Saturday, 12 December 2015

Step Five

"Having made our personal inventory, what shall we do about it?..
We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world."

"Into Action," Big Book

In Step Four, defects, fears, harms and resentments had been listed. Whilst I wasn't alone when I did Step Four, I was alone in the sense I had to sit and be with the blank pages in front of me. Starting with fears, my sponsor made me divide my blank pages into columns. I did the same for harms done to others and resentments. I took one page at a time and completed the paper work for Step Four. Some of it I struggled with because I didn't understand it. I was grateful I was in the same room as my sponsor because as I went along doing the work, I could ask for help where I was confused and struggling. I did want to be as honest as possible, and for me, I also have to understand something completely, because only when I understand what is being asked of me, can I know where to start in digging deep to find those answers.

Although that part of Step Four was done alone, when I did the Byron Katie Work, as discussed in the last post, it was a joint effort. I was answering as we went along. The Work involves being facilitated when answering the questions. But this part of the process was one I completed quiet and alone, and after finishing discussed with my sponsor.

Once I had completed the forms, and my blank pages were filled with pencil scribbles trying to get beneath all that was in me to achieve full honesty, I was to then share. It was hard. I am not going to sit here and say that, "admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs," is easy, it did however, lift a huge weight. For so long I had kept everything to myself. In the past, I had engaged in honest and raw therapy, where I would give a voice to past traumas, sitting in a room with a therapist. But since then, it had been a good number of years since I had done anything remotely like share my inner self.

At first, I think I thought, or in fact, full of fervour believed, I wasn't really holding anything back. What else could there be in my past to uncover or delve into? I had years of therapy behind me, what could not have been said in that time? I believed I was always honest with those treating me, my psychiatrist and anyone else. And at times I had been. At times of dark and deep despair, the truth about how I felt always came out. Suffering brought me desperation and said desperation made me voice my pain. At rock bottom, I would eventually ask for help.

There was a big difference for me, in being in a room with my psychiatrist discussing my mood, especially when I was in absolute depressive pain, and what can he do to help me move forward, and the everyday facade I would wear to get me through my day-to-day life. Hiding from others sure, but from myself too. Drinking and over medicating, were also masks. They masked my suffering. They also worsened it, but they gave me some room to breath. They offered a way out of my head. They allowed me to escape from the reality of daily life. They served as coping mechanisms to keep my head somewhat above water so I didn't have to show others just how much pain I was in.

I think my honesty, up until this point, had therefore relied on what I was saying, not what I did not say. I wasn't lying, I was just withholding the truth. I was just not saying everything. And I thought that was okay. And what was clearly evident, was that which I wasn't saying, is that which kept me ill. I had to get honest, and not just my version of honest. I couldn't just be 90% honest and think that was enough, I had to reach into what I wasn't saying, and most essentially why was I not saying it. And I think the why was shame. I didn't want to admit to certain pains and struggles. I didn't want to be honest with myself, let alone another person, when it came to who I had hurt, or what I was scared of. I also didn't want to look at who had hurt me and caused me resentments. What I knew of this program is that at some point I would be making an amends. I didn't even know what that meant! Saying sorry? Why would I have to say sorry and why in hell would I say sorry to someone who hurt me. I had no understanding or concept of this. As evolved as I thought I was at this point, I had a hell of a lot of growing up to do, and for me, honesty with another person was humbling. I wasn't berating myself and I wasn't rising up in defence at the slightest criticism. Someone was sat by me, with a clear objective eye, helping me assess my past behaviours and guide me towards what I can do next.

After completing Step Five, my sponsor had me sit quietly, as advised in the book, and read the following:

Returning home we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have done. We thank God from the bottom of our hearts that we know Him better. Taking this book down from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the twelve steps. Carefully reading the first five proposals 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? If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step Six.

I sat in the silence, mulled over the Steps we had taken, and was satisfied I was ready for the next part of the program, Step Six.


I saw the benefit of sharing things I'd kept to myself almost immediately. I was learning so much more about myself because by answering the questions in Step Four, I was in a place to discuss what I had unearthed. And that was Step Five, a discussion. It was carried out with kindness and compassion on the behalf of my sponsor, and it took honesty and humility for me to share, and that bonds you with someone. It forms a caring and nurturing attachment based on true selves. Not masked selves. But true selves.

My true self is one who I had hidden all this time. I didn't know who I was and I didn't want to know. I just knew being me didn't feel right and whenever I didn't feel right, I masked it with drink or drugs, or anything else available. When I shared my Step Four, in Step Five with another, I also learnt about the other person too. Realising I had more in common with those around me than I thought, I began to see the overwhelming advantages of honesty. If I was opening myself up, the next person was opening themselves up. The more I shared about myself, the more others shared about themselves. It was like a chain reaction. 

From being isolated, alienated and alone, I suddenly found myself among those who understood me. By hearing others stories and experiences, I could take more objective viewpoints on those aspects of my life. I may hear others struggle with mental illness as myself, and I gain greater compassion for myself. The advice I offer them, in turn becomes the advice I am giving myself. I am not caging secrets within me. With such honesty, connection and compassion, I have found stability in managing my mental health, and degrees of serenity in recovery, I could never have dreamed of before getting sober.

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