Step 5

In my last blog post, we discussed the topic of honesty and how it helps us to become sober (and also how sobriety helps us with our honesty!). And while honesty is part of all 12 steps, the fifth step is all about honesty. When we admit the exact nature of our wrongs to God, to ourselves, and especially to another human being, our honesty is put to the test. The Big Book also references two other traits that are required when we work Step 5: humility and fearlessness. Let’s take a closer look at these.

Through the course of our lives, many of us have developed a pride that has us convinced that we don’t need anyone’s help for anything. But when we walk into our first recovery meeting, that pride begins to crumble. When we ask someone to sponsor us as we work the steps, we are reaching out for help. When we admit that we are powerless over our addictive behavior and acknowledge that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, we start to learn humility. And this humility matures when we tell another person our whole story in Step 5.

Opening ourselves up to another person and telling our story requires fearlessness as well. Many of us have lived in fear of what others would think of us if they found out what we were really like. We had lived in fear of the consequences of getting caught. And these are valid fears. Our actions do have consequences and other people’s opinions of us could very likely change. And for many of us, these things have already happened, which is why we started coming to meetings in the first place. But even if we haven’t been caught, we still must be fearless and take this step.

So, who is the other human being that I am going to share this with? How do I pick this person? The Big Book uses the phrase “…someone who will understand, yet be unaffected.” Don’t confuse this step with a disclosure to a spouse or a loved one. A disclosure can be an important part of healing a relationship, but that is not the same as working Step 5. The whole “yet be unaffected” part of that statement tells us that our Step 5 should be shared with someone whom we have not hurt. This person could be a sponsor or someone we respect in our recovery program. It could be a doctor or a therapist. It could be a priest or a pastor. Personally, I recommend sharing this with your sponsor who has presumably already worked with you on Steps 1 through 4. 

The Big Book uses one other phrase that I would like to highlight. When we take this step, we have already written our inventory and are “prepared for a long talk.” I recommend setting aside two hours or so. I also recommend finding a place that will be free from interruptions. This can be a difficult conversation and you don’t want to have to keep starting over, so plan the time and the place carefully. 

I want to leave you with some words of hope from the Big Book – things that happen after we have worked this step. “Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator.”

Whether you have worked Step 5 or are planning to work Step 5, may you find that delight and peace and ease!

-A grateful member of the Awaken community

Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at!