1938 Original Manuscript for 1939 1st Edition BigBook Searchable 1976 3rd Edition BigBook On-Line
The Prescription
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Working Steps 5, 6 and 7
From "Barefoot" Bill L.

Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Notice that the Fifth Step doesn't say that we just admit our wrongs. It says that we admit the EXACT NATURE of our wrongs, so we need to do more than just confess what we did. We also need to see WHY we did what we did so that we can ask God to help us with it. The guides provided in Fourth Step help us see just that.

Please turn to page 72, paragraph 1. This is the beginning of Chapter 6, "Into Action". Please notice that this chapter is not named "Into Thinking" or "Into Hearing About What To Do" or "Into Telling Others What To Do" or "Into Studying"; but is called "Into ACTION". Page 72, paragraph 1:

    "Having made our personal inventory, what shall we do about it? We have been trying to get a new attitude (Step 2), a new relationship with our Creator (Step 3), and to discover the obstacles in our path (Step 4). We have admitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the weak items in our personal inventory. Now these are about to be cast out. (Of course, that is a promise. The book continues.) This REQUIRES ACTION on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the EXACT NATURE of our defects. (You might have remembered that Step 5 actually says, "...the exact nature of our WRONGS." But this sentence says, "...the exact nature of our DEFECTS." Bill Wilson likes to use different words that mean the same thing. Throughout the book, he uses the words faults, wrongs, mistakes, defects of character, things we have admitted are objectionable, shortcomings, flaws, and in "Bill's Story" he uses the word sins. They ALL mean the same thing - whatever blocks us off from God and others. Back to the book.) "This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter.

    This is perhaps difficult - especially discussing our defects with another person. We think we have done well enough in admitting these things to ourselves. There is doubt about that. In actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal INSUFFICIENT. (Like we said before, self cannot overcome self, a sick mind cannot heal a sick mind.) Many of us thought it necessary to go MUCH further. We will be MORE reconciled to discussing ourselves with another person when we see good reasons why we should do so."

Next, the "Big Book" tells us why we need to admit our shortcomings to another person:

    "The best reason first (here's a warning): If we skip this VITAL step, we may NOT overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably (or almost always) they got drunk. Having persevered with the REST of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never COMPLETED their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only THOUGHT they had lost their egoism and fear; they only THOUGHT they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it NECESSARY, until they told someone else ALL their life story.

The "12 and 12" expresses this warning in a similar way when it states on page 56 and 57:

    "Most of us would declare that without a fearless admission of our defects to another human being we could NOT stay sober. It seems plain that the grace of God will NOT enter to expel our destructive obsessions until we are willing to try this."

It's obvious why we share our inventory with another person - because we are MASTERS at believing in our own justifications and half-truths. Aren't we the ones who used to say we didn't have a drinking problem? Didn't we tell ourselves over and over that we were doing fine as we were sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of alcoholism?

Since we're not good judges of character, especially our own, we confide in someone else. Only ANOTHER person or person's can see us as we REALLY are. That's why it says that a SOLITARY self-appraisal is insufficient.

The book continues on page 73, first full paragraph. I'm going to change a few words here to personalize it a bit and I think you'll see what I mean:

"More than most people, I lead a double life. I am very much the actor. To the outer world I present my stage character. This is the one I like my fellows to see. I want to enjoy a certain reputation, but know in my heart I don't deserve it.

The inconsistency is made worse by the things I do on my sprees. Coming to my senses, I am revolted at certain episodes I vaguely remember. These memories are a nightmare. I tremble to think someone might have observed me. As far as I can, I push these memories far inside myself (which is another way of saying that I ignore my conscience, or my Inner Guide which is that piece of God within me. The book continues.). I hope they will never see the light of day. I am under CONSTANT fear and tension - that makes for (or leads to) more drinking."

Our experience shows that if you've been thorough to this point, and you take Step Five as prescribed in the "Big Book", you WILL receive results. I can GUARANTEE that those results go contrary to having "constant fear and tension."

Let's skip a paragraph and pick up the reading at the last line of page 73.

    "We MUST be ENTIRELY honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world. Rightly and naturally, we think well before we choose the person OR PERSONS with whom to take this intimate and confidential step. Those of us belonging to a religious denomination which requires confession must, and of course, will want to go to the properly appointed authority whose duty it is to receive it. Though we have no religious connection, we may still do well to talk with someone ordained by an established religion. We often find such a person quick to see and understand our problem. Of course, we sometimes encounter people who do not understand alcoholics.

    If we cannot or would rather not do this, we search our acquaintance for a close-mouthed, understanding friend. Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be the person. It may be one of our own family, but we CANNOT disclose ANYTHING to our wives or our parents which will hurt them and make them unhappy. We have NO right to save our own skin at another person's expense. Such parts of our story we tell to someone who will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is we MUST be hard on ourself, but ALWAYS considerate of others."

Like it was said before, when the Big Book came out, the mentality was that this book would fall into the hands of a person who had no AA in their town. We are so fortunate that our fellowship has grown to the point where today very few people have to go outside the fellowship to do their Fifth Step. Some may still choose to confide in someone who is not a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, but we find that most newcomers nowadays prefer to share their inventory with their sponsor.

The person we choose should be closemouthed, trustworthy and supportive. He or she MUST NEVER discuss our inventory with ANYONE else. It's important that they are able to keep a confidence, and fully understands and approves what we are about to do.

So the book gives us four specific attributes to look for in someone who is going to hear our Fifth Step. First, on page 74, toward the end of the middle paragraph, it says we share our inventory with someone who will understand, yet be unaffected. Then, two lines up from the bottom of the page, it says that it is important that they be able to keep a confidence. The next line says that they need to fully understand and approve of what we are driving at. And then the next few words say that they need to not try to change our plan. So these are the four points to look for in someone who is going to hear your Fifth Step.

The "Big Book" gives us specific instructions for taking the Fifth Step. At the top of page 75, they tell us that, as soon as we decide who is to listen to our inventory, we take action immediately:

    "When we decide who is to hear our story, WE WASTE NO TIME. We have a written inventory and we are prepared for a LONG TALK. (I'd like to suggest that the most effective way to do a Fifth Step is by doing it all in one sitting. That way, we get the full effect and the full picture of how devastating our life run on our will is to ourselves and to others. The book continues:) We explain to our partner what we are about to do and why we have to do it. He should realize that we are engaged upon a LIFE-AND-DEATH errand. Most people approached in this way will be glad to help; they will be honored by our confidence."

Something that is not often mentioned at out meetings is that you'll notice that the Fifth Step says, "Admitted to GOD, to ourselves, and to another human...." Before we meet with whoever is to hear our inventory, please take some time at a place where you feel God strongly, like a church or a synagogue or a place in nature or even in your own home, and share your inventory with your Higher Power. You may see something more in the inventory that you didn't see before. When we first share the Fourth Step with God, we begin to feel a sense of forgiveness and begin to accumulate power that we bring into admitting these things to someone else. When we finally admit them to someone else, we experience humility and see that we can trust again by telling our deep, dark secrets to someone else. In admitting these things to ourselves, we gain more of an understanding of our inner workings.

In the second paragraph on page 75, the "Big Book" provides us with more directions:

    "We pocket (or put away) our pride and go to it, illuminating EVERY twist of character, EVERY dark cranny of the past."

To get the FULL effect and the FULL picture of how self-will has damaged and controlled our lives, we'd like to suggest that a Fifth Step be done ALL on the same day, if possible. Sometimes it takes most of the day, so please make it a priority and simply get started early enough by perhaps setting aside an entire day to focus fully on this life-changing part of the process. You'll be grateful that you did.

Then, the book tells us that after we have shared our inventories, we will get more results. Further on in the second paragraph on page 75, the "Big Book" includes more benefits as the result of finishing this Step. These are the Fifth Step Promises:

    "Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are DELIGHTED. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs (Step 2), but now we begin to have a spiritual experience (which is as THE result of taking some actions). The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe."
As Bill W. said, "One argument in religion is about as good as another; but an experience beats any argument."

We are now well on our way toward recovering from alcoholism. The "Big Book" states we are in the process of having a spiritual awakening and as a result, our obsession to drink is being removed.

Please review this paragraph after you have done this Step. Think about how these promises are coming true in your life. They CERTAINLY have come true in ours.

In the next paragraph the "Big Book" gives us specific directions on what to do AFTER we have finished sharing our inventories:

    "Returning home we find a place where we can be quiet for AN HOUR, carefully reviewing what we have done. (So we take ONE hour after the Fifth Step to do the following.) We thank God from the bottom of our heart that we know Him BETTER (now, through our actions and experiences, we learn more and more about what God is NOT, and the more we know what God is NOT, the more we know Him better). Taking this book down from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the Twelve Steps (which is page 59). CAREFULLY reading the first five proposals (which is referring to the first five Steps) we ask if we have omitted ANYTHING, for we are building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last. Is our work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place? Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation? Have we tried to make mortar without sand?"

Notice that the book asks us if the stones are properly in place, if we've skimped on the cement put into the foundation, and if we've tried to make mortar without sand. What stones are the "Big Book" referring to? What is the book saying by asking if we've skimped on the cement put into the foundation? What does it mean, "to make mortar without sand"? Without an explanation of these terms, these important questions could be quite confusing, therefore some important information may be overlooked. Let's take a moment to review:

Any structure has a foundation, a cornerstone, and a keystone. (And let us remember: the stronger the foundation, the stronger the structure will become.) In the chapter "We Agnostics", the book tells us that we are building a "wonderfully effective spiritual structure". In "Bill's Story" on page 12 when Ebby says to Bill, "Why don't you choose your OWN conception of God?" Bill realizes that it was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than himself. Nothing more was required of him to make his beginning. Bill saw that growth could start from that point. He then says, "Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend." Bill tells us that willingness is the foundation of our journey toward a spiritual awakening.

When we took the Second Step, we learned that believing is the cornerstone of our personality change when on page 47 the "Book Big" states:

    "We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. "Do I NOW believe, or am I even WILLING to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?" As soon as a man can say that he DOES believe, or is WILLING to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built."

So believing is the cornerstone.

The third step required that we make a decision. On page 62 the "Big Book" tells us that our decision to turn our will and our lives over to God's care is the keystone of our personality change (let us remember: the keystone is the stone at the top that holds ALL the other stones in place). The "Big Book" explains this when it says:

    "We decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom."

Willingness is the foundation. Believing is the cornerstone. Our decision is the keystone.

Now let's take another look at these questions at the bottom of page 75: "Is our work solid so far?" Which is another way of saying have I omitted ANYTHING from the first five steps that will cause my structure to crumble? It then says, "Are the stones properly in place?" Which is another way of saying do I have willingness as my foundation; belief as the cornerstone; and have I made a decision to let God direct my life, which is the keystone? Are my first three steps solid? Then it says, "Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation?" Which is another way of saying have I skimped on the willingness in my foundation? Then it says, "Have we tried to make mortar without sand?" Which is another way of saying have I tried to take the rest of the steps without really being convinced of the First Step?

After sharing our inventories with our sponsor or "spiritual advisor", we answer these questions during an hour of meditation and quiet time to make sure we haven't omitted anything.

This brings us to the end of Step 5 and here is a Grapevine article about it: The Wraparound Mirror (Step 5)

Please turn to page 76 in your Big Book.

Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

The 12 and 12 says the following about Step Six:

    "There is a big difference between striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is of God. The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning, and keep trying. We shall need to raise our eyes toward perfection, and be ready to walk in that direction. It will seldom matter how haltingly we walk. The only question will be "Are we ready?" It is suggested that we ought to become entirely willing to aim toward perfection. We note that some delay, however, might be pardoned. That word, in the mind of a rationalizing alcoholic, could certainly be given a long-term meaning. He could say, 'How very easy! Sure, I'll head toward perfection, but I'm certainly not going to hurry any. Maybe I can postpone dealing with some of my problems indefinitely.' Of course, this WON'T do. Such a bluffing of oneself will have to go the way of many another pleasant rationalization. At the very least, we shall HAVE TO come to grips with some of our worst character defects AND take action toward their removal as quickly as we can. The moment we say, 'No, never!' our minds close against the grace of God. Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be FATAL. This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God's Will for us."

In the Big Book, all of Step Six can be found in the first paragraph of page 76. The first line says:

    "If we can answer to our satisfaction, we look at Step Six."

If we can answer WHAT to our satisfaction? The Book is talking about the questions in the last paragraph of the page before this, page 75. These are the questions we ask ourselves when we take the hour of reflection AFTER we do our Fifth Step by asking us to review whether or not we were thorough and honest in completing the first five Steps. So the Sixth Step is done IMMEDIATELY after taking the hour of quiet time after the Fifth Step.

Starting with the second line on page 76, the book now makes a statement and then asks us two simple questions:

    "We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable (which means absolutely essential. What follows is the FIRST question). Are we now ready to let GOD remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? (And here is the SECOND question) Can He now take them all - everyone? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing."

So in the last three sentences here the book asks us two questions, and depending upon what our answer is FOR these two questions, will depend upon whether we need to involve the last sentence. According to the "Big Book", immediately after we do our Fifth Step, it will be decision time once again.

After going over Step Six in the Big Book, the person or person's hearing your Fifth Step will ask you the first Sixth Step question, which is for nothing more than the WILLINGNESS, or to be entirely ready, to have God remove the defects of character that block us off from our Higher Power working in and through us. These "unsalable goods" or "shortcomings" were disclosed in our Fourth and Fifth Steps. Take a moment of silence to reflect on whether you are entirely ready, by asking yourself if you are willing to let God help you with these defects.

After you answer the first Sixth Step question, whoever is hearing your Fifth Step will ask you the second Sixth Step question, which is if you believe that the God of your own understanding is capable of now taking them all - every one.

Notice that the Book says in the last line of the first paragraph on page 76, that if there is still a defect of character that we are NOT willing to ask God to help us with, we pray for the willingness. That is all there is to the Sixth Step: Is the God of my own understanding capable of removing my defects, and am I willing to ask my Higher Power to help me with these shortcomings? If I am NOT yet entirely ready to turn over one or more of these human failings to my Higher Power, I pray to ask God to help me become willing.

If you are NOT willing to go to God with one or more of these defects, please remember to pray daily for the willingness and it WILL come, but still go on to Step Seven with the REST of the flaws you ARE willing to let God help you with.

Step 7. Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.

We need to start realizing that when God begins to remove our self-will defects of character, He will ALWAYS replace them with one of HIS OWN characteristics. If he didn't, we would be the hole in the doughnut and we would be left with an empty space. That space needs to be filled with the OPPOSITE of the defect that we are asking our Higher Power to remove. For instance, if I found a lot of selfishness in my inventory, when I ask God to help me with it, He will replace it with unselfishness. Or if I saw my own dishonesty all over my inventory, when I ask God to help me with it, He will replace it with honesty. And so on. God does for us what we CANNOT do for ourselves, BUT He will NOT do for us what we CAN do for ourselves, so we need to start practicing the opposite of our defects of character. He will help us with our motivation and our thinking, but part of the Seventh Step is that we need to start practicing God's Will characteristics.

In the Big Book, Step Seven is straightforward. It consists of a prayer.

The second paragraph on page 76 contains the Seventh Step Prayer. It reads:

    "When ready, we say something like this: 'My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, GOOD AND BAD (which is another reference back to the Third Step). I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do YOUR bidding. Amen.'"

Step Seven says, "Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings." so I'd like to attempt explaining the difference between just ASKING, and HUMBLY asking. Being humble is becoming aware of the littleness of ourselves, compared to the bigness of God. Did you ever think that your only problem is not getting your way? Being a servant of God is the highest attainment in AA. We CLIMB our way all the way to servant. That's what a winner is - a servant. We're just out there doing what God gives us the intuition to do. And when this transformation takes place, our needs are being met from the inside, so we don't have to go out and get anything to get fixed, we're ALREADY fixed because we already have everything we need, and we're simply moving through life, just looking for ways to be of service to God. So humility is an awareness that we are willing to go through whatever it takes to become God-centered. That means we're going to have to go through the pain of often not getting our way and voluntarily go through this transforming pain. We'll use the following story as an illustration:

A lump of gray clay was sitting on the shelf next to beautiful teacup. The clay says to the teacup, "Is this all there is to life, just sitting here not doing much of anything? Why can't I be just like you, a teacup that people say is very beautiful?" The teacup says, "Not too long ago, I was just like you. One day soon you will be a teacup too, and people will say that you too are very beautiful and they will also want to take you home with them." "Yes, I would LOVE that," says the lump of clay, "Can you ask the Master to make me into a beautiful teacup?"

Right HERE, in THIS part of the story, the clay is just ASKING to become a teacup. But HUMBLY asking is a little different than that, as will be shown by the REST of the story.

The teacup continues: "Let me tell you what it takes to become the most gorgeous, the most beautiful little teacup that everyone admires and loves.

"I didn't always look like this. There was a time in my life when I too was just a hard cold lump of gray clay. Well, one day my Master came along and He picked me up and He began to pat me and roll me and I said, 'What are you doing, stop it, quit, that hurts, don't do that, ouch, leave me alone.' And He simply said, 'Not yet.'

"And then He put me on this wheel and began to spin me around and around and around and I said, 'I'm getting dizzy, getting sick to my stomach, let me off of here, I can't stand this, oh, oh, what's happening, my whole shape is changing, stop it, stop it.' And He said, 'Not yet.'

After my shape had changed, He began to paint me all over. I said, 'Eew, cough, cough, that stuff stinks, stop it, stop it.' And He still said, 'Not yet.'

"Then He put me in this oven and closed the door. The oven had a little window and He kept just looking at me. And I said, 'I can't stand this heat, let me out of here, cough, cough, don't You love me, let me out of here, why are You just looking at me?' And He simply looked at me through the door and said, 'Not yet.'

"Then, finally, He opened the door, took me and dried me on the shelf for a while and put another coat of that awful paint on me (cough, cough). And then He turned that oven back on seven times hotter than it was before and put me back in there again, and I said, 'What are you doing, I can't stand this, You don't understand, I can't do this, I can't take it, let me out of here,' He just looked through the glass at me and said, 'Not yet.'

"Finally one day, He opened the door, took me out and set me on the shelf, let me cool off for a while and then came by with a mirror and He held it up in front of me and I couldn't believe it. I was so beautiful, I was so changed, I was so different. I didn't even look like that old lump of gray clay any more. And now people EVERYWHERE appreciate and love me."

NOW, if you ask, you're HUMBLY asking. You KNOW what's involved, you KNOW that it's not going to be easy, but you want it ANYWAY. Spirituality is about changing our attitude about pain and discomfort. It is looking THROUGH the pain to see the beauty of what is coming. The transformation is just on the OTHER side of the willingness to experience not getting my way. And as soon as we go through it, it wasn't even painful, it merely becomes a little effort. It's kinda like when you're OUT of shape and you want to get back IN shape. It's hard at first. Remember that first week in the gym when you go home and everything hurts, everywhere? But as you keep it up, a month later, it's no longer painful, it merely becomes a little effort. And it's wonderful because you know the great results it's going to produce. After a while, you LOVE pushing yourself because of the wonderful results. And the same thing can happen in the spiritual world. I UNDERSTAND that at times I'm going to be uncomfortable, but I'm willing to go through with it anyway because I trust my Higher Power. That's the difference between just ASKING, and HUMBLY asking.

After doing Steps Five, Six and Seven all on the same day, please begin saying the Seventh Step Prayer on a daily basis

From now on, please include your Third and Seventh Step Prayers as part of your daily prayer life. Also, the following attachment will assist you in working our part of Step Seven going forward (since God will do for us what we CANNOT do for ourselves, but our Higher Power will NOT do for us what we CAN do for ourselves). It has two lists. One is a list of SELF-will characteristics and the other is a list of the OPPOSITE, or GOD'S Will characteristics. Please use this handout by marking off on the left side the self-will characteristics that you are struggling with. Then, each morning and when needed throughout the day, ask your Higher Power to replace them with the opposite or the GOD'S Will characteristics. In other words, if fear is one of your defects, silently ask God to take away your fear and replace it with faith and trust in God. And so on down the list. Not only is this a great way to include God in on relieving our shortcomings, but it is also a great way to affirm daily the direction within ourselves that we are trying to move toward.

The Step 7 List

This is a deeper Step Seven exercise that you can print out: Step 6 and 7 Exercise

This is a cool article on Step 7 -- From Head To Heart

According to the "Big Book" we have completed the information for practicing Step Seven on an ongoing basis. Now, it is time to clear away the wreckage of our past. We do this by making amends or restitution.

The Wraparound Mirror (Step 5)

I was a member of AA many times over a period of ten years, but I always met the same fate. I would get sober and become convinced I would never drink again. But I would eventually (most times in short order) find myself at a place where the obsession to drink would become too great, and once again I would be overcome by restlessness, irritability, and a feeling of discontent. I would begin to feel helpless and would sometimes struggle with the Steps before getting drunk once again.

Finally, something changed. Working out of the Big Book with my sponsor, I began to see a pattern, and I came to believe that unless I experienced the complete psychic change described in "The Doctor's Opinion," I would be completely hopeless. This process finally allowed me to give up and give in to the process of the Twelve Steps.

Going through the first four Steps in the Big Book was an ego-deflating and difficult process for me. I attended a Big Book workshop and a dozen of us went through the Steps. I was sure I was being misunderstood and that everyone could benefit from my experience if they would just listen to me. During the process of writing my Fourth Step, I decided to ask the facilitator of the group to hear my Fifth Step. Jeffrey became my second sponsor in AA and is still my sponsor today.

A date was set, but I was slow in completing my inventory and then had to finish by the assigned date or risk embarrassment. I was sure once Jeffrey heard my Fifth Step he would see how terribly I had been treated my entire life. He would see how the defects of selfishness and self-centeredness really did not apply to me.

The night before I was to do my Fifth Step, my inventory was still far from complete. I knew Jeffrey would be at my house in the morning, ready or not. I was living in a small apartment in back of a car lot. From upstairs I could look down the busy street and see the sign for a small convenience store. The thought of drinking was with me strongly. I did not know whether to finish the inventory or drink. My life at that time was completely unmanageable. I felt worthless and hopeless and could not understand how the Fifth Step was going to help me.

I continued to fight with the thought of going to that store and buying a bottle of cheap wine and drinking it down as fast as I could. I had a few dollars to my name and knew I could get the desired effect for a few hours. That night I spent most of my time thinking about drinking, and the rest praying I wouldn't. In between thinking about drinking and praying, I was writing the remainder of my Fourth Step. As the night dragged on, the legal time for selling alcohol passed. I continued writing well into the early morning and went to bed emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted.

Jeffrey arrived in the morning and we began our journey. Just before we started reading from the Big Book, Jeffrey told me some of the more horrendous and gruesome details of his drinking career. He shared some of his darkest secrets and told how he had planned at one time to take those items with him to his grave. We said a prayer and he left me alone for thirty minutes to add to my inventory those items I had left out or not found a place for. There were plenty.

When he returned, we went to it. Beginning with resentment, we went back through my life. Jeffrey began to point out how selfish I had been in most situations. How I claimed to love some people while the evidence in the inventory showed that I resented them for having some success in life. I was angry with any and all family members who had met with success. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I realized I'd never asked them about their lives because I really did not care. I cared only about my life and what was happening to me.

The depth of my selfishness and self-centeredness was clearer than ever. I saw how my own actions in most situations had placed me in a position to be hurt. My view of myself as a victim was losing reality. I could see, for the first time in my life, how completely self-absorbed I was. It was like being surrounded by a wraparound mirror - no matter what direction I looked in, I could see only myself.

We moved on to the fear section of the inventory and I began listing my fears. I was afraid of everything: afraid to stay sober and afraid to drink. Afraid to live and afraid to die. Afraid to lose and afraid to succeed. Afraid to be in a relationship and afraid I would not have a relationship. As we moved through the list, I saw that I could have made a much shorter list of those things I was NOT afraid of!

Jeffrey and I looked at everything on the fear list and, using the instructions from the Big Book, subjected each item to the question of why I was afraid. Was it not because self-reliance had failed me? We also looked at how most of my fears boiled down to the same thing - I was afraid I would be all alone in the world. I was afraid I would be in pain and die alone and afraid. I had relied only on myself all these years, and the best I could do had brought me to that point. I was dying, I was lonely, I was in pain, and I was afraid - sober or drunk.

We boiled down the fear list to my most basic fears and then looked at what each fear would be like if I relied upon God. I broke down in tears many times that day. I was still fighting; I was sure I would be able to fix all this once I knew what was wrong. I had been looking at the inventory as a method of finding out what was wrong with me and how I was going to fix it. I now saw that this was not possible. I would not be able to continue on my own. I saw how terribly damaged my life really was: the alcoholic family, my parents' divorce, the group homes, the jails and institutions, my alcoholism and drug addiction, the lies, the stealing, my broken relationships, the abuse of other people. I saw that this inventory really was about just what the Big Book said it was: identifying the weak items in our personal inventory and having them cast out. This was about getting a new life, as I could not fix the life I had been living.

We moved into the sex part of the inventory. I had written this as described in the Big Book. I had looked at each relationship and subjected it to the tests of selfishness, dishonesty, and inconsiderateness. I looked at those I had hurt as well as how I had aroused jealousy, suspicion, or bitterness. I was easily able to admit that I needed an overhauling here as well. I had taken all of these relationships and looked them over well. I had written a few paragraphs on my new ideal for this area of my life, and I read them to my sponsor. At that point I was truly ready to have my Higher Power take me to a new place in my life.

Then I read to my sponsor those things I had written during the thirty minutes he had left me that morning - the things I thought I would never tell anyone. We prayed and I was given instructions on some meditation I was to do and how to follow up my Fifth Step with Steps Six and Seven. When Jeffrey left, after we had been together for many hours, I was where I was supposed to be after a Fifth Step. I was completely ready to follow through with the rest of the Steps. I had the humility talked about in Step Seven. I truly knew I could not go another day living life the way I had been living it. A major shift took place in my life that day, and I did follow through with the rest of the Steps. I recently celebrated ten years of sobriety.

I hope this account of my Fifth Step finds its way into the heart of at least one alcoholic and encourages him or her to get a sponsor who has experience with the Steps and to ask to be taken through them. I have had the chance to sponsor many people since then and have been on the other end of many Fifth Steps. It is especially rewarding to watch the light come on for someone else the way it came on for me that day.

Ken D., from Lynnwood, Washington
May 2001, AA Grapevine

The 7th Step List

Characteristics of self-will:Characteristics of God's Will:
Selfishness & Self-seeking
Being Self-centered
Being Inconsiderate
Lustful Thoughts
Harmful Acts
Interest in Others/Altruism
Being Love-/Others-/God-centered
Faith & Trust in God
Being Considerate
Humility, Seeking God's Will
Giving & Sharing
Respectful Thoughts
Being Grateful
Taking Right Action
Love & Concern for Others
Good Deeds
Humility & Truth
Faith & Trust in God


I have always struggled with feelings of inadequacy - I always had an ideal of who and what I was suppose to be and the sad fact was that I never came close to reconciling my inner and outer worlds. I fell short in thought, word, and deed. So I gave up trying and settled deeper into the bottle. As my disease took a greater hold and my life became a living hell, I reached out for some form of relief, namely AA and the Twelve Steps.

The fog began to clear. I began to see the light at the end of a very long alcohol sodden tunnel. A fierce determination to be somebody, to be something, returned. My inner critic that I had locked up had sprung loose and began to wreak havoc. By then I had done a 4th and 5th Step and I saw how I fell short in all areas in my life. My selfishness was blatant and I was ruled by fear. I understood that it wasn't everyone else's fault; there was a part I played. I knew I didn't want to live like that anymore; I didn't want the consequences! I didn't want to drink so I said the Seventh Step prayer and moved on to my amends.

Life went on and I was wondering why I wasn't enjoying as much relief as the Big Book promised - I tried to live what I thought was a good life - I tried to behave kindly, (kill 'em with kindness) I faked it 'till I could make it every day. Something was missing. I still thought the same, I had this parallel thought process; on one hand I had the selfish, the fearful, resentful, and judgmental fighting with the patient, loving, tolerant thoughts, but that was as far as it went. I was still in so much pain. Torn between what I wanted and what I thought God wanted. My inner critic was kicking my butt. I had so many rules, standards, judgments and fears. I didn't outgrow fear. I converted it into a prison of politeness, superiority and judgment. While, deep down inside, I still felt inadequate, afraid and lonely.

The question is, "how did all of this change?" The fact that I am writing this proves that although I was closer to drinking that I had ever been, I didn't. By the grace and love of infinite God I sit here sober, happy and free. After four years of inner torture in recovery I am enjoying all of the promises of our book, and have been for a while. It started with one sentence in the Big Book; it changed my whole perception of the Steps. Recovery took on a whole new meaning. That fateful sentence can be found in WE AGNOSTICS:

Pg 53:2 - "When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?" I always took that to mean God was every thing - you know the trees, rocks, you, and me. One day I was listening in a meeting and it occurred to me that God has to be everything to me - He has to be involved in everything I do. My sponsor always says, "Get God involved, invite Him in". And I did. When I thought I couldn't handle something, I would say out loud, "Okay God, get involved " and things would be okay until next time. But I never offered ALL of me to ALL of God. I just offered what I couldn't do. What didn't occur to me was that I couldn't do anything relying on my own power (remember the miserable results?). My relationships with myself, God, you, everything, had to be totally in His care because they weren't mine anyway, they were His. HE IS EVERYTHING! So with this lightning bolt up my butt, I looked at the book again.

While reading "How It Works" with a protégé I had an epiphany, I saw a paragraph in a way I had never seen it before:

Pg 62:2 - "So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God's help."

Then it occurred to me that I had been trying to moralize or philosophize myself into unselfishness. As I thought about it, I remembered that there were other places in the book that echoed such sentiments. My book just opened to them:

Pg 66:4 - "We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol."

I never thought that I was just as powerless over resentment or self as I was over booze. I always just looked at it as a matter of character defects. And that if I knew what they were, I could work on them, with God's help of course. I saw that I was not in control of my emotional nature - that was God's job. I was under qualified. Next I turned to:

Pg 44:4 and 45:0 - "If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn't there. Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power?"

With all of these things running around my mind, I asked myself what they meant. My answer was rather profound to me. This may be something you guys have already grasped but to me it was news. I had always known it in my head but never integrated it as part of my soul. At that moment it became part of me. I knew that I couldn't control any relationship in my life; I was just borrowing God's love in these things. His loving hands and the invisible threads of His grace hold my life together. My life had been shot through with the evil and corroding thread of fear, which is now equally balanced with God's loving mesh.

With that, I was able to go beyond human power, to grab a hold of something that truly allowed me to see myself as I am. After having finished an intense (long form) inventory I took my quiet hour, while reflecting on the first 5 steps and what I just learned, I got the idea of applying all of this to Step Seven. So instead of just saying the prayer, I thought about what I was asking for.

I was asking God to have all of me, not just my character, my soul, my fate, but ALL that I am - a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an A.A., a human being, all of these things. To allow Him to guide and direct me, to truly be His agent, to offer all that I may be, along with everything that I once was, to a God who was with me every step of the way.

So I made a list from my 4th Step of all the places that I had utterly failed under my own power (where I brought confusion) and asked Him to have it ALL. I placed this list in to my God box and knelt down to say the prayer with a deeper understanding of what I was doing. I was asking God to live in and through me, and for the first time I felt what I said.

The results are apparent - I don't talk at meetings to sound good, I ask God to speak if I open my mouth, I don't give crap to protégés because I trust God to guide them as He has me, I don't try to manipulate to get what I think I need. Furthermore, I have found the grace to transcend years of abuse and fear in order to trust and love the members of the opposite sex without guile or fear.

To communicate with fellow children of our infinite God on a level that I couldn't have dreamed of (I no longer fear being found out). Today I truly see myself and everyone else as a child of God. So for me, that change was pretty profound. I hope that this little story may help someone else to bridge the gap between his or her inner and outer world.

Kerry C.

Continue to Working Steps 8 and 9

Return to Working The Steps Index

Index of AA History Pages on Barefoot's Domain

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of AA with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In AA and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 from the Big Book



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