Treatment and the 12 steps – Step 5

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Step Five

June 2012

As we discussed here the past few months (please read the 2012 articles prior to this one if you can, if not no worries), 12 step recovery-based treatment programs are, according to research, the most successful types of treatment programs. We broke this down a bit, so now we will begin to explore treatment’s unique relationship with each of the 12 steps.

The 5th step in a 12-step recovery program addresses being entirely honest or admitting our faults, shortcomings, miss-steps, issues, you name it, with ourselves, another person and a higher power of the individuals choice. It makes sense as the 4th step has to do with writing an honest and searching inventory, that the 5th step then follow that up with sharing the aforementioned inventory with another person; normally a sponsor, counselor, or clergyman that is trusted by the alcoholic or addict. While most of the focus (by focus, I mean what the addict or alcoholic fears the most or is most insecure about) is spent on the “another person”, all three levels are very important. That said, I figured we could take a look at the three elements of a good 5th step. If you have not read last month’s article, please do so or find a definition of a 4th step from somewhere so you know what we are talking about.

Good, let’s move on.

Let’s take a closer look at the three main components of a 5th step (not necessarily in any particular order for this article).

1. Admitting our exact nature to ourselves: Often considered the easiest of the three prongs (if you will), it actually takes some serious work. It’s not so much the admission of any negative act (after all, we did the act so there is really nothing to admit to there) rather, it’s the understanding of the nature of what we did wrong and how it affected our own lives and caused pain in the lives of others who have cared or do care for us. As an example: I work with many young people who cannot possibly fathom the pain they have caused their parents until they do a solid inventory and 5th step *Sidebar: this example is a difficult one because no person can really understand what emotional harm they may have caused their parents until they are in fact parents. However, the example is a common one and serves as a good idea of what I am discussing*: End Sidebar. When someone does take or complete an inventory, they are free to get a much better understanding of whom and what they really are, and how important it is to continue to strive to change and to stay clean. This is a vital realization.

2. A Higher Power — If you haven’t figured it out by now, 12-step programs are spiritually rooted programs. If someone is absolutely closed minded to this concept and remains (key word) that way after treatment or help, chances are great the 12-step modality will not be of huge benefit to that person. Thankfully, many people are able to grasp and develop some level of a Higher Power that the individual can name and connect with at their pace and with their personality. Again, admitting to whatever HP you choose that you have done wrong would seem obvious. Any belief in any higher being or spirit or whatever you have would, I imagine, a basic all-knowing principle. If this is indeed the case, then why the racket about admitting to this HP or God, as you understand Him, your wrongs? And again I would submit to you that it is not the face value actions but rather the emotions and intentions that we need to seek honesty with. This is the real trick in a spiritual, recovering relationship. The good news is for most people who are at this point in their recovery work already have a solid and honest spiritual connection, making this part of this particular step as close to a “freebie” as someone will get in recovery. And that’s good because the on-deck hitter takes some real work to achieve.

3. Another Human Being: This may represent the single most difficult thing for a person in early recovery to follow through with. Outside of the treatment recovery world, well-meaning people who have not had formal treatment, a high number of addicts, and alcoholics go back to using when they reach this point. They just cannot come to bear the fear of sitting down with another person and being totally vulnerable and real. This is where treatment can help with this step. The closeness of peers in treatment and the treatment group structure make it so everybody has a chance to interact, and give feedback to each other and get close to each other. This is a valuable lesson in recovery. Once we begin to trust people we can truly open up to all people. A wise man once said (no not me, not quite that cheesy I promise) “If you are willing to sit with another person and bare your soul, warts and all, the acceptance you feel from that person will represent all people”. Think about the power of that. Years of fear, insecurity and doubt can be lifted at once. This is the power of honesty and of getting real, two notions most users have no concept of.

Hopefully that gives you a bit into the inventory process. At this point, we have turned the corner and are ready to work on some step 6 &7! Stay tuned for more on the recovery process.

See you next month!

**please note that all matter stated here is that of an independent writer and does not represent the River Source trying to re-define the steps, this is simply a look at how treatment uses the 12 steps. In support of that purpose, only a synopsis of each step will be included every month. For a list of
the 12 steps and the accurate definitions please contact AA world services or obtain a copy of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”.**