28 May Step 5: Cleaning Out the Closet
Step 5 reads, “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
In recovery, there is a saying: we’re as sick as our secrets. Each of us has things in our past that we believed that we could never tell another person. They are almost always related to shame. Shame is not the same thing as guilt. Guilt is the knowledge that I have done a bad thing. Shame is the belief that I am a bad person. See the difference? “It was bad,” versus “I am bad.” That’s a huge difference! We can put guilt behind us with relative ease by making up for our actions in some way, but shame becomes a part of us.
If we’re cleaning the kitchen, we can take the garbage out to the dumpster or we can dump it in the closet. If we do that, eventually it will start to seep out under the door, and it will become impossible to enter the kitchen, let alone the closet. To get our kitchen in order, we must first clean out that closet — a job no one wants, but one that is essential. It is probably safe to say that complete recovery is impossible unless we free ourselves of that burden, and the only way is to tell another person about it.
In order to do this you need someone you can trust. Some use a sponsor and others use a therapist. Some use a person in the fellowship with whom they feel especially comfortable. The principle behind Step 5 is integrity; honesty with yourself, with others, and willingness to practice it even when you’d rather not — doing the next right thing, regardless of your fears. It is amazing how much of the burden can be lifted by the simple act of telling our secrets. . We all have those closets, and we all had to take out the trash. When we share with others, we rob the secrets of their power over us.