Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

How It Works: 12 Steps

Step Five

"We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

Our inventory does not automatically deliver us from the bondage of addiction. There is a long way to go, but it certainly begins the process and gives us continued hope for the future. We gain acceptance of our natures with hope for positive change. We are often very surprised to find out exactly what we wrote when we share our Fifth Step. We often feel a great sense of freedom after doing our Fifth Step. We may still find fault with ourselves and despair that we'll ever really recover.

Addiction surrounds our entire life with walls of fear that have kept us prisoners much of our lives. Working the Fifth Step exposes all our negative feelings and begins the demolition of these walls once and for all. We will finally be free to begin building a whole new life based on a solid foundation of truth, self-honesty and trust. The 12 Steps have helped us to find and trust God, ourselves and another human being, often for the first time in our lives. We cannot do this alone. Remember, this is a ‘we’ program and together, we find courage, hope and faith to share our inventory. We have to be vulnerable - it’s a chance we must take. We learn that perfection is a unrealistic, fear-based idea. We don't have to be perfect.

Through writing and sharing we find forgiveness and acceptance. The Fifth Step can be upsetting for some of us. The bondage of our addiction has had a physical hold on us. This Step will be a positive affirmation of our new feelings of trust in our Higher Power and another human being.

One member shares, "Before I even began my 4th step, I had shared with my sponsor my fear of even admitting to anyone even some of the things I had done in my walls of fear. Whenever I think about working the Fifth Step, I think of the walls of fear that have kept me a prisoner of my own life. I think about working this step and ridding myself of all of the negative feelings that have ruled my life. These walls will finally be knocked down and I will be free to begin to build a whole new life based on a solid foundation of self-honesty, truth and freedom from fear. My entire life has been lived inside walls of fear. Negative feelings kept me back in the prison of my disease."

For some of us, building bonds of trust is one of the hardest things we have ever done. For as long as we can remember, we would never allow ourselves to trust anyone. To trust someone meant you had to get to know them and let them know you. Trust is an empty-handed leap into the void - we cannot prepare ourselves for trusting. There is no way to defend ourselves against the risk of acknowledging who we are and letting other people and the God of our understanding into our lives. To get to know them meant letting them get to know us and we always believed that once they got to know us they would reject us. The experience of sharing the contents of our Fourth Step inventory awakens us to the reality that we can change from the people we were into the people we want to be. Some of us heard when we were kids, "confession is good for the soul." Confession defined as ‘telling everything’ has nothing to do with the Fifth Step. Indeed, we seek to unblock the channel to God, to our own spirits, and to the rest of humanity that has been clogged up by our fear, denial and ego. Admitting who we are and what we've done doesn't amend the record, but it puts us on the record for owning our past decisions. The principle that we learn here is integrity and we must first accept that the disease had corrupted our personal morals.

By looking at and sharing our inventory, we seek to restore our the fractured lives by trusting the healing process of the Steps. We find it easier to admit our wrongs because we no longer fear their return. We aren't the people we were but we aren't fully recovered either. For come, the fear of returning to our old ways motivates us in recovery but as we re-integrate our lives, Higher Power becomes a greater motivator than fear ever was. Trust comes from acceptance; remember that we learned this in the Second Step. With the self-acceptance we gain through the process of our Fourth Step inventory, we come to self-trust with the admission of our role in our difficulties of the past and our personality problems in the present.

Further, we act on our acceptance of a loving, supportive God and grow to trust our Spirit in all areas of our lives. Best of all, the mutual acceptance that we experience from sharing our Fifth Step becomes mutual trust, as we grow to love and respect ourselves by loving others. That is what we mean when we say, "God, grant me the courage to be searching and fearless". The members of our Fellowship teach each other to care and trust. What we think we know about trust is flawed. Trust used to be an immediate thing in our active addiction: We trusted each other to an extent because we each got high. Today, we learn to let the process happen. We open ourselves to others knowing that trust is something that we need to practice. We give them the benefit of the doubt and see what they do with our trust . . .

No matter what the other person may choose to do with the things that we entrust to them is why we say, "Trust is earned and rightfully so." The way we earn it is by being ourselves so others know what they are dealing with. The fact that all addicts suffer from the same disease helps us build trust bonds.

There are no unique addicts. We have differences as people and degrees of sickness but underneath we have similarities that are far more remarkable. Acknowledging this helps us begin to trust one another. Our powerlessness and our defective personalities are a common bond. As we increase our understanding of ourselves, we understand others and our compassion grows. We don't have to get it right from the start. Sharing involves some skills and practice improves our ability to enlarge our world by sharing. Once we establish trust with even one person, we may have difficulty until we know what the ‘rules’ are.

Being able to give and receive with trust builds a bond between us. We gain much from this Step. Through prayer, willingness and our ability to share on this Step, we gained trust. We begin to feel like we aren't alone. We see some of our worst fears removed. There were things we opened-up and choked-up and got out that we never thought we would share. We feel the benefit almost immediately afterward. We feel freedom through simply releasing the wreckage and garbage that we had kept pent-up inside. We found the willingness to share our deepest, darkest secrets with another human being. We gained insight to push aside the fear and walk through that opening.

A member shares, "The meaning of courage has changed as I have grown in Narcotics Anonymous. At first courage was an illusion that I put on. I never knew the exact meaning, only that the opposite of courage was cowardice. I remember how much of my life was full of fear, how I felt like a coward but could not let anyone know how terrified I was. I always put on an illusion of how courageous, uncaring, and ruthless I was. I always considered courage a physical quality. Today I am aware of the spiritual and emotional aspects of courage. I have learned that it can be easier to run away to avoid life's trials and tribulations but true courage is walking through the fear and learning to work through the pain and the problems. Courage today is walking through the fear, putting one foot in front of the other, working towards the solution, and having the courage to let fellow addicts help and guide me."

Paralyzing fear is a reality. Progress comes 'step by step.' We learn to trust ourselves and become vulnerable enough to walk through the terror. We had always thought that the only antidote to fear was courage. Not so! Fear dissolves under any spiritual principle! Spiritual principles are based on Faith and Faith kills fear. Sharing our inventory with another human being opens the door to sharing with others. This is a basic building block in our reconciliation with the human race. Human beings would have died out as a species if simple errors were ordinarily fatal. Most of our errors have the effect of curbing or preventing our growth, restricting us to limited pathways where there is seemingly little fear of failure. Fear of failure can 'lock us up' in permanent isolation and ineffectualness.

We need to reconcile ourselves with this reality if we are to go on with our lives as healthy people. Before we admit the exact nature of our wrongs, they still have great power over us. When the truth is out, we know the first moments of freedom. It is the end of our struggle to continue denial. It is resuming our emotional development that was stopped when the defect first appeared. Our inability to come to terms with something arrested our growth in that area. For recovering addicts, it may be helpful to say to ourselves, "It happened while I was using and that's not how I am clean." Our decision-making ability, our ability to see or hear clearly, our ability to react accurately to life in general, all these were hampered or disabled by our active addiction. Even today, our disease will try to make the pain of our recovery seem greater than the continual pain that we carried with us. Like the odd twist that allows freedom to come from surrender, when we are able to make ourselves vulnerable we will know an increase of life. To be vulnerable is to expose ourselves to the reality of another person. If they hurt us, it is on them and we will be able to go forward. We are not as fragile as our disease makes us feel. While we may experience failure repeatedly in finding those we can trust, God will reveal them to us as long as we continue to practice our part in trust. Our spiritual courage is a signal to others like ourselves.

We may feel a spirit when we share our Fifth Step. This is part of what changes our lives. Heightened awareness, sensitivity, interest and a sense of the miraculous may infuse us when the pain inside is set free. While our Fifth Step is a spiritual and emotional reality, it has the effect of demolishing the walls we have erected to conceal our fear and terror from others. So strong is the hold of our pain that we fear to take action as if it will tear our flesh when we pull it away from the injury. We don't work the Steps to lose at life. We work them to win. The gains can be terrific but the ones that mean the most to us are the simple, everyday abilities that used to be beyond most of us. The blockage that has held us back so long has resulted in structures within our personalities that echo past pain, real or imagined. The pain replays itself in a similar situation and we react as if injured whether we are or not. The failure to respond accurately to our environment is one phase of insanity and the defects have to be relaxed and ironed-out to regain functional ability in that area. Peace begins when we find a way that allows us to feel safe enough to stop fighting. Forces that seem to have been working destructively in our lives slowly change into sources of strength rather than conflict. Our addiction set us at odds with the world around us in many ways. This is not to say the world is perfect and that all living problems dry-up when we start living life clean and working the Twelve Steps of recovery. It is through the Fifth Step that we re-unite with the world and the people around us. Who and what we are takes form as we share with others. Most of us are full of unshared feelings, hopes, fears and aspirations. When we are re-connected, this flows out of us and we regain a sense of purpose and balance.



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Reprinted from the 
Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life, 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace,
The Spirit of NA 
or NA Twenty Plus

being edited on this site.

Copyright © December 1998
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.

NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road Atlanta, GA 30349 USA


All rights reserved. This draft may be copied by members of Narcotics Anonymous for the purpose of writing input for future drafts, enhancing the recovery of NA members and for the general welfare of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship as a whole. The use of an individual name is simply a registration requirement of the Library of Congress and not a departure from the spirit or letter of the Pledge, Preface or Introduction of this book. Any reproduction by individuals or organizations outside the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document for personal or corporate monetary gain is prohibited.