Step 5 of AA

Step four is challenging because it asked you to create a moral inventory and you were forced to confront a lot of deeply troubling behaviors and actions that you had been hiding from yourself. Step five is going to ask you to take this process one step further and to share the ugliness of your alcoholism with others. If that feels like too much for you, you may need to revisit earlier steps.

Step five states:

“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Ostensibly, this is the easiest step because you already spent step four cataloging your wrongdoings. You wrote down your failings, your excesses, your insanity, and your pain. But, that may have left you feeling isolated by shame and regret. You might have finished your list trapped in a web of self-loathing. That can make step five terrifying.

The following discussion should help you to better understand step five, its intent, and how you can work it in your own life. That should help you move past your fear. For more help working the steps or to find additional resources to help you recover from alcoholism, call 800-839-1686Who Answers?. Our caring counselors are waiting to answer your questions.

How Does Admitting Things to Other People Help Me?

Step 5 of AA

Admitting your wrongs will help you to let go of the past and stop being ashamed.

It is important that you understand the purpose of step five because mistaken notions often prohibit people from properly working the step. There are 115,000 AA groups throughout the world and all of those group members struggled with this step and ultimately worked it.

Step five is an achievable and effective way to reconcile the past. It allows you to deal with the shame and guilt that you feel and to put it behind you. This will allow you to move forward without the weight of that baggage and to develop or strengthen your self-respect.

When you share your wrongs with another person, you aren’t dealing with your present self. You are dealing with a past self. That person doesn’t exist anymore. That person did the best that they could with what they knew and what they had available to them. But, they were fighting a powerful addiction. That isn’t the person taking a fifth step.

Until you speak about the person from the past and take responsibility in an accountable way, you can’t truly let go of that person. Only full disclosure will allow you to come to terms with the person that you were and the things that you did.

You are asked to share with a trusting soul who will not judge the person that you were and doing so will free you. Only when you let go of the secrets of your past can you commit your whole present self to recovery.

Do I Have to Share the Exact Nature of My Wrongs?

You might be thinking that it is enough to generally note patterns of behavior. Writing down that you sometimes get angry when you drink isn’t enough. You have to detail specific instances of anger and their consequences. If you broke a chair, list it. If you hit someone, list it. If you tried to pick a fight, list it.

As you know, alcoholism depends on denial and one way that people enable themselves to continue a pattern of denial is to compartmentalize. You still have this pattern of behavior ruling your thoughts and it will try to convince you that certain actions are too disturbing to be added to the list. Those are the sorts of actions that you want to keep secret for the rest of your life. Studies demonstrate a reduction in denial actually leads to effective outcomes.

If you only share a partial list, you are endangering your sobriety. Keeping secrets means that you will bring your past self with you as you move forward. If that happens, it is because you are trying to exert power and you aren’t trusting in outside forces to help you with the steps. That isn’t OK. You have to work the steps.

You need to fully move on from who you were and you can’t do that without being totally honest.

5 Ways to Share Effectively at Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings

How Do I Choose the Person That I Admit My Wrongs To?

The very first thing you need to do to work step five is to choose another human being with whom you will share your moral inventory. You need a person who is

  • Discreet
  • Trustworthy
  • Non-judgmental

Most people choose their sponsor, but you may feel more comfortable with a trusted friend, a member of the clergy, or a therapist.

What Is This Step Like?

Every person’s admission of wrongs will look a little different, so don’t feel nervous if your experience differs from others that you have heard about. Some people will listen to you in complete silence. Others might interject with admission of their own or statements of love and support.

You should almost immediately feel a relief. Once you release the events that have haunted you out into a trusted space, you release their weight from your soul. For many people, this is a turning point. You may feel for the first time that you are a complete member of your 12 step fellowship. You will feel normal and accepted for the first time in a long time.

Step five works to lift the isolation of active addiction and to instill a new sense of hope that can carry you through the next seven steps. To further fight isolation, call 800-839-1686Who Answers?. Get linked to treatment and to other types of recovery support.

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For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.