Step Five

The Fifth Step in the program of recovery

5. Admitted to God, to Ourselves, and to Another Human Being the Exact Nature of Our Wrongs

I hear the same answer from someone who has just relapsed: “I was working on my fourth step.” It reminds me of Jim’s story in “More About Alcoholism”. The Big Book tells us that Jim admitted that he was an alcoholic. He even had much knowledge of the condition. However, he found himself drunk because he failed to enlarge his spiritual life. I have often asked myself: Why do so many people relapse during the first four steps?

The book mentions several times that “faith without work is dead,” meaning that this is a program of action. The first 3 steps are really just a set of considerations. Do I believe that I am powerless over my addiction and that my life is unmanageable? Do I believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity? Am I willing to make a decision to follow a course of action that will turn my life over to the care of God as I understand him? After the third step decision, we launch out on a set of directions that produce a spiritual experience. This vital spiritual experience does not begin until we take the 5th step: “We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience.” (page 75)

What The Big Book tells us lines up with my own experience. I was in and out of the rooms for several years, going to meetings almost daily, and talking with a sponsor on a regular basis. Yet, I could not put together even 24 hours of sobriety. I had read through the first four steps and I had much knowledge that I was an addict. I even had a belief in God, but that knowledge and belief were not sufficient to produce a state of recovery. When I sat down with a competent sponsor, he explained that as an addict I will use again, unless I experience a vital spiritual experience. He taught me that steps 4-9 are a designed plan of action that would generate the spiritual experience.

After writing inventory, I had little fear in sharing my inventory with my sponsor. I knew it was a “life-and-death errand”. There were plenty of things on my inventory that I was ashamed of at the time, but I knew that I wanted to live and be free. I had always looked away when I was talking to people. After completing the fifth step, I was able to look people in the eye. There was nothing left to hide.

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