Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
ALL of A.A.’s Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires … they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few Steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any Step is more necessary to longtime sobriety and peace of mind than this one.
A.A. experience has taught us we cannot live alone with our pressing problems and the character defects which cause or aggravate them. If we have swept the searchlight of Step Four back and forth over our careers, and it has revealed in stark relief those experiences we’d rather not remember, if we have come to know how wrong thinking and action have hurt us and others, then the need to quit living by ourselves with those tormenting ghosts of yesterday gets more urgent than ever. We have to talk to somebody about them. So intense, though, is our fear and reluctance to do this, that many A.A.’s at first try to bypass Step Five. We search for an easier way—which usually consists of the general and fairly painless admission that when drinking we were sometimes bad actors. Then, for good measure, we add dramatic descriptions of that part of our drinking behavior which our friends probably know about anyhow.
But of the things which really bother and burn us, we say nothing. Certain distressing or humiliating memories, we tell ourselves, ought not be shared with anyone. These will remain our secret. Not a soul must ever know. We hope they’ll go to the grave with us.
Yet if A.A.’s experience means anything at all, this is not only unwise, but is actually a perilous resolve. Few muddled attitudes have caused us more trouble than holding back on Step Five. Some people are unable to stay sober at all; others will relapse periodically until they really clean house. Even A.A. oldtimers, sober for years, often pay dearly for skimping this Step. They will tell how they tried to carry the load alone; how much they suffered of irritability, anxiety, remorse, and depression; and how, unconsciously seeking relief, they would sometimes accuse even their best friends of the very character defects they themselves were trying to conceal. They always discovered that relief never came by confessing the sins of other people. Everybody had to confess his own.
This practice of admitting one’s defects to another person is, of course, very ancient. It has been validated in every century, and it characterizes the lives of all spiritually centered and truly religious people. But today religion is by no means the sole advocate of this saving principle. Psychiatrists and psychologists point out the deep need every human being has for practical insight and knowledge of his own personality flaws and for a discussion of them with an understanding and trustworthy person. So far as alcoholics are concerned, A.A. would go even further. Most of us would declare that without a fearless admission of our defects to another human being we could not stay sober. It seems plain that the grace of God will not enter to expel our destructive obsessions until we are willing to try this.
What are we likely to receive from Step Five? For one thing, we shall get rid of that terrible sense of isolation we’ve always had. Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness. Even before our drinking got bad and people began to cut us off, nearly all of us suffered the feeling that we didn’t quite belong. Either we were shy, and dared not draw near others, or we were apt to be noisy good fellows craving attention and companionship, but never getting it—at least to our way of thinking. There was always that mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand. It was as if we were actors on a stage, suddenly realizing that we did not know a single line of our parts. That’s one reason we loved alcohol too well. It did let us act extemporaneously. But even Bacchus boomeranged on us; we were finally struck down and left in terrified loneliness. (Alcoholics Anonymous World Service Inc.. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (pp. 55-57). AA World Services, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
AS BILL SEES IT (p. 331)
To the Newcomer: Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the fellowship of the spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the road of happy destiny. (AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It . A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)
AS BILL SEES IT (p. 126)
“Admitted to God…” Provided you hold back nothing in taking the Fifth Step, your sense of relief will mount from minute to minute. The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement, and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed. As the pain subsides, a healing tranquillity takes its place. And when humility and serenity are so combined, something else of great moment is apt to occur.Many an A.A., once agnostic or atheist, tells us that it was during this stage of Step Five that he first actually felt the presence of God. And even those who already had faith often become conscious of God as they never were before.AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It . A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
“Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.”
AUTONOMY is a ten-dollar word. But in relation to us, it means very simply that every A.A. group can manage its affairs exactly as it pleases, except when A.A. as a whole is threatened. Comes now the same question raised in Tradition One. Isn’t such liberty foolishly dangerous? Over the years, every conceivable deviation from our Twelve Steps and Traditions has been tried. That was sure to be, since we are so largely a band of ego-driven individualists. Children of chaos, we have defiantly played with every brand of fire, only to emerge unharmed and, we think, wiser. These very deviations created a vast process of trial and error which, under the grace of God, has brought us to where we stand today.
When A.A.’s Traditions were first published, in 1946, we had become sure that an A.A. group could stand almost any amount of battering. We saw that the group, exactly like the individual, must eventually conform to whatever tested principles would guarantee survival. We had discovered that there was perfect safety in the process of trial and error. So confident of this had we become that the original statement of A.A. tradition carried this significant sentence: “Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that as a group they have no other affiliation.”
This meant, of course, that we had been given the courage to declare each A.A. group an individual entity, strictly reliant on its own conscience as a guide to action. In charting this enormous expanse of freedom, we found it necessary to post only two storm signals: A group ought not do anything which would greatly injure A.A. as a whole, nor ought it affiliate itself with anything or anybody else. There would be real danger should we commence to call some groups “wet,” others “dry,” still others “Republican” or “Communist,” and yet others “Catholic” or “Protestant.” The A.A. group would have to stick to its course or be hopelessly lost. Sobriety had to be its sole objective. In all other respects there was perfect freedom of will and action. Every group had the right to be wrong.
(Alcoholics Anonymous World Service Inc.. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (pp. 146-147). AA World Services, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
TWO “MAGNIFICENT STANDARDS”
All A.A. progress can be reckoned in terms of just two words: humility and responsibility. Our whole spiritual development can be accurately measured by our degree of adherence to these magnificent standards.
AS BILL SEES IT, p. 271 To acknowledge and respect the views, accomplishments and prerogatives of others and to accept being wrong shows me the way of humility. To practice the principles of A.A. in all my affairs guides me to be responsible. Honoring these precepts gives credence to Tradition Four—and to all other Traditions of the Fellowship. Alcoholics Anonymous has evolved a philosophy of life full of valid motivations, rich in highly relevant principles and ethical values, a view of life which can be extended beyond the confines of the alcoholic population. To honor these precepts I need only to pray, and care for my fellow man as if each one were my brother.
(Alcoholics Anonymous World Service Inc.. Daily Reflections: A Book of Reflections by A.A. Members for A.A. Members . A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)