The Simplicity of The Twelve Steps- Step Five (Integrity)
Now we are prepared to sit down with another human being and disclose the data we have compiled in Step Four. It has been my experience that most addicts live their lives believing, deep down, that they are fundamentally broken. This is what we might call a working hypothesis. We all know that any hypothesis is only as strong as the data which supports it. If a scientist were to come out with an idea that he hypothesizes would cure cancer but was unable to present any data, he would be ignored. Therefore, if we have spent a lifetime selling ourselves on the hypothesis that we are fundamentally broken, we must be holding an array of empirical evidence which we believe supports this theory. The data on our fourth step is the platform which we have been purporting as a testimonial of our brokenness.
Now we are told what to do with this platform:
“Having made our personal inventory, what shall we do about it? We have been trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and to discover the obstacles in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the weak items in our personal inventory. Now these are about to be cast out. This requires action on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our defects. This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter.”
Essentially, we are going to take all this data which has been corroding and rotting inside of us and cough purge it. It is critical that the prospect understand that the process of letting go of or changing these things is not a part of this step. This is nothing but a process of examination. Most people, upon first entering the rooms of recovery, tend to believe that there are, like, six hundred things wrong with them. They will soon find, as a product of this step, that there are, like, six. This is a process of consolidation. As an example, if a person had $50,000 in debt on eight different credit cards and someone was able to consolidate all of that debt onto a single card, the person would not have less debt but their debt would most probably feel a whole lot simpler to tackle.
We must make clear to our prospect that the only things which are sure to submarine their attempts are dishonesty or withholding:
“If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story.”
Bottom line, you could fill up 75 pieces of paper with entirely truthful information and then leave out a single shameful item and completely undermine not just the utility of this step but the entire recovery process. And this is certainly not because anyone in the rooms of recovery are desperate to know all your deep, dark, dirty secrets; because, trust us, you are not that interesting. Most of us enter the recovery world with a tragic case of terminal uniqueness. We believe that we have this fascinating batch of wreckage that no one has ever seen before. The ego behind that thought is most remarkable. Think about how long human beings have been on this planet. What are the chances that any one of us has ever thought, felt or done something even remotely original? And yet that fear persists. And so we must employ faith. We must trust that our partner will create room for all our shortcomings realizing that the potential down side of being shamed, judged or betrayed is far outweighed by down side of continuing to hold the secrets.
As to whom we utilize to receive our list; this is a choice made by each individual based on what they believe is best for them:
“When we decide who is to hear our story, we waste no time. We have a written inventory and we are prepared for a long talk. We explain to our partner what we are about to do and why we have to do it. He should realize that we are engaged upon a life-and-death errand. Most people approached in this way will be glad to help; they will be honored by our confidence. (first paragraph, page 75)”
Yes, these days using your A.A. sponsor has certainly become the norm. Regardless, doing a fifth step with a psychologist, a clergyman, a friend, or even an A.A. member other than your sponsor is perfectly appropriate.
With the entire list having been shared and processed, we get our fifth step promises in the next paragraph:
“We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.”
The only promise in the above list which dually serves as a warning is “The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly.” Yes, this may well be the moment where, if you had been thinking about drinking all day every day, that you begin to feel a loosening of the grip of the disease. This is a blessed thing. But it is not evidentiary of the obsession being removed. There is work to do and the idea that we have recovered at this point can be deadly.
Finally, in the third paragraph on the page, we are given our instructions for what to do on the back end of a proper fifth step:
“Returning home we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have done. We thank God from the bottom of our heart that we know Him better. Taking this book down from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the twelve steps. Carefully reading the first five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything.”
And so, we take our sixty minutes of quiet time, seeing to it that we accomplish the three things dictated in the above passage. We give some thought to the work we’ve done and what’s come as a result of it, we spend some time in spiritual practice and we open the book, read through the steps we have finished and ask if there is anything that has been left out. If we come up with anything, we immediately turn it over to our partner. If we come up with nothing, then we rest easy in the knowledge that we are prepared to move Step Six.