Step 5: Sharing Your Secrets and Finding that Person You can Trust

Contributor: David M. Marshall IV of Intervention 911

butterfly-17057_640The twelve steps of AA are built on a foundation of spiritual principals, including courage, trust and honesty (Spiritual Principles in Action, 2009). Step five, which asks us to admit to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs, strengthens this foundation and reaffirms our commitment to recovery.

Typically, fear and angst are the first things that come to mind when one contemplates the idea of revealing our deepest held secrets to another, and while we may want recovery deep down, the prospect of discussing the nature of our wrongs and divulging our secrets to anyone may be terrifying. If we allow these feelings to stop our progress at step five, we stop moving forward in our recovery.

Step five instills in us the courage to overcome our fears of rejection and the shame of our confession. When we experience true honesty, we break the pattern of denial that often plagues those of us suffering from addiction (AA Step 5, 2015).

The Courage of Step 5

The courage to work through step five is often a result of the hard work put into the previous four steps, which are the bedrock upon which solid sobriety is found. Therefore, finding the right treatment and aftercare facility to begin the steps and our journey toward recovery is essential.

This article briefly discusses the importance of sharing your secrets in step five and finding that person you can trust, and how treatment can help you and your families build trust and achieve your short and long term treatment goals.

Dumping Guilt and Anger

Young woman writes to black diaryAccording to author and addictions counselor Leo Booth (1997), “it is essential for recovery and long-term sobriety that an addict learn to dump his/her guilt and express feelings of anger, resentment, embarrassment, and despair (p. 271).” As an addict myself, I believed that my problem was drugs and alcohol. I never realized that these “things” were merely manifestations of the guilt, anger, and shame I was feeling within.

Before learning to identify and purge these feelings in steps four and five, I would keep these resentments to myself and allow them to affect me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Inevitably, when the pain became too great and I could find no other way to relieve my dis-ease (sic), I would turn to the bottle and needle in search of comfort.

I knew I was an addict, but couldn’t understand why putting the drugs and alcohol down weren’t enough. I needed a sponsor and months in sober living to help me see that drugs and alcohol weren’t my problem and that I couldn’t get sober alone.

Sharing the Fifth Step with Someone

The person we share our fifth step with should be someone who understands the process of recovery thoroughly. As addicts, breaking the cycle of addiction without help is nearly impossible. Part of recovering is building our self-worth enough to know that what we share is worth listening to, and that we are worthy of forgiveness and respect.

Many choose to complete step five with a sponsor, or someone within our fellowship who understands the process and will help us gain insight into the nature of the wrongs we are confessing (AA Step 5, 2015). For me, trust was an abstract ideal. It made no sense. What I realize now is that it couldn’t make sense using my old thinking and behavior patterns. I had to learn to trust and it required action on my part.

My Story: Adjusting to the Real World

Man with his dogIn January 2015, I was due to leave treatment in Palm Springs and return to New York City. Before leaving, an aftercare representative at my treatment facility sat with me to discuss staying in Palm Springs at Ken Seeley’s sober living. I wanted no part of it. What could sober living do for me? Reluctantly, however, I agreed to stay. It was the best decision I ever made.

Sober living afforded me the opportunity to develop a strong sober network, and slowly adjust to the “real world” with other sober men. It was there that I learned to incorporate the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous into my life and develop trusting relationships with other sober men. It was there I also learned the key to long term sobriety.

By incorporating and creating a team of peers and families, I can better understand that addiction is not solved by 30 day treatment alone. It is a long term, continuum of care that focuses on accountability to a program of recovery.

Being Open with Ourselves

As addicts, it is often difficult for us to be open and honest with ourselves about past behaviors, and trust another addict enough to reveal our secrets. For me, I could not have done this had I not made the decision to focus on my sobriety among other men struggling with the same issues.

With the support of my sober living family, I was able to work through the first four steps with my sponsor, and muster the courage to trust him and be completely honest about my past behaviors. With his help, I was finally able to understand why I drank and used. Working through step five afforded me a new lease on life, and sober living provided the perfect support and setting.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What importance has Step 5 held for you in your recovery? What have you learned that you would like to share with someone just starting a recovery program?


  1. AA Step 5 (2015).

  3. Booth, L. (1987). Alcoholism and the Fourth and Fifth Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs doi:10.1080/02791072.1987.10472411, 19 269-274. 
  4. Spiritual Principles in Action (2009).

About the Author:

Ken Seeley, founder of Ken Seeley Communities and is a world renowned interventionist and recovering addict with extensive ties to recovery communities throughout the country. Ken Seeley offers a wide array of affordable services through Ken Seeley Communities and Intervention911, including his Recovery Advocate Program (RAP), which is a five year recovery plan modeled after the highly successful Doctor’s Diversion and Airline Pilot programs. These programs include case management, life skills coaching, intensive outpatient services, and sober living, and boast extremely high recovery rates.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 8th, 2015
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