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.