Step 5

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

Step Five Summarized

In Step Five, we read our written inventory to a trusted friend. By saying, out loud, the patterns we have revealed to ourselves on paper, we are symbolically releasing the baggage from our pasts. Our trusted friend can also help guide us to see events, people and beliefs from our past from a new perspective.

Into the Steps is a series of articles that dives deep into the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Into the Steps

Into the Steps is a series of articles that dives deep into each of the 12 Steps. While Guardian Recovery Network is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous, we have been utilizing the 12-Step process in a treatment setting for more than 15 years. We have found that the steps, especially in combination with our clinical therapy offerings, are a powerful tool for  helping individuals transform their lives and find lasting freedom from addiction. 

 It is highly encouraged that you do not attempt to take these steps alone, but rather with a trusted guide called a sponsor who can walk you through them and be your support. Or, you can come work them at a Guardian Recovery Network treatment program. Unlike many other treatment centers, we don’t just teach individuals about the steps, we actively work them. Find a facility here.

Steps 1-4 Recap

In Step One, we admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our life is unmanageable. We recognize that, left to our own devices, we are doomed to repeat our addictive behaviors over and over again because our twisted brain always tells us it is OK to, and then our allergic body condemns us to keep drinking or using. Once we understand our lack of personal power, we have to find power outside ourselves that can help us. For some of us that power is the energy inherent in the community of Alcoholics Anonymous, for some of us that power is a more traditional God. It does not matter. What matters is that, in Step Two, we come to believe that there is some sort of power that helps addicts and alcoholics get well; and that that power can help us too.

In Step Three we make a decision to align our thoughts and actions (our will) with those our Higher Power would have us think and do. We ask for direction and decide to listen. We also decide to proceed with the next Steps. In Step Four, we review our lives and make an inventory of our resentments, fears, sexual harms and personal harms. We begin to see what character defects we have had that have contributed negatively to our lives, and the lives of others. We begin so see ourselves and our lives clearly.

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Step Five

Step Five asks us to take that inventory we have been working on and share all of it with a trusted friend. For most of us, that trusted friend is our sponsor, whom we have been (hopefully) going through the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with. For some of us, however, we take this step with a different mentor, family member, professional or friend. It does not matter who we take this step with so long as the person is willing to listen lovingly, and that we are willing to be completely honest with them about everything on our inventory.

While all sponsors can conduct the Fifth Step in different ways, the standard way of doing a Fifth Step is to set a time for several hours in a place that is comfortable, quiet and private. We bring our inventory; and we start reading aloud. By sharing our life’s darkest, most humiliating, vulnerable, personal, sad or shameful memories, we humble ourselves in a very, very big way. We are letting ourselves be truly seen — the good, bad and ugly.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that alcoholics often lead double lives — we present to the world the parts of ourselves we want others to see, then hold back the rest. This gap in who actually are, and who we present to be, creates an incongruity that separates us from other people and makes us feel isolated and alone. Even once we are sober, we often feel this loneliness and isolation.

By sharing our inventory, we are finally fully authentic with another human being. We are getting honest with ourselves, with the other person and with our Higher Power. The shame, guilt, sadness and anger lessens or disappears. A great weight is lifted from our shoulders. We can look the world in the eye again.

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Warnings About Skipping the 5th Step

The gifts of working a Fifth Step are many, but perhaps the most important is that it gives us more immunity toward a relapse. Both A.A.’s Big Book and Twelve & Twelve clearly emphasize the importance of the Step, and blatantly warn us about the danger of not working a Fifth Step

“All of A.A.’s Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires…they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few Steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind than this one.” – 12×12, pg. 55

“Few muddled attitudes have caused us more trouble than holding back on Step Five…Most of us would declare that without a fearless admission of our defects to another human being we could not stay sober. It seems plain that the grace of God will not enter to expel our destructive obsessions until we are willing to try this.” — 12×12, pg. 56

“If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they go drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock.” — Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 72

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After the Fifth Step

After we have read our Fifth Step to our trusted friend in its entirety, the Big Book instructs us to return home or to a quiet space alone. We are told to take the book from our shelf and turn to the page that contains the 12 Steps. We are to carefully read through the first five steps and ask if we have omitted anything. If we have not left anything left unsaid in our Fifth Step and can say that we’ve given the first Five Steps our all, then the Big Book says we then turn to Step Six.

Guardian Recovery Network & the Fifth Step

Guardian Recovery Network & the Fifth Step

The Fifth Step can be a very emotional process. An individual is sharing some of their darkest moments with another human being. At Guardian Recovery Network, while in residential inpatient or partial hospitalization, our clients are paired with a 12-Step Contact who is essentially a professional sponsor. These individuals know how to listen compassionately, without judgement and with warmth. They know how to help shed light on new perspectives. In addition to working with a 12-Step Contact, our clients are paired with a primary therapist for the duration of their stay. By working this difficult step while in a supportive environment with professional help, many individuals who were previously unsuccessful working their steps in the world-at-large have found success in our programs. If you or someone you love might benefit by working the Steps in a serene, supportive, treatment environment, contact us today. Our team of Treatment Advisors are available 24/7 to help you craft a plan for long-term recovery.

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