Once you’ve worked Step 4 of the 12-Step Program and you’ve made an inventory of your behavior, the next step is to bring those things to your higher power and another human being. This brings us to Step 5.
Step 5 of the 12-Step Program is a huge change from what you might be accustomed to. For most people, addiction produces months or years of secret-keeping, hiding harmful behaviors, and lying to the ones we love most. Step 5 asks us to openly admit all of our wrongdoings out loud, which is very challenging and scary.
You might be wondering, “Is this really necessary?” or “What is the purpose of all this?” We understand the hesitation and we’re here to support you through it. If you’re ready to start working Step 5, here’s some quick insight that might help you get started and better understand the importance of this step.
What Are the 12 Steps?
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
What Is Step 5 of the 12 Step Program?
Step 5 of the 12-Step Program is: “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
What is the Purpose of the 5th Step in the 12-Step Program?
The purpose of Step 5 of the 12-Step Program is to unload all your past burdens, let them go, and start moving on from them.
The 12-Step Program is built on a foundation of courage, trust, and honesty. Step 5 strengthens this foundation and requires that you overcome your fear and pride to be honest with yourself and another supportive human being. Admitting your past wrongdoings is hard, but by doing so, you overcome your shame and break the pattern of denial that has likely plagued you throughout your addiction.
Although this step references God, it refers to God as we know him. Meaning, it’s asking you to approach your higher power (whether that’s God or something else) and choose to be honest with your higher power and yourself about your shortcomings. As you do this, you’ll build a positive relationship with your higher power and begin establishing other relationships upon the same foundation of honesty and courage.
Additionally, one of the best things about working Step 5 is that it helps you realize that you are worthy of acceptance and forgiveness. Although it’s difficult to confess your wrongdoings to someone else, a sponsor or treatment professional can help you develop a positive attitude about working Step 5, identify the things you need to confess, and hold you accountable so you don’t slip back into a habit of denial.
Common Misconceptions About Step 5
People will think less of you when you come clean. It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying about what others will think of you when you admit to some of the things you’ve done in the past. However, it’s important to remember that AA is a safe and supportive place. Everyone has stories that they are ashamed of and you’re not alone.
You’ll feel worse about yourself after completing this step. In fact, most people say the opposite. While hiding secrets from others creates shame, anxiety, and depression, sharing is freeing. Many people express a huge sense of relief and say that it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders after they complete Step 5.
You only really need to confess to your higher power. Telling another person isn’t necessary. Opening up and telling another person about your defects and mistakes is an excellent way to receive helpful feedback and advice. Doing so will also prepare you for Step 6, which is humility.
How to Work Step 5: 3 Tips
1. Share with someone you feel comfortable with.
Sharing your deepest darkest secrets is hard enough. Make the process easier by choosing to share with someone you feel comfortable with, like your sponsor or another mentor in your life. Although it will still be scary, you’ll be more likely to follow through and be completely honest.
2. Be as honest as possible.
It’s really hard to be honest and vulnerable, but doing so is an important part of completing Step 5. To become the best version of yourself, you’ll need to put in the time and effort to become who you want to be. Honest reflection is a necessary aspect of that process.
3. Look for behavioral patterns in your history.
As you share with your sponsor or another trusted individual, try to recognize behavioral or thought patterns that have contributed to your addiction. This will help provide some perspective as you review prior decisions you’ve made and how you can do better moving forward.
Get Help to Work Step 5
For many people, even just the thought of working Step 5 is too scary to confront. However, if you feel this way, there’s help available. Sober peers, sponsors, and treatment center professionals are all available to walk with you through each of the 12 Steps and surround you with love and support.