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The Twelve Steps in Everyday Living: Part Five

Step Five:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

This step, the AA equivalent of the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation, is important because it is not enough to acknowledge missteps to yourself, it is essential to vocalize them aloud to another human being.

I think I may be an anomaly, but I could not wait for this step.  Once I got through the inventory, I needed to run it by someone to make sure I had done it right (and yes, I do recognize that validation is a critical issue for me).  I didn’t love admitting all my most shameful secrets to another, but having established a relationship with my sponsor, knowing that I could trust her implicitly, and, most important, knowing that she had been where I had been, made the process a lot less stressful.

What I learned from this step, recovery-wise, is that I am not alone.  I am not the Worst Person on the Face of the Earth.  And although I can’t explain it, there is something to the whole idea of unloading the burden of your secrets… it really did make me feel lighter mentally.

It was at this point in my step work that I became fully convinced of the power of this program.  Towards the end of the 3 1/2 hour session with my sponsor, she said to me, “I feel like God keeps putting something in my head.”  It would be too complicated to write out the play-by-play, but, long story short, she was able to show me patterns of my addictive behavior that I truly had never seen, I’m still flummoxed by how she put it together.  But she was absolutely correct, and that she could point it out to me, simply by my speaking aloud my 4th step inventory, convinced me that the steps work.

Step 5 is a work in progress in everyday life.  Having learned that holding it in makes the problem worse, I work very hard to unburden myself at every opportunity.  Whether it is admitting my feelings to my husband, confiding in my sponsor, sharing at a meeting, I make sure to verbalize whenever I feel bad about something.  And the magic continues… usually, by the time I am finished telling whatever it is that’s on my mind, I really do feel better!  I’m actually reading a book right now, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and in it the main character talks about an experiment she did in her psychology class:

…these students she’d never known before, but had perhaps seen on campus, had freely told her about their breakups with their beloved high school boyfriends or girlfriends or the deaths of their mothers or even, once, the diving-accident death of a little brother.  But the words they spoke were immaterial; they didn’t know that the only aspect she was studying for the experiment was body language.  Jules watched their hands and their head movements, taking notes… They were relieved telling her about their pain, even though it didn’t actually matter how well she listened.

I guess the expression “getting it off your chest” exists for a reason.  Only by articulating problems can we really and truly release them.  For me, that is the true reward of step 5… voicing your fears, your worries, your resentments, your pain, so that you can let them go.  In the past, I had the completely opposite mindset.  My thought process was:  “this is my shit, why should I burden someone else, that would just make two of us burdened with it?”  I have since learned this is absolutely not the case.  When I carry the burden of negative thought, and I keep it to myself, it stays with me.  I can bury it, or gloss over it, pretend it doesn’t exist… but it is still with me.  And it will rear its ugly head over and over again, unless I do something about it.  The action I need to take is so simple, so basic, it almost seems too good to be true:  I need to talk about it.  By exposing it to the light of day, I take away its power.

Today’s Miracle:

My regular Friday meeting’s topic was Step 5; my husband read an insightful work-related article about honesty being the best policy, and the section of the book I read right before sitting down to write this post talks about the value of unburdening yourself… that’s a miracle!

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