Step 5 of the 12 Steps

Step 5 of the 12 Steps is very often misunderstood. It is about sharing our Step 4 with our sponsor, but more importantly the honest admission to ourselves, to God and to another person that brings about spiritual growth.

We admitted to God, to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

There is often a lot of fear around the fifth step, we often have very familiar feelings of fear or rejection, fear of judgement. We often don’t know if we can trust out sponsor yet and things brings about fear too.

step 5 of the 12 steps

The first time we work our Step 5 we need to face our fear and trust in our Higher Power, this is where our Step 3 really comes into play. Step 5 helps us to work through our fears, and to pray for courage and willingness.

Despite our fears we move forward and continue with our recovery.

Working the first four steps prepares us to work our Step 5.

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and another Human Being…”

Admitting the nature of our wrongs to God differs from person to person, each of us has a different understanding of our Higher Power and it is very personal. Some invite their Higher Power into their lives, other make a formal admission to God.

Once again in recovery we have to be honest with ourselves, we will find this being a common theme in our recovery. This is vitally important because during our active addiction we were lying to ourselves. We were in denial of our problem and our actions.

It is also very important to admit the nature of our wrongs to another person. We often cannot see what others can and other people can help us to accept responsibility for things, and also to accept what we don’t need to take responsibility for.

This will often be the very first time we are honest with another person. Our relationship with our sponsor is very often the first honest relationship we have, it is how we learn how to have healthy relationships with others.  The therapeutic nature of one addict helping another really comes into play with this step. The person we share our fifth step with will often also share their own personal experiences with us.

What is Meant by “The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs”

It is very important to distinguish between the actual wrongs we have committed and the nature of our wrongs. While we are doing our fifth step we will most likely see a pattern starting to emerge, a repetition of the same type of thing happening over and over in our lives. We often refer to these behaviors as our character defects.

So what has my personal experience of Step 5 been?

My first experience doing Step 5 was very scary. I still truly believed that I was somehow special and different. I thought the things I had done during my active addiction would make my sponsor reject me and make her think even less of me.

For this reason I purposefully did not include a lot of my wrong doings in my Step 4 and 5 the first time. To be honest there were a few complete lies in my first round of steps.

So I shared selectively the first time, but even so I expected a little bit of shock and disgust. What happened was completely unexpected. When I shared the worst things I had done my sponsor laughed and told me something she had done which was almost exactly the same. Everything I had experienced she had too, she didn’t turn her back on me, she didn’t run from the room in horror.

We landed up having a good laugh and I started to forgive myself. The next round of steps I got truly honest and I told her that I had purposefully left out a lot of things that I was too ashamed to talk about. I included these things in the second round of steps. Once again she laughed with me and told me she did exactly the same thing. She told me this is why we do the steps over and over again. It is not about getting it 100% correct the first time, it is progress not perfection.

I have now found the same thing when I have a sponsee and a look forward to it. It is not easy to trust someone immediately, so someone will share a little bit to begin with and as they start to trust me more they will share more and get more honest. As this happens I can see spiritual growth in myself and the other person. The therapeutic nature of this program is that when I have a sponsee I am not just helping my sponsee, I am helping myself at the same time.

This step can bring on great spiritual growth, self-love, acceptance and forgiveness. I highly recommend it!

Have you worked a Step 5 before? What was your experience like? Please leave a comment if you have any questions or anything to share.

Buy the Narcotics Anonymous Stepworking Guide 




  1. Kevin says:

    This is a great article, thank you for sharing it.

    It’s five years five months since I decided to end my love/hate relationship with drugs, I’ve fallen off the wagon a good couple of times but luckily never to far before being helped back on.

    I’d never considered NA before, not even sure they have a big presence here in the UK. I suppose they must have but I just never looked.

    It tends to be very regional here… and supported by local government as much as anything.

    I think I’ll look into it and see if I can’t join a meeting, try to avoid falling off instead of climbing back up!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Kevin, well done for getting clean! I really do advise Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. I know that Alcoholics Anonymous is strong all over the world so if there is no NA near you just go to AA 🙂 I have found working a 12 step program and going to meetings has really kept me strong. It helps me work on myself on a daily basis.

    • Diana says:

      I found this to be very inspirational. I have a brother who is currently suffering from narcotic and alcoholism and I have been struggling with the best way to reach out to him. He is only 24 years old, but looks so much older due to the drugs. I had never given any thought that there could be an underlying issue such as depression, but now I totally see that. Do you have any advice on how to reach out? I would love to get him into a treatment facility but I’m worried about cost.

      • Lynne says:

        Hi Diana, so sorry to hear about your brother. The hard part is that you cannot force the addict to get help, he needs to go when he is ready, which is when he hits his rock bottom. I would really advise you to contact Nar-Anon or Al-anon. You can get support for yourself there and they will help you and guide on how best to be able to help your brother. It is very hard for the families to know what the best thing to do is, very often the family of an addict/ alcoholic enables and rescues… which ultimately doesn’t help the situation even though it is done with the best of intentions.

        Treatment is always a great option, BUT it is very expensive and there is always no guarantee he will get it right. There are lots of people that get clean from Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. If you follow my posts you will see that treatment got me clean, but it is the meetings that keep me clean. If you can introduce your brother to the 12 step meetings that would be a great place to start!

        Best of luck to you, your brother and your family.

      • Helena says:

        Congratulations on being addiction free for awhile now! And thanks so much for helping others better understand what the 12-step program is and maybe overcoming some of their reservations in taking advantage of that resource! You’re doing more good than you probably realize! Thank you!

        • Lynne says:

          Hi Helena, thanks for visiting and for your kind words. I hope to see you here again 🙂

        • Curt says:

          Great article. Whilst I haven’t gone through this type of program to deal with my addiction issues it certainly resonates as something that is vitally important. Getting validation of what an addict goes through from another addict is like extracting out poison. Keeping it bottled up for me had a downwards affect in my recovery. Holding myself accountable to myself and God has helped me immensely in being able to kick addiction issues, which were the result of being raised by abusive parents.

          • Lynne says:

            Hi Curt

            I really suggest that you check out the stepwork guide, the link is in the post. It is what has kept me clean for 7 years 🙂

          • Anna says:

            Hi Lynne,

            While I am not an addict myself, I had a mom who was an alcoholic and it was extremely difficult for me growing up. I encourage anyone who is in the same situation to go to Al-Anon or Alateen.

            I admire you so much for everything you have accomplished and for all that you are doing now to help others who are suffering from addiction.

            I want to extend my warmest wishes to you for continued health and happiness. Thank you for sharing your story and experiences!


            • Lynne says:

              Thanks Anna. I am so sorry to hear about your struggles growing up with an alcoholic mother, that must have been terribly hard for you and your family.

              I hope your mother found recovery.

            • Jessica says:

              Have you completed the Steps? I see that the posts only go to Step 5.

              • Lynne says:

                Hi Jessica

                I am so sorry, I have only seen your comment now. Yes I have completed the steps a number of times over in the last 10+ years of sobriety. I just have not found the time to finish up writing about then on my website!

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