The 5th Step and the Importance of Admitting our Wrongs

In this step, we: “admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The process of working this step is incredibly simple. We openly share the content of the fearless moral inventory made in the previous step, with another person, and with our Higher Power.

However, admitting to our worst deeds can be challenging and frightening. As human beings, we are very protective of our egos. We seek quite consciously to inflate our egos by feeling better about ourselves and avoid anything that will deflate it. But step 5, like many other steps in this program, forces us in the other direction. It brings out our humility. However, it is utterly essential. The shame we feel over our addiction and the actions we committed under its influence feed our destructive behavior.

We have essentially admitted our wrongs to ourselves in the previous steps, particularly in step 4. In step 5, we share the inventory we arrived at in the previous step. However, step 5 reminds us that this process is never fully complete. We must continue to examine our faults honestly and completely throughout this process. If this means we need to go back to the inventory of our flaws and misdeeds again, we should do so fearlessly before proceeding with the next step.

However, admitting our wrongs to ourselves is not enough.

We now see our past with greater clarity and that is a step in the right direction. However, that also means we have more shame and pain to deal with.

If we do not share the burden, we will continue to struggle with the shame of our past deeds alone.

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Admitting our wrongs to God

Admitting the nature of our wrongs to God may sound straightforward, but it involves a complicated spiritual process. If we think of our relationship with our Higher Power when we were in the throes of addiction, we may recall petitioning for favors and making deals with God which we did not intend to keep. With the clarity of sobriety, we can see that this relationship had an exploitative and manipulative element: just like all of our relationships at the time.

Step 5 is part of a process designed to create an honest and open relationship with our Higher Power. We admit the extent of our shortcomings and unacceptable behavior, without minimizing or exaggerating. We do not do so to petition our Higher Power into providing us with a service of any kind, but rather in the interests of establishing a healthier spiritual life.

At this early stage of our spiritual development, we should focus more on giving our Higher Power an unvarnished look at us. We should not claim to hear or carry a spiritual message yet, because at this stage we may use that notion for ill. The establishment of a full and healthy relationship with our Higher Power awaits us in the later stages of the program.

Admitting our wrongs to another human being

We may feel shame at the prospect of sharing our worst shortcomings with another individual. However, in reality, this is a crucial step towards overcoming shame. Once another individual has been exposed to all of our secrets and still accepts us, an amazing thing happens. The power of shame in our lives diminishes. It is an important part of the process by which we understand that despite our flaws, we deserve to be happy.

It is therefore very important to pick the right person to come clean with. It should be someone sympathetic to you and your plight, preferably someone with experience in struggling with addiction. You will want someone who has been there and will not think less of you because of your experiences. Therefore, your sponsor is the natural and most obvious choice. However, if you feel you prefer another individual, that is fine too. Some choose a clergyman or even a stranger.

It is our task to make the account we give to our Higher Power and a trusted person as complete as possible. Do not keep particularly painful or humiliating recollections to yourself. If you do, it will just delay your recovery and force you to return to this painful process again later.

This is not a stage when you should be dealing with judgment and other people belittling you and increasing your toxic sense of shame. In later steps, you may have to deal with unfriendly responses, but we are not there yet.

There is a great deal of liberation that comes with step 5. After all, there is a reason confession is an important part of many religious traditions. The power of sharing is also at the core of many psychological and psychiatric treatments. It is generally and widely acknowledged that sharing your shame with a trusted individual can wield great spiritual and emotional benefits.

Many people report an all-encompassing sense of freedom achieves as the baggage of shame is lifted from them. Some addicts find they can lift their heads high for the first time in years.

Also, this step helps us relieve the sense of isolation that accompanied our addiction and which may have led us into this self-destructive path, to begin with. After sharing your deepest secrets and shame, you may feel a closer communion with both other people and your Higher Power. If you build on this closeness, you may never feel truly alone again.

It is important to enjoy your achievement in having come this far. However, do not rest on your laurels. There is still more work to be done on the way to recovery and well-being.

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