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

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. 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. The best reason first: 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 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.

A.A. Big Book, p. 72-73

Comments from Websites and Publications

Having taken my personal inventory in step 4, I am now ready to share that inventory. I share it with my God, with myself and with another human being. This allows my history to become more real with me. It begins to become in my mind what it truly is, namely "my history". By sharing it with another person, I begin to pull down the fake truths of my life - the facades and the games - and I begin to be who I truly am and build my life with others on the basis of honesty and truth.


All of A.A.'s Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires ... they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few Steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind than this one.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 55

Some people seek an easier and softer way by doing a "general confession" to God alone. They are not about to name specifically the humiliating, "awful" things they have done out loud before another human being. But this act of specifically confessing things is what often leads to serenity. The more afraid you are to tell about a certain act or thought in your Fifth Step, the more likely it is that confessing that particular thing will put a new crack in your denial and free you in a new area. There doesn't seem to be an easier, softer way, and people who seek one apparently don't understand the tenacious and tricky nature of this spiritual disease we are facing. Step Five is to help us see, to grasp, to understand specifically how the disease has permeated our lives in ways we usually cannot see any other way.

A Hunger for Healing, p. 91-92

The Fifth Step is the key to freedom. It allows us to live clean in the here and now. Sharing the exact nature of our wrongs sets us free to live. After taking a thorough Fourth Step, we have to deal with what we have found in our inventory. We are told that if we keep these defects inside us, they will lead us back to using. Holding on to our past would eventually sicken us and keep us from taking part in this new way of life. If we are not honest when we take a Fifth Step, we will have the same negative results that dishonesty brought us in the past. ...

Our Higher Power will be with us when we do this, and will help to free us from the fear of facing ourselves and another human being. It seemed unnecessary to some of us to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to our Higher Power. "God already knows that stuff", we rationalized. Although He already knows, the admission must come from our own lips to be truly effective. Step Five is not simply a reading of Step Four.

Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 5

This may be one of the most challenging steps we face in our recovery process, but it can also be one of the most fulfilling in terms of removing us from our isolation. In order to accomplish Step 5, the three-part sharing it endorses must take place. That is, all of what we discovered about ourselves in our Step 4 inventory is to be freely admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being. ...

Because these areas are so sensitive and so very personal, it is important to exercise care in choosing the person or persons with whom we formally share our fifth step. Such individuals should be trustworthy and somewhat detached from the situations about which we will share. For example, one would not usually call on a spouse or immediate family member to hear this confession. In fact, it is quite common to choose a therapist or pastoral counselor for this purpose. Also, such individuals should be compassionate, not condemning.

Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 45, 46

Two things we need to begin working Step Five are courage and a sense of trust in the process of recovery. If we have both these things, we'll be able to work through more specific fears and go through with the admissions we need to make in this step. ...

As addicts, one of the biggest problems we have is telling the difference between our responsibility and the responsibilities of others. We blame ourselves for catastrophes over which we have no control. Conversely, we're often in complete denial about how we have hurt ourselves and others. We overdramatize minor troubles, and we shrug off major problems we really should be taking a look at. If we're not sure what the exact nature of our wrongs is when we begin our Fifth Step, we'll know by the time we finish - because of making our admissions to another human being. What we can't see, our listener can, and he or she will help us sort out what we need to accept as our responsibility and what we don't.

Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides, p. 45, 47

Repeatedly, the new AA member is reminded to choose a person he or she trusts and feels comfortable with to work the 5th Step. This would appear to be obvious and yet at times people will choose someone who appears knowledgeable and experienced in the program at the expense of personal trust and comfort. Some sober thought should go into the choice of a person with whom to share this material. ...

Many people will choose a member of the clergy to work the 5th Step with. There are several reasons why this may be beneficial. First is the familiarity that many clients have with the traditional role of clergy in hearing confession or other types of personal disclosure. However, another reason why a clergyperson may be indicated is when there are disclosures of a criminal nature. There are real limits to the confidentiality that a therapist can promise to a client, whereas the confidentiality of a clergy member is more durable and more legally impenetrable than that of a therapist or a sponsor in AA. While this may not be an everyday concern, the increased confidentiality offered by the clergy may be a comfort even when there are no legal issues at stake.

For the person who may be reluctant to burden another with this task, it is helpful to point out that there is a benefit to listeners as well. First, they get to reexperience the process and are free to share some relevant experiences of their own. Second, it is part of the basic premise of the program that helping others is central to the recovery process. While a person shares a 5th Step with someone, listeners are working on their own 12th Step.

A Clinician's Guide to 12 Step Recovery, p. 47-48