What Is Step 5 of AA?
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."
What Is the Purpose of This Step?
This step helps ease the anxiety, depression and irritability of hiding the worst parts of you. You are able to rid yourself of isolation and loneliness.
Step 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous teaches you that you can be forgiven for your shortcomings and also forgive others who have hurt you.
How Do You Complete This Step?
- Reveal your most distressing and tormenting memories to another person—most likely your sponsor.
- Be as honest as possible with that person and look at who you are and who you would like to become.
- Be vulnerable and don't hold back.
- Accept advice from that person with an open mind.
What Are Some Tips for Completing Step 5?
- Let go of reservations; don't worry about being judged for what you've done.
- Remember that AA is a safe and supportive environment and that everyone has stories they aren't proud of.
- Choose someone you are comfortable sharing with.
What Are Some Myths About This Step?
- It's not necessary to share your defects with another person—it's enough that your higher power knows. It's very important to reveal your upsetting memories to another person, so you can receive feedback and advice. You'll feel a huge weight lifted once you confide in another. This will allow you to move on to Step 6 with humility.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. (1981). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Available at: www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step5.pdf
Perspectives on Step 5
By Dominica A.
Step 5 prompts you to sit down with a trusted confidant and talk about all the things you wrote about in Step 4.
I remember my stomach being in knots thinking that I'd have to sit down with my sponsor and tell her about my character defects, behaviors that hurt people, insane thoughts, and so on. Even so, sweating and stumbling over my words, I completed Step 5 and felt amazing afterwards.
The fifth step isn't easy to do. But by bringing things into the light, it decreases the amount of pent-up energy we carry. It also gives us the opportunity to put it all out there and receive unconditional love.
Yes, that's right. No matter what you've done, you don't have to be judged or shamed. Reporting all your "stuff" to another human being who can listen with compassion really does something incredible for us.
Choose Your Person Wisely
Don't share Step 5 with just anyone. Choose someone you can trust, like a sponsor, counselor, mentor, or trusted friend. Don't perform this step with your partner, as it's tempting to not be gut-level honest with them.
When I sat down to discuss my fifth step with my sponsor, I kept in mind that my Higher Power was involved as well. By admitting my shortcomings, defects, past behaviors, and more to my Higher Power, I was essentially giving permission to that power to take all of it. I resolved to stop carrying it all and just let it all go, because honestly, it was a pretty heavy burden.
The Illusion of Judgment
I thought that if I sat with someone and told them my "stuff" and they found out who I was, they would judge me. They wouldn't like me. Or worse—they might tell others what an awful person I was.
The miracle of this step for me was that none of those things happened. My sponsor lovingly listened to all my stuff and affirmed me abundantly. She loved me unconditionally.
This is the step that you can use as a "train station." You can unload all those painful memories that have been keeping you down. You can let go of things like anger, shame, rage, confusion, depression, regret, and more.
Then, grab a ticket to your new destination: a place called Freedom. A place where you can be yourself, dream new dreams, and allow passion to give you fuel for your new journey.
My advice to someone ready to complete the fifth step is to keep in mind that getting it all out there on the table is a great opportunity to finally let it all go. Clean out the cobwebs of your past, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the lighter load. Enjoy the freedom and unconditional love.
After all, you deserve it!
Dominica A. has a love for the 12 steps, as working through them several times has helped her steer clear of addictions and grow personally and spiritually.
She is committed to living out the 12-step philosophy and sharing the message of hope to those still suffering in addiction—and to those in recovery as well.
Dominica has attended both Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous meetings over the years and appreciates the support she's received. She's got a deep-rooted passion for helping others heal emotional pain and trauma, as her own journey through love addiction has served as a catalyst for her own healing and transformation.