Click here to read the introduction to my 12 Step Series and find links to all of my 12 Step posts in one place as they become available.
Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Secrets. They can seem so innocent and mysterious. Whether we’re talking about cool spies with “TOP SECRET” information or friends who create “secret societies” with passwords and hideouts, secrets in this connotation can be harmless and cute….fun even!
But little kids playing games or silly secrets being shared between friends aren’t the type of secrets I’m talking about right now. I’m talking about the destructive type of secrets: the ones that fill us with shame and fear and keep us trapped within our dysfunction. I’m talking about the secrets that make us feel like we have to hide, lie, and cover up pieces of our past and ourselves; the secrets that do nothing but cause harm and havoc in our lives. I’m talking about the secrets that keep us sick.
And what better time to talk about secrets that keep us sick than when we talk about Step Five…
Step Five is HUGE in the recovery process. And yes – it can definitely be one of those steps that get your stomach doing flip flops and your palms sweating all over the place – because admitting secrets is usually a little nerve-wracking. 😬 But great courage brings great rewards!
Step Five is where we get to take full ownership of all the secrets that we’ve kept hidden. All the things we’ve maybe done, been, said, thought, or even wished for can be spoken and accepted so that we can move on with our lives! Step Five secrets are basically anything that we would be embarrassed or panicked to have someone find out about. Heavy stuff, right? 😮 As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, your Step Five secrets may include a lot of things you kept quiet as a child about your situation at home. They may be about the unhealthy behaviors you engaged in before you ever realized that you had been affected by the disease of Alcoholism. Maybe you’ve dealt with your own substance abuse issues and you’ve kept secrets about those experiences. Whatever your secrets are and however “bad” you think they might be, Step Five offers freedom from the weight and oppressiveness of your attempts to keep them concealed.
Because here’s the truth: until you can own your secret, your secret owns you. It’s really that simple. If there are pieces of your past or yourself that you just cannot accept, those pushed-away aspects of you will reign large and in charge in your life like a Mad King (all “Aerys Targarygen-like” for you A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones fans) until you make another choice. Have you ever heard the saying “what you resist, persists?” That is exactly what we’re talking about here, friend.
Here’s the truth: until you can own your secret, your secret owns you. It’s really that simple. #recovery #alanon #acoa @cassandrakali Click to Tweet!
Before I got into recovery (and even for awhile after) I kept my family struggles and hardships secret from just about everybody. I tried desperately to hide the fact that my parents suffered from Alcoholism and Addiction. I made up stories and excuses. I came up with socially-accepted responses to explain my parents jobs, relationships, absences, whereabouts, etc. and practiced them so I wouldn’t be caught off guard when the questions did come up. I was so terrified that people would figure out the truth and look down on me and my parents. I already felt less than everyone else and I didn’t think I could survive other people knowing for sure that I actually was less than. (That’s how I saw it at the time anyway.) It’s a very sad reality of my childhood and early years. 😢Maybe you can relate? The secret kept me in a form of denial and therefore helped to keep me very sick.
Keeping that secret caused so much unnecessary stress in my already stressed-out life. It made me afraid and it made me unwilling to trust and it made me a liar. When I finally had enough recovery in me to realize that I hadn’t caused my parents to be Alcoholics and Addicts, I couldn’t control it, and I certainly had no power to cure it – I finally allowed myself to accept that part of my story and let go of the secret. And let me tell you, friend – letting go of that secret has created such freedom in my life. I’m not saying you have to go shout your secret from the rooftops (or, you know, start a blog about it or anything…😉) but you’ll need to own and accept it in your own way if you don’t want to let your secret pickpocket your power away piece by piece.
So Step Five is pretty clear-cut and gives us a step-by-step path to follow when working through it. We admit to God, then to ourselves, and then to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. And I think the order of that is really important. Let’s take a look at it:
Admitted to God
I don’t know about your Higher Power but my Higher Power knows everything about me. My past, my mistakes, my intentions, my heart – everything! So my Higher Power doesn’t really need me to admit anything that my Higher Power doesn’t already know. I think admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to my Higher Power is for my benefit.
Think of it this way: a young person is getting ready to go do something a little scary (attend the first day at a new school or play in the big football game or whatever). What are the parents going to (hopefully) do for that kid?
GIVE ‘EM A LITTLE PEP TALK! 🎉🎉🎉
Parental Pep Talk Ideas:
- We love you so much!
- We’re so proud of you!
- We know you’re scared but you’re brave and capable and you can do this!
- We’re here for you no matter what happens.
- We’re in your corner, kid! After all this time and Always…or something like that…😉
(Hey – I warned you that I speak in lots of Harry Potter terms on my “About Me” page. Can’t say you didn’t know. 😛)
But back to Step Five…
Opening up a dialogue with your Higher Power about the exact nature of your wrongs is just a way to get a little “Higher Power Pep Talk” before you admit them to yourself and another person. It’s a time to remember and reflect on the fact that your Higher Power 💗💗💗LOVES YOU 💗💗💗 no matter what and always has your back. Because there is nothing that you could ever have done, been, said, thought, or wished for that would make your Higher Power love you less. And that is a good thing to remember when moving on with this step…
Admitted to Ourselves
Okay, it seems a little weird at first but take some time to really get into this part. Admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to ourselves is about taking ownership for what we have done, been, said, thought, and wished for in the past AND taking ownership of our feelings associated with all of it. That’s it: being able to sit with and feel our emotions. NOTICE THAT I DIDN’T SAY: “Sit and think all about it” or “Sit and mentally obsess over it” or “Sit and ruminate about everything that you should have done differently.” No, no, and triple no. That’s not what I’m saying. You want to be able to sit with and feel all your emotions involved with the situation(s). Drop down and tap into your gut. What do you feel?
Do you feel:
- Sad? It’s okay to feel sad. Be sad and stop trying to fight it.
- Embarrassed? Let yourself feel it and know that you’re still worthy and loved.
- Guilty? Great! 😃 Look at it this way…you’re already working on Steps 8 and 9!
And what about the feelings you were experiencing when whatever happened that you’re now keeping secret? Were you afraid? Lonely? Lost? Hurt? Angry? Numb? Go back and think about whatever happened that you’ve been keeping secret and try to get to the root of the situation; the emotions connected to it. Because when you can make connections between events and the emotions leading up to them (example: you were feeling super scared when you lashed out or whatever) it may help you move into self-forgiveness.
Because after taking ownership for the exact nature of your wrongs and honoring yourself by feeling how you feel, the final part is to forgive yourself. Getting to a point where you can say to yourself “Yes, I did that. I was that. That was me. I own what I have been and done and I forgive myself fully with a loving and open heart because I’m worthy.” 😍 That’s powerful. Sometimes admitting it all to ourselves is the hardest part because it’s emotional work that we do on our own time and we’re the only one that’ll know if we don’t actually complete it…well, the only one except our Higher Power! But this part of Step Five so important and I hope you take full advantage of it.
Admitted to another Human Being
This is where you get to share the exact nature of your wrongs with another Human Being – ideally your Program Sponsor. So by this point in Step Five, we’ve admitted the exact nature of our wrongs to our Higher Power and to ourselves. Why do we still need to admit them to another Human Being? Because it’s important for us to look someone in the eyes, say what we need to say, and have the experience of that person staying with us and not:
- Running away
- Shaking his or her head
- Abandoning us
- plug in anything else we fear that someone might do if we tell them our secrets that will leave us feeling like we’re a terrible and unforgivable person…
The acceptance and love and connection you feel from another human being when you tell him or her your deepest, darkest secrets and realize that they still love and accept you is a true gift. Don’t deny yourself this opportunity! The possibility of a big hug at the end is a bonus. 🤗 And more times than you’d think, you also get to hear a “Yeah, me too” as well. [Spoiler Alert: There are over 7.5 billion people on the planet. Our secrets aren’t usually all that unique…just saying. 😉]
Now, believe it or not – there are actually some words missing in Step Five! Crazy – I know! Instead of reading “admitted to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” it actually should read “admitted to another human being who is loving, kind, and trustworthy the exact nature of our wrongs.” Obviously, if you’re working with a Sponsor and you’ve made it all the way to Step Five with them, your Sponsor probably possesses all of those characteristics. But since people sometimes work their programs slightly differently, I just want to toss those missing words out there as a reminder.
Here’s the other thing I want to mention about this part of Step Five: take note that when it says “admitted to another human being” it actually does not say:
- “Admitted to everyone in my home group”
- “Admitted to everyone I meet within the first 10 minutes of meeting them”
- “Admitted to absolutely every single human being on the planet”
Why does it refrain from saying any of those other options? Because you don’t have to ever admit this stuff to anyone else ever again if you don’t want to. Not everything is necessarily meant to be shared with everyone anyway. But once you feel the freedom of letting go and owning the exact nature of your wrongs, you might just like it! And, you know, start that blog about it…or something. 🤣🤣🤣(I’m mostly joking but you never know. If you would’ve told me 5 years ago that I would be openly blogging about my experiences being an Adult Child of Alcoholics, I would’ve thought “Ha! Fat Chance!” in my head and then denied that I was even was an Adult Child of Alcoholics out loud…
So I think the diagnosis is pretty clear: your secrets are keeping you sick. We know that, right? But Step Five might just be the miracle cure you’ve been looking for. So if you are tired of being sick (and sad, sorry, just plain unwell, etc.), please know that I believe in your ability to make a new choice and that your Higher Power is always there to help!
So tell me what’s going on with you. Have you worked Step Five? Or are you getting ready to take the plunge? Do you have secrets that you know are keeping you sick? Are you ready to own them and move forward?!? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! And don’t forget to share this post if you think it could be useful to someone else. 👍
Thanks for being here, friend. 💖