Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fifth Step

Other guys have talked about what a release they felt, like a huge load off their backs. The Big Book says,
"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 can begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. 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."
So, I was expecting harps and choirs of angels. But my Step Five just wasn't that big a deal.

Maybe there was stuff I didn't talk about -- I didn't consciously hold anything back, but it could be there's stuff I haven't uncovered, that I don't recognize, that I'm in denial about.

What I felt most was disgust. Like when I start cleaning the kitchen sink after letting dishes pile up for a week or two, and discovering rotten sights and smells. Finding all the garbage.

The progress, I think, is that for once I didn't feel self-loathing. What disgusted me were the defects of character, and the behavior they have caused. All sitting there together in a big stinking ugly pile. But they felt detached from me. No more a part of me than what's in my garbage can.

Maybe I didn't feel a big release because there was not much I haven't told someone about, sometime in my past. I've had plenty of shrinks, and I've been blessed with people I've trusted that I've told my secrets to. I've talked about the really awful shameful stuff, even shared some at meetings, because it isn't the most embarrassing stuff to disclose. So it was the most embarrassing things that I disclosed for the first time, rather the most shameful things, if you understand my distinction, and I guess the truly shameful things are the ones that weigh so much.

I didn't feel delight, peace, ease, didn't feel fear falling away as though exfoliated. It was a spiritual experience, but not a burning bush. I certainly had no strong feeling that the drink problem has disappeared. It's still a daily decision, sometimes a daily struggle.

Maybe step five was underwhelming because I'm still in early sobriety -- most people don't seem to embark on the steps as early as I have. Maybe it's because I'm doing the steps according to the schedule of my workshop, rather than working a step only once I feel secure in the previous step. Maybe the first character defect I need to work in steps six and seven is "impatience." :)

In any case, I see I'm kind of wallowing in a form a disappointment in this post. I am, actually, feeling some pride and gratitude about it. I DID it! Not perfectly, not completely, but I made a start. I should probably consider what I wrote in my last post, that the vast majority of the guys in my workshop are doing their steps for the second, third, sixth, seventh time -- apparently they didn't do it "perfectly" their first time either, once and for all time! I hope in 5 or 10 years, I'll find myself in another workshop, working the steps for the fifth or tenth time, and getting new insight and new growth in my life and deeper serenity in my sobriety.


At 3/17/2005 06:32:00 PM, Blogger dAAve said...

I felt basically the same with Steps 4 and 5. They provided the means to begin "cleaning my side fo the street." No huge revelations except that Step 4 pointed out all of my lifetime resentments towards others AND myself.

Steps 6 and 7 remain the focus of my program at 18 months sober. I attempt to live ALL the steps each day, but focus on 6 and 7.

I think each of the steps provide different levels of importance for each of us, depending on where we were, where we are and what we need to remain sober and make progress.

As more is revealed in the future, and we work the steps again formally with a sponsor, these steps that did not make a big difference the first time may be just what we need after 3 years, 4 years or more in sobriety. That's impossible to say right now.


At 3/17/2005 06:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if you can detach form that disgust you will feel a sense of freedom. I think thats what Im picking up in your post.
Congrats on doing step 5...Remeber its daily living..Whatever you have omitted accidently will be revealed in time
Keep up the good work Phil


At 3/18/2005 04:53:00 AM, Blogger Faith said...

I know exactly what you mean! I've done two fifth steps, each one more indepth than the last, but still I didn't feel "cleansed" afterward as I thought I should. My shame and guilt are so raw and brutal that it IS hard to get them out. It takes years and years, I think, before you can really release it (if ever.) I too can share the embarrassing (funny) events from my drinking pretty easily. The dirt from the shame is harder to shed.

At 3/18/2005 12:56:00 PM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

For what it's worth mate, and it is only my opinion; I think this is your strongest post yet, you know.

There seems to be a shift in how you're looking at yourself and your "garbage". And there seems to be a wee bit less beating yourself up (..but that too shall pass...ha, ha, ha). It's good to read.

"In any case, I see I'm kind of wallowing in a form a disappointment in this post. I am, actually, feeling some pride and gratitude about it. I DID it! Not perfectly, not completely, but I made a start. " the Book says "We are not saints...spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection" and all that good stuff.

You didn't come across as wallowing at all.

Righteous stuff. Love it. Thanks for the share.

At 3/18/2005 05:02:00 PM, Anonymous LWS said...

Hey man; it's not about lashing yourself and wallowing. It's just about being willing to look at and acknowledge things about yourself that aren't that you aren't especially proud of. I don't believe anything in AA is meant, or should, make someone feel despair or overwhelming guilt. We're here to make ourselves better and find joy, not kick ourselves after we've knocked ourselves down. Good going, and keep working it.

At 3/20/2005 06:39:00 AM, Blogger Grace said...

Well done, you can see how much you've grown.

At 3/22/2005 07:31:00 PM, Blogger doughgirl said...

ok Phil, its been far to long....where are you :)

At 3/25/2005 12:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil, I had a similar reaction to the one you describe of being "disgusted." I didn't and wouldn't use that term though. For me, it was a feeling of humility -- for the first time in my life I felt like I saw myself in right relation to my Higher Power. I felt "entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." The memory of that feeling is burned into my memory and I recall it whenever I need to remember what humility is.

It wasn't as early in sobriety -- I had 21 months -- and I hadn't unloaded all the "shameful" stuff, but I had divulged my deepest and darkest secret, the one I was going to carry to my grave, to my sponsor before I even started the fourth step.



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