Mike and Glenn
The cleansing power of confession
“Bless me, father, for I have sinned….”
These words draw a profound spiritual connotation. Those who grew up in specific religious settings might be triggered to a deeper-rooted reaction. The term “confession” may drudge up feelings and emotions of fear, disgust, anxiety, sadness, shame, guilt, remorse, or even anger.
Step 5 in 12-step recovery suggests that we admit to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. In the preceding step, Step 4, we documented our history and identified the precise nature of our abuses, so the hard work was done; now we are to get on with the business of this trilogy of confession:
Admitting to ourselves
By documenting our deeds while executing the 4th step, one would think that we have, by default, admitted to ourselves the injustices done. Still, we would only be able to take advantage of an opportunity for freedom if we considered the last section of Step 5, which says to be exact, in defining the nature of our wrongs. If we did a comprehensive Step 4, including identifying our role in the incident, then we can continue. If not, we need to back up a step and commit to being rigorous about describing our past.
With loving sincerity, we say that if there is any line item you didn't have some percent ownership of, you probably haven't completed an honest 4th step. Exceptions would be in the area of abuse done to you. We see little to no room for ownership when outright abuse has happened – when another human being is abusive to another human being. That’s on them.
Once we have honestly assessed our history, the step calls for quiet reflection. The authors call for a deep introspective that concludes in 100% ownership of our past activity inventory.
Admitting to God
The prerequisite to this admission is found in Steps 2 and 3. Have we come to terms with the belief that an omnipotent power exists? Have we bought into the possibility that something created this universe? It is important to remember that one can buy into someone else’s concept of a higher power or create their own version. However, the words of the step call us to make admission to some higher power.
There is no definition of when or how this charge should take place in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous. A quiet time in a venue that supports deep connectivity would not be an over-delivery. If you hang on to the words of this program of recovery as we do, then you don't want to under-deliver on this portion of this most crucial step. So, find the time, connect, admit, and move on.
Admitting to another human being
For us, this was the easiest of the three components. For clarification, this does not have to be anybody in particular—just another human being. We have seen clergy used. Therapists and psychologists have also been employed. Family members or other people in the Alcoholics Anonymous program could also work. Or a combination of those listed. There is no hard rule. The point is to confess to another human being.
We don't know how the science works, but we can assure you that from an alcoholic’s perspective, confession of wrongs is a freeing element that can't be discounted. The relief when you are not holding on to a secret is priceless.
We believe most, if not all, have a deep dark secret that they have been holding on to that is cause for undue stress and anguish. – and may contribute to an alcoholic relapse. The release of that experience to another human being works to begin the healing process. Again, we have no scholarly background to back this up, just our personal experience.
We leave you with a recommendation not to hold on to that one thing or multiple items. Release everything. We can almost guarantee that your life will change through this process.
We understand if this goes totally against everything civilization believes in this era of Facebook that we live in – this time of perceived perfection. But we should be assured that it is recognized that confession is good for the soul.
Once the past has been reckoned with, we recommend that one moves on. A future step (step-10) assures us of not piling up ill-willed activities that bring new occurrences that carry guilt, shame, and remorse. More on that in a future post, as today, it possesses its own tasks at hand.
It works – if you work it thoroughly.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #6 titled Step 5 - Admitted to God, To Ourselves... and to Another Human Being The podcast dropped on 5/12/2021. Click here to hear the podcast.
Photo by Chandler Cruttenden on Unsplash
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.