Step Five: A New Freedom

by Kathy L.

Do you remember as a child how you felt when you knew you had done something wrong and were waiting for mom, dad, teacher or another adult to confront you? Do you remember that feeling of relief when you admitted or were even forced to admit this wrong, regardless of the consequences? Or maybe the truth never did surface and you just kept it buried in the hopes that as time passed it would be forgotten. If you felt safe that it was forgotten, wasn’t it easier to repeat the wrong or go for a different one?

Read those first two sentences again and remember the time and circumstance when this might have been true for you. Close your eyes and feel it! For me, this goes back, way back, to the innocent age of about five. My mother sent me to the store (yes, in those days mothers did that). She told me I would get money back. I did, but bought a set of barrettes with it. The second I put the barrettes on the counter, I knew I shouldn’t. But I did anyway and worried about my mother’s reaction all the way home. I felt sick and I wanted to cry. When I was asked about the change, I lied. It was not until later on when my mom was going to call the store that I finally told the truth. The truth allowed me to be rid of fear and anxiety and I was washed with relief. Life was simple.

Now read the last two sentences of the first paragraph. What feelings do you get? I feel dishonesty, isolation, fear and demoralization. These feelings were a “normal” part of my life when I was in the throes of my addiction and I accepted them. I no longer felt sick or wanted to cry when I did something wrong. The truth of so many things was buried deeper and deeper every day. I didn’t know the difference between a lie and truth. My thinking and behavior were dependent on my addiction and to change would be to admit my problem.

But I did admit my problem, as we all must in order to begin recovery. Through the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous I was able to work through the steps leading to Step 5.

If we are honest about our inventory in Step 4, we are ready to openly admit our faults to another. This is where we begin to feel the relief that only pure honesty can supply. This is where the dam breaks and we begin feeling the emotions we had stifled through drugs, alcohol, food, gambling or whatever your addiction is. This is the real beginning of freedom.

Because Step 5 is the verbal or communicative result of Step 4, we cannot waver in our honesty. We will hurt only ourselves. And it is extremely important to feel comfortable with the person who will be hearing this step. Trust is the key.

I personally believe that a sponsor is the best person because he/she understands the true nature of this “confession.” However, there are many professionals and religious people out there who have worked these steps themselves. Never does the sponsor judge but usually will share his/her experiences, which might be far worse than yours.

The sponsor is a guide. This is the person who makes you think beyond the words you speak so that you can see your faults and how they established a pattern in your life. Sponsors are not listening to absolve you nor to make you feel shame.

My Step 5 began with my sponsor saying to me, “Do you want to begin with the worst first, or the worst last?” I chose to talk about the worst first. The “worst” is that thing that you never want to think about or talk about. It is that thing that you swore you would take to the grave. And yet, with willingness and help from God, the “worst” is said and done. From that point on, as long as Step 5 takes, each word unburdens your heart, mind and soul.

Step 5 is YOUR story. It may take more than one sitting with your sponsor. How long it is, however, is not relevant. What counts is how honest it is. I cannot stress that enough. If you are simply giving your sponsor lip service, he/she may never know it, but God will and so will you.

How did you feel when you finished this step? Personally, I did not feel any immediate sense of cleansing waters rushing over me. I was emotionally drained. I was tired. Oh, I felt relieved, but feelings of peace and serenity did not materialize instantly for me.

Step 5 does not make us perfect. It does not mean that we will never again be dishonest, gossip, be lazy or whatever our defects. But it prepares us for a new life, the next five steps, and a life in recovery. Today when I do or say something that does not reflect my new principles, I do not have to bury it in fear and shame. I can be that five-year-old who bought the barrettes, admit my wrong and be at peace. And, again, life is simple.

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.


Copyright Kathy L. Reprinted by permission of the author. Kathy L. is the editor of Bella Online 12 Step Recovery, where more of her writings on recovery can be found. She also hosts the Grateful Recovery page on Facebook.


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Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email