Step 5 of the12 Steps of AA: Coming Clean To Another Person

Twelve-Step programs are known for treating addiction and other compulsive and dysfunctional behaviors. The first Twelve Step program was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous details a program of recovery, including the twelve steps and twelve traditions.

The Twelve Steps

The twelve steps are to be worked sequentially:

  1. We admitted we are powerless over alcohol– that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Digging Into the Fifth Step

The fifth step: “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

It’s pretty obvious why we share our inventory with someone else– because we are masters at believing in our own justifications and half-truths. After all, we were the ones who used to say we didn’t have a drinking or drug problem. On several occasions, we told ourselves over and over again that we were doing fine as we were slipping deeper and deeper into the dark abyss that is an addiction.

This vital exercise begins to provide emotional, mental, and spiritual relief. By sharing wrong with a trusted confidant, guilt and shame start to melt away. Newcomers begin to realize their troubled past isn’t as unique as once thought.

Both painful and rewarding, the 5th step is essential to the fundamental change of personality required to overcome alcohol and drug addiction. In its simplest form, the fifth step is simply a confession of personal wrong-doings. Confession is a long-standing practice in the Judeo/Christian tradition, and alcoholics usually store a vast collection of closet skeletons. By sharing the depths of their conscience with another person, alcoholics allow fresh air to enter their soul’s closely-guarded closet of shameful skeletons.

Stepping Out of the Past

One of the many blessings provided by the steps is that you can put your past behind you. The fifth step marks the beginning of that journey. Once you disclose to another person your inventory, you can finally begin to build a new life, away from the past and your addiction.

You will not have the disease of addiction. There is no cure. But, through the steps and diligence, you can arrest your disease, and begin the healing process. Most take the fifth step with their sponsor. When choosing a sponsor, it is suggested that you ask someone who has what you want– spiritually, or otherwise.

Respecting your sponsor is important because he may need to guide you in some very important situations. Consider this when choosing a sponsor.

At any rate, the fifth step is generally therapeutic and has often been called the “confession” step.

Preparation for the Fifth Step

The Big Book is clear that once you have finished your fourth step of writing, you are to review your lists, analyze what they mean, and learn something from what you have written. Your analysis will be augmented in the fifth step, but you should not leave all the thinking up to your guide.

Read page 66 in the Book, and make note of these comments:

  1. The world is, indeed imperfect, and our lives have been touched by injustice. Our typical reaction has been to try to fix the world. When that didn’t work—it never does—we got good and sore and bitched and drank at it. Only in sobriety have we learned there is but one thing in this universe that we can and must try to influence. You guessed it. Many of us have then discovered a miraculous truth. When we set about to have our Creator manage our lives, we are often empowered with incredible influence over people near us and in the world around us. The catch (wouldn’t you know there would be one) is that we must not attempt to exercise self-will.
  2. The power of resentment far exceeds any conception we had of negative thinking. Were you aware that:
  • ..a life that includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.
  • The hours in which we all have futility and unhappiness in our lives are not worthwhile. Resentments waste our lives.
  • Resentments shut us off from the sunlight of the Spirit, thereby preventing the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience.
  • When shadowed from the sunlight of the Spirit, the insanity of alcohol returns, we drink again, and we die.
  • Harboring of resentments is fatal.

Most alcoholics have a deep—almost pathological—sense of justice. If we are wronged (meaning often that we did not get what we wanted), or even conjure up the notion that we might have been wronged, we find full justification to express anger or harbor resentment. It then seems almost a duty to carry a justified resentment. Otherwise, those who have wronged us would get off Scot-free. And that wouldn’t be right, would it? So, we waste our God-given lives judging and punishing our fellows. Relinquishing a justified resentment is one of the most difficult experiences known to the alcoholic (

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today at the Palm Beach Institute at (855) 617-1839 or contact us online.

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