by Bill C.
Prior to coming to Alcoholics Anonymous, I had no honest insight or clarity concerning my self-destructive behaviours. My relationship with the world had been distorted and somewhat delusional. Little or no meaningful personal relationships or true friendships with my family, and many regrets, kept me apart from instead of a part of.
But in AA, I was given a blueprint for living through the Twelve Steps. I began the process of becoming honest, open-minded and willing (H.O.W.) to try and change. Change what? Firstly, my thinking (self-centred) and secondly, my actions (self-serving).
When I initially began a serious attempt at Step Five (or so I thought) I believed I had written down a lot. Turns out that this first attempt was more akin to a loose first draft of “Bill’s Soap Opera: One Life to Live”—and it was all about me. I wrote as only a victim could, about everything that had happened to me—me, the Victim!
Selfishness, self-centredness—the root of all my troubles. I was unable to see my part, my faults, my flaws, my defects, the exact nature of my wrongs. I was certainly thorough in looking at the world and how it had wronged me. And how I justified and rationalized!
After sharing my written thoughts with my sponsor, who showed great patience, love and humour, he asked me when my book would be finished! He suggested I look at the format laid out in the Big Book.
That first attempt was invaluable in the sense that I had actually put pen to paper. My first attempt was at least tangible and became a learning experience. Progress yes, but far from searching and fearless.
My second attempt was in many ways the polar opposite of the first. Using the Big Book format in Step Four, I reviewed all my fears, resentments and sex conduct. Or so I thought. But I had only scratched the surface.
Underlying my lack of thoroughness was fear, once again. As our literature mentions in different forms, we are only as sick as our secrets—and will remain so—unless and until that fear is overcome.
When my sponsor saw how little I had written down, he told me with a loving attitude to go back to the Big Book and start reading Step Four and try to follow the directions again. I also used the Twelve and Twelve.
This time my attitude was different. I was willing to go to any lengths for a spiritual solution, not Bill’s solutions. Half measures were availing me nothing. I went back over my past and followed the suggestions laid out in the columns regarding fears, resentments and sex conduct. I wrote down all, holding nothing back, as best as I could remember, and met again with my sponsor.
What I learned now made the spiritual difference for me. My sponsor showed me that Step Five was not just between sponsor and sponsee, but also included God! Before we even began, he invited God in, and reminded me that I wasn’t bad, but sick. We prayed and then I began to reveal myself and my past actions and thoughts.
This took between one and two hours. He thanked me for my honesty and courage. I can’t quite remember all my feelings, but I do know that I was relieved and also grateful that someone else knew me and did not judge. As a Catholic youngster I had attended confession regularly, but I probably just paid lip service to that community, and sharing my wounds and my wrongs with my sponsor was freeing.
Trust and confidentiality are, for me, the two most important ingredients in Step Five. I knew that everything said would stay between me, my sponsor and God. I no longer felt isolated.
I have also recently begun to look at specific character defects and how they affect my daily living. This has led me to meet with my sponsor on a regular basis. I look at this as a “mini Step Five,” where I share the defect, my thinking, my actions and the consequences of my behaviour, holding nothing back.
I am reminded again that I have a daily reprieve contingent on my spiritual condition. No wonder I could never have true freedom. Guilt, remorse, shame and all my insecurities kept me isolated and alone in my distorted world.
One of the many promises that AA offers is that “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” I believe that promise is true in my life because of Step Five.