Ask An Addict: Moving on to Step 5 of the 12-step program

Step 5 is the beginning of the end — the end of lying, cheating and escaping responsibility.

Ask an Addict is a column penned by Helena Paivenen, a Kamloops scholar with expertise in addiction issues and someone who is also an addict. The column is meant to inform and help. If you have a question you would like answered, email it to Anonymity is guaranteed.

I received a message from a respected past work colleague of mine.

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She said her 90-year-old mother reads my column and quotes it often to her. Their family had a recent overdose death involving a caring young man.

I am so grateful they chose to share how he died. I read obituaries of people I know from the rooms and am saddened to find the cause of death is often obscured.

We in recovery know who these people are and when families do not state the cause of death, it suggests they may feel ashamed (which sends a powerful message to us).

I respect the need for privacy; however, to change stigma, it’s helpful to let people know. You are not alone, but when in hiding, you are. Isolation kills.

This column is about Step 5, admitting to ourselves, to God and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. In Step 4, we looked carefully at self, our conduct, our past, what we’ve done and what has happened to us. We listed all our fears, resentments, anger and wrote down our secrets — especially anything we swore we would take to the grave.

In Step Five, we share these with another person. For some reason, telling someone everything about ourselves is powerful. 

Think of the Catholic Church in repenting your “sins.” There is a reason this is done. 

Sadly, cults also use this technique, with the most recent in the news to abuse this powerful process being NXIVM in asking followers for collateral (family or personal secrets).

Secrets keep us sick. They tie us down and keep us in fear, but when exposed to the light, we often find freedom from bondage of self. 

Alcoholism (addiction) did not make me love myself. I hated me, what I did and who I had become. I was a liar and a thief.

I couldn’t trust myself or my behaviour. My actions went totally against my values and against what I treasured in life. I lacked integrity. I was dishonest.  I was a fraud.

Telling someone everything about me helps bring back integration. I no longer have to separate the two. I discover other healing aspects, such as patience, tolerance and, most importantly, acceptance.

When I see that another person doesn’t run screaming out of the room after I expose all of me or that they don’t perceive me as the devil, I can begin to see myself as I was truly meant to be.

We are all born innocent into this world, but when we change our neurochemistry with substances or behaviours, we no longer behave as we should.

Step 5 is the beginning of the end — the end of lying, cheating and escaping responsibility.

I finally take charge of me. I start to become open, honest and free. I do not stop here, but rather continue to move forward. 

In other steps, I begin to make amends. I continue to examine myself on a daily basis. I keep up the work.

I ask for help every day — from the universe and from my higher power, which some people name God. I whisper into the air a silent or out loud prayer, “Please help guide me. Give me strength to do what is right. Please allow me to no longer be selfish and self-centred, but rather to be of service to others.”

I want to send condolences to those suffering from loss from the death of loved ones. You are not alone. My heart beats with yours in this universal pain.  

All Ask An Addict columns can be read online at by searching “Ask An Addict.”

© Kamloops This Week



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