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Five - Building an Arch
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1989
first heard about Step Five from my sponsor. He had recently
taken his, and it didn't sound like fun. His immediate reaction
to his own "spiritual house cleaning" was to launch
me upon a Fourth Step. He wanted to give away what he'd
received. I thought, "What happened to 'This is a selfish
Four took a very long time. At all of it I balked. I thought
I could find an easier, softer way, but I could not. With
all the earnestness at his command, my sponsor became cunning,
baffling, and powerful, constantly reminding me that half
measures availed me nothing. I hated him.
day finally came when even I had to admit that I'd completed
Step Four to the best of my ability. That's what had me
so upset. The best of my ability didn't look so hot in those
days. I called my sponsor to tell him I'd finished, expecting
to take a six-month to one-year sabbatical from the Steps
after this arduous trek into my life. That's when he lowered
the boom. "Great," he said. "The best time
to take the Fifth Step is right after you finish the Fourth.
Meet me at my home tomorrow at six." Son of a gun!
"Who do you think you are?" I thought, but aloud
I said "Okay, I'll be there."
hung up the phone and said to myself, "I bet Bill W.
didn't have to go through this!" I used to think the
Big Book referred to Step Five when it said, "What
an order! I can't go through with it." I thought, how
can talking about all this junk that I never wanted to write
down in the first place make any difference?
the time I finished Step Five, I knew that I was well on
my way toward "building an arch" through which
I would "walk a free man." What happened? Did
God convert me into a religious AA dervish? Was I brainwashed
by some mystical technique into an AA true believer? Did
I go into permanent shock? None of these things happened.
The truth is much simpler. Step Five simply accomplished
exactly what I was promised, based on the tried and tested
experience of Alcoholics Anonymous.
is what happened. For starters, I had prepared for Step
Five by making a beginning on the previous Steps. I had
my Fourth Step inventory which had given me a new awareness,
albeit a not completely objective one. Nevertheless, I had
it. Though the temptation to avoid sharing with "another
human being" was nearly overwhelming, my fear of not
following my sponsor's instructions to the letter was even
arrived at my sponsor's home promptly at six. I didn't want
to be late for my "funeral." He ushered me into
the living room and 1 sat in what was obviously the condemned
man's chair. Given to redundancies in times of hysteria,
I commented on the weather at least twice, and God only
knows how many times I mentioned the state of local AA affairs.
Then my sponsor said those terrible words: "Why don't
you get out your Fourth Step so we can get started."
feared that doors automatically sealed themselves during
Fifth Steps. But I prayed to God and "asked His protection
and care with complete abandon." "Okay, where
do you want to begin," I asked, hoping for mercy. "Why
don't we begin with your grudge list," my sponsor said.
"But before we begin," he added, "why don't
we pray and ask our Higher Power for guidance. After all,
this is a three-way deal. God is very much a part of this.
It's his grace that brought you here."
sponsors can really surprise you. This was one of those
rare times. We prayed, then he became his old self again,
indicating that it was time I began. We went over my grudge
list, item by item. I read and explained. He listened and
commented. Before we were halfway through the list, I began
to realize that the advice, counseling, and experience he
shared was not only his, but that of others as well. It
was the experience of one drunk talking to another, but
it was also the resonating voices of countless men and women
in AA who had shared their experience, strength, and hope
with each other. Was this God-consciousness? I wondered,
as I continued my disclosures.
the grudge list, we assailed my list of fears. To my surprise,
I discovered my sponsor and I shared some of the same ones.
By this time, occasional laughter interspersed the more
serious portions of the unfolding panorama of my life. I
was beginning to feel a sense of relief. It continued to
grow even as we discussed pertinent aspects of my "list
of major human failings the Seven Deadly Sins." It
was incredible! As years of humiliation, pride, and fear
fell away into harmless debris, my sense of isolation actually
began to dissipate. I no longer felt like a freak, a pathetic
caricature of humanity, incapable of integrating myself
into the world about me. The existence of God's presence
was no theory; it was fact. God was with us and my cup did
indeed run over. It overflowed with his love as it was translated
into the experience, strength, and hope of two twentieth-century
alcoholics joined in the miracle of a spiritual awakening
known as recovery.
secrets that I'd sworn to take to my grave were now dead
and buried under the fertile soil of a new freedom nurtured
by truth and sharing and laughter, moistened by tears of
relief and joy, and warmed by the sunlight of the spirit.
"Step Five works! It really does!" I marveled.
I knew now that the man who was leaving was not the same
man who had fearfully entered this Fifth Step sanctuary
just a few hours previously.
after many revisits to Step Five, I know that my initial
experience was no fluke, that "God does move in a mysterious
way his wonders to perform," and that Step Five is
one of those wonders. I've also been privileged to share
in the Fifth Step experiences of others. Since there is
nothing like personal experience to qualify one for this
extremely personal spiritual awakening, I would suggest
having done a Fifth Step as a prerequisite for hearing someone
else's. We must be prepared to share our own Fifth Step
disclosures, laughter, and tears so that the experience
of others might be as profound as our own. Being able to
keep confidential the disclosures of others is also essential.
This experience is only between God and ourselves.
D. Roosevelt said, in his first inaugural address, "The
only thing we have to fear is fear itself" If we're
willing to expose the pages of our lives to the love and
understanding of our Higher Power and a fellow alcoholic,
we'll surely know a new freedom and a new happiness. We'll
discover that love is never having to feel alone again;
that God's presence in our lives has become profound; and
that the unity of the Fellowship of the spirit can be ours
so long as we are willing to pass it on.
C., West Palm Beach, Florida
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., March 1989
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