“When we look at the exact nature of our wrongs, we see that we have harmed ourselves based on our sense of being unacceptable, inferior or lost.” p. 198, ACA Book, Step 5.
In our society, we often focus on what others have done wrong or the wrongs that have been done to us. Likewise, we are also a target for the anger of others.We live in a dysfunctional world. We swim in a stew of shame, blame and guilt on a daily basis in our relationships, our jobs, our general feelings about ourselves and others. It’s tiring.
Our culture is built around what is morally right and wrong, even though no one seems to be able to live up to the standards we set so highly for ourselves. It has always been this way, it seems. As far back as the 13th century (and even long before that) humans have been obsessed with perfectionism as a method for keeping anxiety at bay. One of my favorite poets from this period, Rumi, a theologian and scholar, made this statement:
“There is a field out beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing, I will meet you there.”
Ahh, what a relief, there is a space for love to flourish somewhere. He is talking about love, of course, not necessarily romantic, but Divine, unconditional love, which is the kind of love we are learning in recovery as we meet our Higher Power and as the book says, we begin to “turn on the light switches and open the doors of the house built for us by the Spirit of the Universe.”
In recovery, we have to unlearn just as much as we learn as we move into our spiritual home.
Rumi’s statement gets at the core of step 5. We meet ourselves out beyond the shame, blame and guilt of wrongdoing, and try to get at the exact nature of our wrongs with another human being. We do not try and get “right,”rather, we become attuned with the Sacred in us, not right or wrong but love.
What we realize as we go through this process is that many of the “wrongs” we have committed, both legal and spiritual, were a direct result of feeling “unacceptable, inferior or lost.” We are not releasing ourselves from blame, but we are looking more deeply at the root causes of our actions. Our actions have come out of the 14 traits, we have acted out of fear of abandonment, fear of punishment, fear in general. We have acted out of insecurity, loss and real pain. Our pain has often been the very motivator for actions related to dissociation and fantasizing or splitting off. Our pain has motived us to emotional intoxication or excitement as pain relievers. These are a part of our survival traits we are learning to integrate.
In step 5, we are learning that we no longer have to avoid the pain, we now have the loving support we need to go through the pain. There is no way around it, it states on p. 195, “we must go through steps 4 and 5 to get to the other side, to find the God of our understanding waiting there with a timeless embrace.” We now have the opportunity to address the root cause of our wrongs, our actions against our true selves, and begin uprooting these deeply embedded ways of acting and thinking.
You can use the inner strength you already have to make it through Step 5, the same strength that has enabled you to survive all these years. The book tells us that you know you already have this inner strength because you have made it through the steps to get to this place.
Step 5 is an opportunity to “finally talk about what matters to someone we trust.”
Pain is real, and you can feel it in your body. As you surrender your pain and dysfunctional behavior to the God of your understanding, you are re-routed to a place in you that motivates you to healthier action. In step 5, you begin to recognize that your actions have been connected to your pain and you develop the courage to let go.
As you work this program, you develop the ability to lovingly parent yourself through the pain and take more responsible action for when pain occurs in your life. Instead of dissociating, drugging with emotions or substances, or using another person in a co-dependent manner, you choose healthier outlets for pain. You walk in the woods, getting re-grounded with creation; or write or paint or do yoga or volunteer for service. You learn that there are many alternatives for dealing with pain and that you have the power to choose them because you are giving up control over your pain. Control was always an illusion, anyway. What you are really giving up is living life from the artificial energy of your illusions. When you give this up, pain doesn’t stick around as long, it simply doesn’t have much to attach itself to anymore.
Over time in recovery, working the program, these healthier responses become more and more natural.
Prayer: Higher Power, I trust you will guide me through this step when I am ready to take it. I trust you have already identified a person for me to talk to, someone I can trust. It may be my sponsor or another person in my program, but I trust that a clearer understanding of who I am awaits me on the other side and that you are continually restoring me to sanity and emotional sobriety. Today, I will work my program and trust You a little bit more.