Step 5 reads like, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to other human being the exact nature of our wrongs”.
What does this mean? How do we do it? What are the benefits we get out of it?
The key to this AA step is a confession. That means we share the worst of ourselves with another human being. This is a time-honored in some traditions, religions and cultural practices because it helps cleanse us of the shame, guilt, and remorse we feel. It empowers us to start using the mistakes we’ve made as opportunities to teach and help others through those same mistakes.
This is the magic of AA Step 5. It says in the step that we admitted to God and ourselves. This we can easily do in AA Step-4 and in AA Step-5, we take ownership that, “Wow! I did these things. I have awareness of them and I’m consciously accepting that I did them”. For many of us, it’s kind of easy way to start, having some kind of faith in a higher power to say, “Wow! I already know about this and of course God or whoever knows about it already because they are all powerful.
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The challenge tends to be when we open up to another person. Our rational mind will kick-in and say, “There’s no point talking about this with somebody else or I’ll just get in some trouble if I talked to somebody else about it or somebody else will judge me and I won’t be able to come to AA anymore or they’ll tell about it to my partner, my family, and my friends.”
Yes, with Step-5, these are the things that we do want to consider and yet if trust our intuition, we will be guided to work with the right people in my experience. We don’t just immediately want to put our Step-5 out to everyone. We want to go to the exact right person with AA Step-5. Here’s how I did my AA Step-5.
I listened to what people shared in Alcohols Anonymous meetings. I heard the amazing stories people would share right out in open meetings. Those are the things that I wouldn’t have told anyone and people were sharing them right out in a meeting. Un-detected crimes they’d done, the thing they’ve done parenting or as a child. The worst shameful behaviors are shared right out in the open. What I learned is that if someone is willing to put that kind of information out there to people openly and they’ve got the good sobriety that I’m looking for, then this is a kind of person I could probably trust to share my worst inner secrets about. To share things that I think made me a bad person and I’ve concealed from anyone else. These are the things that I’m drinking to forget. These are the things because of which my mind is thinking so many other thoughts to distract me from going into these dark places.
What I did is, I went through my Step-4. I’ve written an honest story of my life and I was just ready to do Step-5. I had a sponsor and one day in the meeting, something someone shared which triggered me off and I suddenly remembered an undetected crime I’d done where thankfully nobody was hurt and yet I felt ashamed about it. I felt like this proved that I was a disgusting person who didn’t belong. I realized after all that I’d heard and read that this is when you do Step-5. I had the realization that I was either going to tell my sponsor about this or I was going to get drunk. There was no middle ground. I didn’t get to keep it a secret any longer and stayed sober. I had to work Step-5 right in there or face the consequences which for me might have been alcoholic death and that’s what it looked like.
Thus, only with that threat over my head, I was willing to open up and say,” This is what I did.” Thankfully I felt safe telling my sponsor this thing because I’d been guided specifically to my sponsor. I was crazy about 90-day sober. I hadn’t got a sponsor. My mind was just nuts. I was stressed. I took a suggestion from one of the ladies that had been sober from 25 years. I went and got a massage and when my whole mind and body finally relaxed, it felt like I was told exactly who to get as my sponsor and it didn’t rationally make sense either.
The side of my first sponsor’s head caved in after he fell from 3 stories in a construction accident. You might think of him as a mentally disabled and thankfully, I felt safe starting my 5th-Step with him because I thought, ”Well, I can tell him and if he tells anybody else, no one’s going to believe him anyway.” It was perfect for me. It was a police officer before and I was overly paranoid about my Step-5 being shared with someone, whereas, having a mentally disabled sponsor was perfect for me because I felt safe telling him what I felt like a shameful secret that nobody had ever heard of before. Somehow I made through the police polygraph without that coming up and I told him knowing that he either wasn’t going to tell anybody else or it didn’t matter if he did.
Once I told him, I felt so much better about it. I went into full detail about that in my book ‘Office Banfield”. I went into full details about my stories in these books if you want to get a much better idea of exactly what my Step-5 did look like. However, for putting this up in a family-friendly contact out for anyone to see on Youtube and my blog. I put it this way.
After I told my sponsor that first thing, I felt an immediate relief because all he said was, “It’s Okay. God loves you” and that’s exactly what I needed because I was one crazy complicated person when I cam into Alcoholic Anonymous. I was overly rational, argumentative, thinking I knew all and all I needed to hear was this plain simple message i.e. God loves you. My first sponsor didn’t seem to think what I’d done was a big deal. That’s the miracle of Step-5 is that we get another person’s perspective on what we’ve done.
Usually, if we have gotten to the right person, whatever we shared that we think is bad, often doesn’t look like that to someone else. Often, we are way overly critical and judgemental on ourselves on the things that we’ve done and that’s why we need to share them with someone else. It’s because that someone else will give us a more helpful point of view and that’s exactly what had happened with me.
I went from “Oh My God! I need or drink to talk about this to feel, Oh Man, this really works. Now I feel better about that”. Suddenly my mind stopped spinning. I felt peaceful and I went home. I felt like, “Wow, this thing really works what I’m doing. This is awesome”.
Now, fortunately, I didn’t think about what else I would need to do in Step-5 if I would have been horrified because I felt like, “Okay, that wasn’t too bad. I’m ready to work on all of my defects in character, humbly remove my shortcomings and I can do this”.
What happened to me was after I did that first tiny little venture into Step-5, I was sitting in the same meeting place but on a different day, a little while later my grand sponsor who was the sponsor of my sponsor said something really inappropriate and I was the only one who laughed at it really loud. All of a sudden, I get an absolute upwelling of a bunch of different things I needed to talk about Step-5. The kind of things that my mind would think about really hard to help me avoid looking at. Things I hadn’t even remembered in my Step-4 inventory, things going back to elementary school in childhood that I had suppressed for over 20-years or so at that point.
All of a sudden I realized, “Oh my God! I need to talk about all of this for the first time or I’m going to get drunk” and thankfully I knew that my grand sponsor who made that inappropriate joke that triggered me to laugh really hard, I knew that he was the one I needed to talk to about it because he would understand and he would be able to share his experience and help me. That day he was dying of cancer and he was having a rough day with his cancer. I walked up to him right after the Lord’s prayer. I walked up to him and said, “Hey, I need to talk to you and he said no, no I’m fine”. He thought that I wanted to talk to him about how he is feeling and going through. I said, “No, I don’t want to talk about you, I want to do the 5th step right now”. He immediately said, “Yes, let’s go outside and talk about it”.
The beginning I had made with my sponsor, I went all the way with my grand sponsor and I absolutely laid out on him all the worst things I’d done in my whole life including the undetected crimes I shared with my sponsor. I laid out everything back to my elementary school. I laid out all of my shameful sex conducts and everything that I could possibly think of. I was surprised that he then shared some of his 5th step with me and WOW. I couldn’t even believe some of the stuff he shared was possible. It took me days to process his 5th step thinking about this is a horrible world that someone could go through that. He shared it with me to help me understand where he’d come from and to give me perspective on my life.
It was an absolute miraculous transformation experience. All of a sudden, all of the things that my mind said, these are the reasons you are not worthy to be a human being. These are the reasons that you’re a terrible person and you don’t deserve to be loved. After I shared all of these with my grand sponsor, I had no longer thoughts that were driving my thinking. My entire thinking process slowed down because all of a sudden my thinking didn’t need to protect me from these things. I felt a huge sense of weight lifted off of me.
The truth about me is that I’m a worthwhile good person. I’m not horrible and in fact, the experiences I’ve been through helped me to be in a position to help others. I can now understand others who’ve gone through the same or worst than me and I can now support the people. I’m not able to do the 5th step well with other people because of this experience. Thank God for my grand sponsor. He helped me out absolutely immensely. He passed away a few years ago and that was a big loss. I cried about that a whole lot. I miss him frequently. It’s amazing the help that you can give someone when you’re on the receiving end in 5th step.
Thus, the 5th AA Step is a huge opportunity to convert from a person who feels awful about themselves to a person who can help others. That’s where the magic happens, all of a sudden, all these things that I thought were horrible about me, now these are my tools to help others. I’ve written in very clear detail about all the things I’ve been general about here. I think it’s important to be very clear and detail about these things as much as possible. Now, several years after doing my 5th step, I dare to put everything out in books because I know that hearing things like that in meetings is what gave me the courage to share my things.
I’m so grateful after doing that 5th step with my grand AA sponsor, my 1st sponsor passed away as he got hit by a car while he was riding his bike. I got another sponsor and he suggested me to go to the rector which is like a priest except it’s in Episcopal church and I did another 5th step with the rector at Episcopal church. We got even farther back into my past and we saw that the core of the Step-5 is to forgive ourselves.
The reason we do confession is so that we can forgive ourselves. God doesn’t even need to forgive us. God made us the way we are and therefore, there’s no need to forgive because we are like a painting God’s made. Thus, God doesn’t need to forgive us. God complete understands and loves us as we are. As my 1st AA sponsor kept saying, “God loves you”. He said that to me almost every day. Once you really internalize that, you don’t have any issue with God. You’re not trying to please God. God loves you as you are.
The key is seeing that other people feel better about us than we do most of the time. We don’t usually need other people forgiveness that bad either. What we really need is our own forgiveness.
The first time I did my 5th step was with my 1st AA sponsor, the second time I did it with my grand sponsor and the 5th step I did was with a rector at the Episcopal church where my meeting was. We got into the core of what I really needed to do with my 5th step and that’s to forgive myself. I remember, I broke down and cried after going through all of the things with him. He said, you know God forgives you and you know, I forgive you. Can you forgive yourself?
Wow! That’s when I really broke down because for so many years, I had used all these things in my 5th step and some of which came up in my 4th step and a lot of them hadn’t. I had used all of these things to mentally whip myself. I literally have scars on my back related to the guilt and the shame I experienced from feeling and whipping myself for all of the things I’d done. That’s what has to stop. That’s the idea od the 5th step. You get help from other people. Stop whipping yourself for all these perceived wrongs that you’ve done.
Thank God because life is a lot better without going around, carrying these change and mentally beating myself all the time. You’ll know when you’ve forgiven yourself when your thoughts of yourself start getting nicer. When you screw something new up, you don’t immediately go like, “Well, of course, I’m an awful person. I deserve, etc”. You just say, “Oops, that’s okay”. You can see you’ve forgiven yourself there.
Now, I’m so much better at making mistakes. Sure I get a little upset sometimes but I don’t snowball, pick up and say, “Yes, obviously, It’s how horrible I am”. I’m so grateful to have this shared with you today. I couldn’t have imagined this when I started my 5th step. That excites me because imagine what you can do through your 5th step. Imagine all the help that you can give to others.
Thank you for going through my complete talk on AA Step-5 here. When we look at all of these things in Step-5, it really jets us in the Step-6 where we see, “There are a lot more things with us that have gone on than just our drinking”. This is where we become willing to have God remove all of our defects of character. Not just our drinking problem but our thinking, behavior, eating, smoking, how we wake up in the morning problems and whatever it is. When we look at all of this stuff in another person, we are ready that God, I’m willing to be freed and to have you remove all these defects of character in me. That’s how we know that we have gotten into Step-5.
It’s never something we finish. It always gets to us especially we sponsor people go back and do it. The most consistent place my sponsees have fallen off is doing AA Step-5 again. I’ve seen some sponsees do a good job in making a start as I did with my sponsor. In my experience, it takes a start, then a big effort and then another one it’s like going to the bath to clean out every single thing in Step-5 and then you’re free.
I’m Jerry Banfield. I’m a full-time YouTuber now. I appreciate you making to the end of this post. I trust if you want to watch my videos on AA also, you hit that subscribe button and turn the notifications on. You can also follow me on Facebook and there you can hit see first to see my videos at the top of your newsfeed. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin.
I have a playlist for AA. All of my alcohol anonymous videos are in that one playlist on my Youtube. I make 3 videos a day of whatever I could think of that can help you the most. Thank you for reading this. I love you. You’re awesome and you can watch this Step-5 video as well.
You may like to read AA Step 4: Make a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory.