Step Five

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” '

The section on the Fifth Step covers these ideas:

  • All the Steps serve to deflate addicts’ egos
  • Fear keeps secrets still hidden, perilous for addicts
  • Benefits of admitting defects, validated for centuries
  • Step Five removes isolation, enhances kinship with God
  • Begins forgiveness of self and others
  • Humility and honesty require outside help
  • Why not just you and God?
  • Selecting someone to listen to Step Five
  • Gaining the courage to do it

Other Thoughts

The Fifth Step is an essential part of the groundwork for the remaining steps. You have done your inventory in Step Four, but until you share it with God (or your Higher Power) and/or another human being, the secrets still have power, you have no idea whether someone else can accept you as you really are, and you may still have many blind spots in your inventory.

How to Find Someone

You might prefer doing Step Five with a minister, priest, rabbi, or other clergy person. Religious professionals are usually suited to hearing confidences, by training and by temperament. Particularly if the cleric is a Roman Catholic priest, it is important that they understand the differences between a Fifth Step, which is a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual inventory, and a confession, which is a sacrament for release from sin. Catholics may well want to do both.

Or you might share your inventory with a sponsor or other recovering addict in the Program. They may understand the purpose of the Step better, and you may already have developed a feeling of trust in them. It is good to know that their moral and religious views are fairly similar to yours, or else it might be difficult to share some of your darkest, most threatening secrets with them. While not likely, it is possible to be rejected by someone who, perhaps without your knowing in advance, is a lot sicker than you are.

You might even share the inventory with someone else with whom you feel very comfortable, or even with a total stranger who has been recommended by others. The only real requirement is that you be rigorously honest and as thorough as possible.

How to Share It

If possible, meet with this person well in advance of the Fifth Step and discuss their preferences and suggestions about how to do the inventory and how you will share it. This can reduce your anxiety about the actual sharing.

On the appointed day, be ready to share the information in some kind of organized fashion. Whether in outline or narrative form, you do not need to share everything you have written if it is extremely long. In that case, just hit the highlights, but be sure to include those things that you suspect are very important.

There are two problems with a Fifth Step that drags on longer than an hour or two. One is that most people who hear Fifth Steps are very sensitive and caring, who may not feel comfortable with telling you to speed it up as they have other things they need to do. If you are willing to listen to Fifth Steps, wouldn’t you rather they average about an hour and a half instead of about four hours?

The other problem is that if you drag it out too long, you lose the ability to see general themes and tendencies because you and the person hearing the Step are smothered in detail. Remember that the purpose is to gain insight into what will need to be done for recovery, not to write a long autobiography.

What to Expect

You will probably feel a sense of relief as your secrets and your personality are shared and accepted by another person, who will usually give you some very encouraging and valuable feedback. They may be able to show you how you seem very hard on yourself in some areas, or some ways you have of exaggerating or minimizing certain aspects of your shortcomings, your insecurities, your talents, and your gifts.


Step Five, see also: Affirmations, Assertiveness, Character defects, Defenses, Dichotomous thinking, Energy levels, Honesty, Inventory, Perfectionism, Psychological problems, Step Three, Step Four, Step Six, Step Eight, Step Ten, Survival roles, Trust, Willingness.

Updated 9 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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