Step 5 : Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
A couple thousand days have come and gone since the beginning of my attempt to live life with rigourous honesty, but I must admit my ability to operate in delusional ignorance of my wrongs is still very strong.
The task over exposing such deep truths about ourselves to even ourselves is a daunting enough task, let alone the idea of being emotionally naked before someone else. “First you examine the terrible interactions of my life with a fine tooth comb, stretching all the way back to my childhood, and now I’m supposed to expose these traumatic experiences I thought I would keep tucked away in the dark recesses of my mind for the remainder of my days?” How could anything but struggle and pain emerge from such an experience? I don’t know about you, but when I was originally tasked with my first set of steps, I most definitely experienced nothing but resistance around Step 5, and my unconscious plan was to put this process off for as long as possible. Having trust issues galore to begin with, I had a few barriers to break through prior to venturing off on this vulnerable and gut wrenching task of exposing all the terrible things I have done, many of things which I presumed I would have been locked up for, let alone publicly shamed for.
Several years and inventories have passed since my first life changing set of steps, and I still have to admit that there is a part of me that still wants to completely avoid the experience, regardless of its reward. There is this twisted part of me who chooses to stew in negative anticipation over the process, instead of placing my gaze on the freedom that always follows. The problem is that step 4 and 5 are far too often expressed in meetings as something that will cause you massive discomfort. I mean, who in their right mind wants to dig into their psyche and uncover ugly truths about themselves?…… Not even the purest of souls would chomp at the bit for that type of fact-finding and fact-facing experience.
Right off the get-go seeds of fear are planted into impressionable minds, rather than seeds of liberation and happiness which is really what we are aiming for in recovery. The typical alcoholic, being an undisciplined and obstinate character (myself included) that base most of their decisions from fear really start building up intolerance towards step work from the early days, and those feelings never completely evaporate. If self protection is the name of the game, then why on earth would somebody want to subject themselves to more pain when they already feel broken inside to begin with? Both perspectives commonly held around the inventory process are equally valid: A) “I hated doing that inventory, it was a lot of work and painful discovery”, or B) “The freedom I received from that step was positively life changing”, but one of them leaves people feeling encouraged and the other leads to more procrastination.
After a couple sets of steps you might be sitting where I am now in life, with few dark truths that I need to vocally reveal to the world, and would probably feel more or less comfortable doing my step 5 with even a stranger, but nonetheless it still needs to be done. When I sit in that familiar internal debate on whether or not it would be worthy to do another set of steps, I remind myself once again that I am “building an arch through which I shall again walk a free man” from, because freedom from any sort of bondage in life is what I’ve always truly been after. Many of us get so used to living with high levels of mental congestion that block us from the sunlight of the world, and we choose not to make use of this beautiful gift, because the benefits are so difficult to measure when it comes to emotional reward. It’s one thing for people to repeatedly say to you, “the freedom you get from step 5 is amazing”, than to actually experience the release from your solar plexus as the darkness leaves you.
This weekend I will have the opportunity to expose myself to a pastor whom I have never met, at a church I have never attended, in a community I rarely visit. I have to say for the first time in my life I’m actually looking forward to the interaction. I don’t know if my self-importance has finally released me from the chokehold it had in my life, or if I have simply reached a point in my life where peace of mind and stillness of heart outvalue everything else. Let’s hope it’s the former rather than the latter (:
We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing we are delighted. – P.75 AA- Big Book