcomings, resentments, fears, etc. can be done with more than one person. In my early recovery I used a therapist and a sponsor, and shared my experience at meetings.
My 5th step took me 5 hours of talking to my sponsor and several hours of therapy. I have found the combination of talking to another alcoholic and a therapist to be very helpful. One without the other would not be enough. My sponsor helped with the 12-step program and my therapist helped me with underlying emotional disorder. If you have the means, I highly recommend seeking therapy to supplement your fourth and fifth step work.
My significant other was concerned about me sharing my life with someone I didn’t know very well. I assured her that I trust my sponsor and I would not share my life story with someone I do not trust. She seemed pleased that I sought help from a therapist because of the immediate legitimacy of professional help.
Purging Our Secrets
A wise man named Jeff, from the Since Right Now podcast, shared valuable insight on this subject. He said that in our fifth step we should share those things that we were going to take to our graves. In other words, we should try to share our deepest and most profound secrets with someone, if at all possible. Many times, there are a few things that weigh very heavily on a person. It is important to purge these thoughts that might be eating away at you. The person you share with might be a good friend, a fellow alcoholic, a spiritual adviser, a sponsor or a therapist, but someone you trust. Finding someone you can trust to keep your secret is important. There may be instances where it would be wise to wait until the right time, or the right person.
Telling Our Story
Many of us have never had the opportunity to tell our own story. This is one of the most beautiful moments in working the 12 steps. Here you are, telling your life story to someone that you probably haven’t known for very long, and yet they are likely listening attentively and care very much about what you have to say. That can be a humbling and liberating experience. A burden has been lifted when your story is told. You might not even appreciate the freedom that has been granted to you until you have been able to digest everything. Telling your story, in a way, validates your life. It has happened, and is happening, and it’s very real. It’s not a dream and you don’t have to live ‘like that’ anymore.
If you are like me, you naturally don’t feel like you are important enough to have your story told, or that you haven’t had enough happen in your life. Let me tell you right now, with the utmost confidence, that you belong here on this planet. You belong among the living just as much as the next person. You do not need to apologize your way through life. It’s not your ‘fault’ that you are alive and you deserve a shot at happiness just as much as anyone.
The fifth step is the second step in dealing with our defects of character, our flaws and shortcomings. We share them not only with our higher power by vocalizing them, but also with another human being. In steps 6 and 7, we become ready to remove these shortcomings and ask our higher power to help us become humble servants for others.