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Old 02-11-2008, 06:57 PM
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From Paths to Recovery, pp 53-56

In Step Four we made a thorough inventory of ourselves, both assets and defects. Step Five asks us to take another action with what we have learned about ourselves. We are to share “the exact nature of our wrongs” with God, ourselves and another person.

Step Five requires honesty with ourselves and others. It was one thing to get the courage needed to list our deeds and misdeeds, our fears and resentments on a piece of paper; quite another to reveal them to another person. We sometimes hear in Al Anon meetings that we are only as sick as our secrets. What goes on in alcoholic homes is often kept very private; many of us have been taught not to air our dirty laundry in public. In Step Five we begin to unburden ourselves of our secrets. Step Five does not ask us to show our faults to the whole world, but to our own hearts, to the God of our understanding and to a trusted friend. Step Five gives us permission to talk about things in a healthier manner, rather than make ourselves martyrs to anyone who comes along.

Our first task is to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to our Higher Power. Having spent some time with Steps Two and Three, we have come to understand our God as loving, compassionate and non-judgmental. We also know that God can help us if we are willing to be helped. We can begin work on Step Five by talking to our loving Higher Power about what we discovered in Step Four. We recognize that we are probably not telling God anything new, but this open admission allows us to approach our Higher Power acknowledging our hard work and our willingness to see ourselves as we really are. Many of us feel a sense of relief as we feel the acceptance and love offered despite our wrongs.

The next part of the Step is to admit these same things to ourselves. For some it is easier to tell God about our wrongs than to admit them to ourselves. When we look at ourselves with complete honesty, stripping away excuses and the blaming of others for our behavior, we become aware of how much we deluded and justified ourselves. At this point, we may be tempted to condemn ourselves for the difficulties we caused. It is important to remember to love and accept ourselves unconditionally, just as our Higher Power does. We are seeking to grow by facing who we are at the moment; nothing is served by beating ourselves up for the past. Step Five does not ask us to do anything about our past actions; for now all we are asked to do is to face them squarely and admit them to ourselves as fact.

Admitting to God and to ourselves is not enough; we must break our isolation and share our faults with another human being. This, too, can be difficult, since many of us had criticism and blame heaped upon us if we admitted a mistake. Admitting our faults to another person may seem like asking to be rejected. To admit our darkest secrets to anyone requires us to trust another person and to trust our own value as a human being. Learning to trust is an essential tool of recovery that brings with it relief and serenity.

….. It is vital to be as honest as we can through all stages of Step Five. Asking our Higher Power for help before we begin to share may be helpful. As we share our inventory aloud, we do not want to deny or excuse our wrongs, but to come to understand and accept them. We honestly face the past and, by sharing our faults, make a commitment to continue to grow and change.

It is important to explore not only the list of events, but also the “exact nature of our wrongs”. We seek to know ourselves more fully, therefore we examine our deeds and the reasons for them. Without excusing our behavior, we try to recognize what basic need or fear was operating when we behaved as we did. Taken in context, many of our behaviors made sense at the time. For instance, there are experiences where mistrust was appropriate. We may have been dealing with people and events who were out of control or dangerous. The defenses we learned served us well in alcoholic and other unhealthy situations, but now they keep us from living happily and serenely. We can acknowledge these defenses without condemning ourselves for using them. Our confidante is sometimes able to help us understand the exact nature of our wrongs. As we share, we may discover that we need further thought and meditation. In either case, we do the best we can at the time - and move on.
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