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Alcoholics Anonymous Step 5

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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an organized society where people who are struggling with alcohol misuse can come together and support each other’s recovery.1 It is a program revolving solely around the personal healing and continual sobriety of individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous provides support for those struggling with alcohol use disorder with a plan for achieving and maintaining long-term sobriety. The program’s primary approach is the 12-Step system, which introduces a clear set of steps toward recognizing one’s struggles with addiction and working toward peace within yourself as well as peace with others who are in your life.1

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, an AA program near you may help alter your path toward a healthier way of living. There is valuable evidence that suggests that interventions using the 12-Step program are more effective than other traditional treatments, including individual behavioral therapy.2

This article will focus solely on Step 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12-Step program. This step centers around encouraging each participant to acknowledge their own personal struggles with alcohol and how their alcohol use has caused harm to themselves and others.

What Is Step 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous?

Step 5 of the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is sometimes referred to as the confession stage of recovery. Step 5 states that you must have “admitted to God, to yourself, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”3

Step 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous is the phase of the recovery process where a person will be encouraged to speak openly and honestly about the struggles they face, or have faced, with their addiction.4 This challenging step may pull a person out of their comfort zone since they are urged to concentrate on the harm their addictive behaviors has caused themselves and others. This can sometimes bring about memories of themselves they would like to forget.

The ideas around Step 5 have been practiced since ancient times. Religions around the world have placed significant importance on confession. Though the step uses the word “God,” the expectations are to confess to a “higher power,” whether that higher power is religious, spiritual, or otherwise. The confession of your own struggles, pain, and wrongdoings have been suggested to bring relief and comfort.4

Confession is not only a method used in ancient times or within religious or spiritual faith. This practice has been utilized by psychologists and psychiatrists as well as modern therapeutic practices. These professionals understand the need a person has for coming to terms with their own personal flaws, so they can grow from their past.4

Not only does this step inspire a person to open up and confess their wrongs, but it also helps them forgive those who have wronged them.4 Step 5 facilitates forgiveness, both given and received.4 Living alone with your problems can provoke the “ghosts” (as AA calls them) we have allowed those problems to create.4 Exposing ourselves and our ghosts to a trusting person can be the beginning of releasing these troubles and moving forward.4

The social isolation you have found yourself in, due to alcohol misuse, can be lifted through participation in AA, where you are surrounded by peers and professional guides.

How to Begin and Work Through Step 5

There are 3 phases to Step 5. They are as follows:4

  • Confess to your higher power.
  • Confess to yourself.
  • Confess to another human being.

Though this can be a difficult, painful, and sometimes embarrassing step to complete, it should not be skipped if your goal is lifelong sobriety. It is important to find a way to move past the difficulty and find the strength to complete this step in full. AA can help members work through this step with support from other peers, participants, or volunteers.1

Confessing to your higher power is the part of the step known as “admitting to God.” Once you have done this you are prepared to confess to yourself, with full honesty about your situation and the difficulties addiction has brought into your life.4 Being open and honest is often a complicated assignment. People may find it unappealing to dig deep to reveal dark moments. It isn’t easy to take responsibility for circumstances you may have tried to forget, but Step 5 can help if it is taken seriously.4

Once you have been honest with yourself you have reached the closing stage of Step 5—confessing to another person. Choosing the person to whom you will confide is a task that isn’t as easy as it would seem. While some people may find it best to confide in their sponsor, doctor, or even a stranger, others may feel most comfortable confessing to a family member or loved one.4

How to Follow Step 5

Admitting your wrongdoings is a courageous and challenging task. Keep in mind that if someone agrees to be the person you choose to confess to, they are most likely doing it because they wish you a healthy recovery.

Regardless of how humiliating the memories are that you plan to confess, it is important to recognize your own deficiencies and be open and honest. Be willing to forgive those who have wronged you and allow yourself to receive forgiveness as well. You may be given feedback, so it is best to be willing to take advice and accept the help offered.

Remember that on the other side of confession is freedom from the secrets you have kept about your addiction and behaviors.

Misunderstandings About Alcoholics Anonymous Step 5

It is common for participants of Alcoholics Anonymous to have the misconception that it is sufficient to confess wrongdoings only to yourself and a higher power, leaving out the other person phase of the step.4 Even though this may be the most uncomfortable part of Step 5, it is necessary to complete the step successfully to be able to move forward.

Yes, you may feel good about your confession to yourself and your higher power. You may even feel more positive about your recovery and think you can skip the third aspect of the confession phase altogether. But the fact is, a critical part of your journey to recovery includes sharing those difficult confessions with a person who can listen and accept you for who you are and how far you have come.

Don’t let myths or misunderstandings about AA keep you from seeking the help you may need. Support groups like AA have been shown to be beneficial toward long-term recovery. Those who participated in peer support groups showed a higher rate of abstinence than most people among the substance abuse population.5 Those who participated in support groups also reported being more satisfied with treatment and having a significant reduction in relapse rates.5

How to Find Help with Alcoholics Anonymous Step 5

If you or a loved one need support as you champion your sobriety journey, the AA 12-Step program can guide you through a path to clean living. You will have the support of peers as well as those who have been in your shoes. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held throughout the U.S. and can be found on the AA website. Even if you are traveling, it is likely you will be able to find a meeting nearby.

If you are looking for addiction treatment that may include rehabilitation, you can find treatment centers across the U.S. that can help you discuss your needs and find the treatment that best suits your situation. Instantly verify your health insurance coverage for addiction treatment or call .

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Senior Web Content Editor
Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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