Yes, naked! Step 5 makes me feel like I'm about to totally expose myself. Sometimes revealing what's on the inside is harder than stripping down naked in front of an audience. To be clear, I am not sure about that fact, it's just what I think. First a little weekend recap.
Last weekend was a really good one over here at the Hoppen’s. We goofed off all weekend! Didn't accomplish a darn thing and we were totally ok with that. We still have a summer project list a mile long, but hey, once and awhile you need to just play. We went to the Farmer's Market and to hang out with our daughter and son-in-law on Saturday. We went for an early dinner outside at one of our favorite places. To be clear I said early dinner, not early bird, even though it was only 4:30. Hey, no line! However, eating that early sets you up for really really wanting ice cream around 9:00. We caved. Sunday was lazy. All day. All good. You have to have a weekend like that once and awhile right?! I see a few more like that in our future yet this summer. As I get older (and wiser) that to do list become less and less important. I hope you had a good weekend as well!
Ok, on to Step 5. Here’s a review of the first 4. If you are intrigued to learn more about the 12 Step process, I highly encourage you to google anything you want to know. There is a ton of information out there at your fingertips.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our problems-that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.
Step 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This stinks. Wasn't the 4th step hard enough? Step 4 had me taking a moral inventory and it wasn't pretty. Now, I needed to take that information from the fourth step and do Step 5. (I am not going into all the ways this is done in AA because not all of us here are coming from a place of substance abuse.) This is a hard step to do. Just a thought here, but couldn’t we all could take some time to talk about what is holding us back in life with someone we trust?
The 5th Step is not about wallowing in guilt and shame over our past. Instead, it is a means of reconciling ourselves with the past and finally putting guilt and shame behind us for good. It’s also crucial in helping us get to a place where we get back our sense of honor and self respect.
The other thing to remember about Step 5 is, we are talking about someone who no longer exists. So when and if you decide to do this, you are on the other side of your problem/addiction. The Sherry from the past did the best she could under the circumstances when she was still drinking. My thinking was so distorted when I was still drinking. I was in a bottomless pit of lies, shame, and guilt. Those were my 3 strongest emotions and it’s a terrible place to live.
So, I started with God. When I got on my knees (literally) and surrendered my addiction to God, he was the easiest person to start with. He knew it all anyway, right? He had watched me crash and burn for quite some time and had been patiently waiting for me to come to him. I spent a lot of time alone with God those first few months of sobriety and still do.
After God, I needed to come clean with a lot of my past with my husband. He spent so much time trying to keep our family together while I was destroying it with addiction. We have had some serious and lengthy conversations about the past, but most of the time we choose to leave it where it belongs now. In the past. I don’t want any secrets between us so once and awhile (ok often) a memory will surface about something I said or did and I need him to know about it. I don’t want any lies between us ever again. The most hurtful times are when he will reflect on a time that he has a good memory of, and I ruin that memory for him when I confess I was secretly drinking that day. That happens with friends too. Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry, but I don't hold back. There isn't any freedom in that.
Step 5 says that after admitting your wrongs to God, you need to sit down with a person you trust and tell them all about your past wrongs as well. I did that with my husband. Traditionally you would do that with your sponsor, but I didn't have a sponsor and that was ok. I had an unbelievable support system in him and some close friends that I knew I could count on. I think that Step 5 is never finished, just like Step 4. If I have to apologize to someone for something I did in the “drinking years,” I am going to do that.
Over the past few years, I have apologized to family and friends that I hurt and there were many. Last fall, I had a memory weighing on me of a night gone really bad with a longtime friend that I love and respect. It was an embarrassing night that stayed with me and wasn't going to go away on its own. It’s the kind of friendship that we don't see each other very often, but when we do it's all good! So, I asked her to go to lunch. I apologized for that night and told her that I was in recovery. Not an easy thing to do; I hadn't gone public yet.
As I reflected on that day, I realized that I left that old self behind. The old me would have contacted her for all the wrong reasons. The number one reason being that I didn't want her to look down on me in any way. First of all, a true friend wouldn't do that, and of course she didn’t. I wanted to make amends because I valued our friendship and was more willing to tell her I was a recovering alcoholic, than to cushion the story to make me look better. She was so understanding and supportive. We had a long lunch as we caught up and it was good, so good. I drove home that day in complete peace and happiness over what God had brought us to that day.
This verse popped up in my devotions this morning and I thought about how so many friends have been willing to overlook all my offenses. It’s taught me to do the same.
That's what happened that day at lunch. We definitely bonded over the situation and I feel our friendship is where it is supposed to be. Now, instead of wanting to hide when I run into her I feel joy and that is so freeing!
That’s just one of many examples. Believe me, there are many more where that came from! Step 5 is about reconciling with the past and leaving the guilt and shame about our past behavior where it belongs. We don't need to live in the reflection of our past mistakes everyday. God desires for us to live in a place of freedom, and you can’t do that if you aren't willing to take a close look at where you have been. You cannot be at peace until you are completely, whole-heartedly okay with who you are-and that includes being okay with who you were and what you have done.
When I went public with my story earlier this year, there were many of my friends in the audience that day. I felt such incredible love and support from all of them and was so grateful for that. There was a time when one of my fears about quitting drinking would be that I would have to make all new friends. I would certainly lose the ones I had after they found out about the life of lies I was living. Some of them I had already hurt very deeply. I was so wrong. Old friendships are strengthened and renewed. New friendships are made with no apologies needed about who I was. I count every friendship as a blessing and a gift.
There is a saying, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” Your secrets can keep you in that place of darkness. No one who loves you (that includes God) wants you to stay there. Get well and come clean with yourself and move into some self forgiveness to do this. Use the steps as a guideline. God has big plans for you; don’t let your past hold you back from carrying them out.
The song playing right now as I wrap this up is so familiar I had almost tuned it out, but when I caught the words that were being sung, I was brought to tears at how fitting this was here. Love God’s timing. So, I am going to end with this today:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost and now I am found. Was blind but now I see.