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Step 5 of AA: Admit the Nature of Your Wrongs

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Step 5 of AA is “admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Step 5 occurs immediately after you complete Step 4, which involves making a moral inventory of your character defects and problematic behaviors that have harmed others. Once you’ve admitted these defects to your higher power and to yourself, you must read your list to another person.

It’s normal to feel nervous or intimidated by AA Step 5, as it puts you in a very vulnerable position. For many people, this might be the first time they’d expressed these negative traits to someone else. But Step 5 of AA is vital to your spiritual development—it allows you to release all of your shame and guilt so that you can move forward.

How to Start Step 5 of AA

First, start by reading over your moral inventory a few times to prepare yourself. Then, read your wrongdoings to your higher power. Make sure to be fully present when you do so—this first part of Step 5 will help prepare you for the second and third.

Once you can be honest with your higher power about your wrongdoings, you are ready to move on to yourself.

Before having this vital conversation with yourself, remember to be gentle and to approach this conversation from a nonjudgmental place. It won’t do you any good to judge and criticize yourself about the destructive things you’ve done in the past. They’re in the past for a reason. Chances are, you’ve probably shamed yourself enough for the harm you caused while drinking. Admitting them will help you let them go and move on with your life so that you can find peace and happiness.

Once you have been honest with yourself, then you are ready to tell a human being. That person may be your sponsor, especially if you have a close and trusting relationship with them, but they don’t necessarily have to be. You can choose anyone you want, as long as they’re willing to support you in Step 5.

Helpful Tips on Working Step 5 of AA

Try to remind yourself that admitting your wrongdoings is brave. It is understandable to feel afraid and nervous as it approaches the time to admit your dark secrets to someone else, especially if you’re worried that they’re going to think less of you.

But hey, if they’ve agreed to meet with you to help you complete Step 5, chances are they have your best interests in mind and they’re approaching this conversation with an open heart.

Another helpful tip when working through Step 5 is to remember that many AA members find that when it comes time to air their issues, they remember things they’ve left out. It’s normal to take a step back and focus on Step 4 and the moral inventory before moving forward again.

Lastly, if you are feeling apprehensive, it can be helpful to remember that just on the other side of your fear is success and peace, and freedom. Once you complete Step 5, you will likely feel much lighter now that you’ve let go of the emotional baggage of your drinking past.

Myths About Step 5 of AA

A common misconception about Step 5 of AA is that you don’t have to share your secrets and wrongdoings with another person, that it’s enough to admit these things to your higher power and yourself.

You may feel good after a conversation with yourself and your higher power and think that that positive feeling means you’ve done enough, you’re ready to move on. But the truth is, a vital part of your recovery journey is sharing even the unsavory parts of yourself with another person who can listen and accept you for everything that you’ve done, even the things you’re ashamed of.

Having an honest conversation with another person will also prepare you for Step 6 in which you ask your higher power to remove your moral defects.

If at any time, you feel like you may benefit from professional addiction treatment, you can call 800-948-8417 Question iconWho Answers? to find an alcoholism treatment facility near you.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship of people who are in recovery from alcohol abuse. It is a nonprofessional support group setting that includes The Twelve Steps of AA, a group of principles you move through sequentially that can help you become sober.

The great thing about AA is that it’s extremely accessible, with meetings all over the world, and anyone can join—all you need is an earnest desire to quit drinking.

Alcoholics Anonymous has three main facets:

  • Recovery: Working the 12 steps of the program to the best of your ability
  • Service: Being a helpful member of AA
  • Unity: Supporting fellow AA members any way that you can and following the principles to lead by example

Early on in the twelve steps, you are asked to give yourself up to a higher power. By no means does your higher power have to be a religious or spiritual being. Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t have a religious affiliation, and as such, your higher power can be as creative and as abstract as you wish. You could choose music, nature, art, science, or otherwise, with the only condition being that the higher power should be “greater” than you.

It can be really tough to quit drinking all on your own. That’s why AA exists, for people to help each other. If you are interested in attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you can use the directory to find a meeting in your area.

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