Step five of AA’s classic twelve step program says “We have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  Instead of walking around letting our past negativity affect us, we take the weight off our shoulders by admitting it to someone else.


Understanding AA’s 12 Steps: Step 5


After shortcomings have been admitted we can move on to thinking about forgiving those shortcomings, but not before.  While the fourth step involved facing the shadow self and seeing it for what it is, admitting these character flaws to ourselves and basking in the light of truth, Step five is all about realizing that these flaws can indeed be forgiven. We learn when another person hears of these flaws that they aren’t as terrible as they seem in the confines of our own heads and that not only can another find forgiveness for us, but we can actually find forgiveness as well. Confiding in another person is a necessary step to take to see that forgiveness is possible.  We have to talk about it to be forgiven, we must confess out loud.  Step five was created to facilitate this soul-cleansing dialogue.

More often than not, the person who you will confide in will be your sponsor or support group.  They can provide the nonjudgemental ear needed for what will be said.  They are one who can relate to your most distressing memories because at one time they were in a similar situation.  We have to be as honest as possible with the listener. Don’t hold back in what you tell. It is not so they know your deepest and darkest secrets.  It is so you get those secrets out in the open where they can live in the world and not dwell in your soul, eating at you slowly.  It’s more about you facing your past out in the open than another person hearing it.

One of the obstacles to many people at this step is the difficulty in being vulnerable in this talk.  We can’t be afraid or too prideful to really open up at this step.  We too often let fear of judgement hold us back.  Just as we had to put our trust in the higher power, now we must put our trust in someone else to be understanding, forgiving, and non-judgemental.  Again, this is the biggest reason to use your sponsor for this talk.

When we have finished revealing ourselves, it’s our turn to listen.  Any feedback or advice  received must be listened to with an open mind.  It’s our turn now to be non judgemental.  We trust the person we had our talk with to have nothing but our best interest in mind.  Any advice they give is to be taken as genuine.  Even if we don’t implement their advice into our life right away, we are obligated to honestly consider it.  The support system we are building now will help us with implementation later.

Don’t be tempted to fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need to talk to another person.  Many feel that, because they have given control to a higher Power and admitted faults to themselves, that they are good to just silently admit these things in isolation.  This is not true.  There is no substitute for human interaction.  The weight that people report being removed is only when you are with another person.  Someone in front of you, acknowledging your pain and trauma, is what lifts the weight.  The other reason another person is necessary is so you can receive feedback.  This is the foundation of forgiveness and self-correction.


If you need someone to talk to during the process of 12 step recovery, addiction counselors are available at Treatment Now. Call us to schedule an appointment today.