Step 5 – Exact Nature of My Wrongs

I shared my inventory with my sponsor tonight – I think this is the fourth time I’ve done a 5th step in 20 years. I was raised in AA that, or at least I heard, we do one 4th step and any other inventory is covered in step 10 – this could bring about a ton of debate about what’s right or what’s wrong, suffice to say I can’t go back and change any of that, and it worked for me…. until it didn’t.

The first time was at RTC, a treatment center in LaCrosse WI. They had me fill out some booklet of questions about the worst things I had done or something along those lines, I didn’t really understand it and when it was time to share (Step 5) the religious minister/priest whatever they had come listen to it with me wasn’t all that engaged with me. He said when I was done “Is that it? Do you feel better now?” and that was my 5th step. I didn’t feel better, was still pretty confused and wasn’t at all comfortable with the robe wearing guy.

1st Edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
1st Edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

The second time had to be at the Fahrman Center in Eau Claire WI… and it was likely another worksheet like the one I did in LaCrosse, but I honestly can’t remember giving it to someone… I must have, I think to successfully complete the program it’s required to do, but I have no memory of it at all.

I did work on my first 4th step from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous while i was still in the Fahrman Center, I remember being very serious about it (I was serious, and mad about everything) and I wrote furiously long list of resentments and a few lines of fear and at that point the total of my sex life was pretty limited to 4 people… but it was as thorough as I could be at the time (I was 23 in the autumn of 1994). When I had written and couldn’t think of anyone else that I hated, I told my sponsor I was ready.

Now to be fair, I began to see the pattern of my bad behaviors and the people I had hurt in my life while writing and began to see that I was a pretty sick individual. Grudges that I had held on to forever (forever at 23 was probably a few years)  vanished from the recordings in my head and I felt better immensely – even before meeting with the sponsor.

My sponsor picked me up at my apartment (so I was out of the center at that point) and we drove down a Veteran’s highway in WI, well he drove and I read. The road had spiritual significance to him, but not to me so much. I would read left to right, first column to second, and then the third and he would sometimes ask me questions and sometimes share some of his own experience. I was feeling rather comfortable and then I shared something in particular about sex with men and my sponsor blurted out…


At the time it was the loudest sound in the world and I was a little flabbergasted and stuttered and said “I don’t know” and that was the truth as I had it then. The blurting out stuck in my head though, I never quite got over that and it added to the tapes of prejudice (old behavior) that I still carried, and would for quite a long while.

Besides that one little bump in the road, I shared as honestly and as thoroughly as I could have that day based on the work I had done discovering more about myself.  It laid the groundwork for me to change behaviors and repair the wreckage of my past

Fast forward 19 years…

When my current sponsor suggested doing the steps again I was hesitant, but I had been living in fear for a good long while and it was starting to devour me, change me and had me make some foolish decisions. So I was willing to go to any lengths again, i was ready to do things … anything to get set right. I wrote out my resentments, fears and sexual relations as honestly as I could – I have a much bigger list now for the sexual inventory, not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I thought long and hard, I prayed and listened for clearer pictures and put some people on my resentment list I didn’t expect to go there.

A while back I shared something with my current sponsor that had crept out of a corner of my memory, something I had hidden from myself and it frightened, still frightens me. That was the hardest thing I’ve done in quite a long while, seems silly doesn’t – sharing something with another human being was the hardest thing I’ve done. Ridiculous you say? I’m being honest, I almost couldn’t get it out and almost cried trying to get it out… but once it was out I felt a huge load had left and it wasn’t as powerful as I had thought, sure it’s still there but now I can see it. I’ve seen light cast upon it and know what it is and that it, like me, can be changed.

I throw that in here to let you know after that experience with him, this 5th step was… i don’t want to say easy… comfortable, I felt like I could tell him anything, anything at all and it wouldn’t change how I felt about him or he about me and that was pretty comforting. Tonight I shared, as I did 19 years ago, the exact nature of my wrongs as I understand them, and as he’s helped me to understand them better. Then I came home, I sat quietly for an hour, reviewed the work I had done and feel like I didn’t skimp over anything, that my foundation is strong… and I see myself a little clearer. I have flaws, some more glaring and obtrusive than others but I am fortunate to have a program that’s going to help me continue to grow and change to be a better person.

We started my 5th step tonight by asking both of our respective higher powers to join us and I asked mine to please remove the fear – for me that’s what I need today to continue to grow. Solid steps, action, helping others, cleaning house… now the real work can begin.

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