The Step 5 Ball & Chain

by Rick R.

Don’t think I’ve ever witnessed an alcoholic that came to Alcoholics Anonymous that loved themselves or that wasn’t riddled with guilt and shame. It’s hard to understand why alcohol affects some people differently than others. I’ve observed members who came from good family environments but ended up on the streets and others that came from alcohol-infested families and turned out normal as can be.

It’s the past that torments us

Alcoholics seem to have something missing in their mental states. We need to find a way to neutralize this negative self-image. That first drink of alcohol gives us the relief that makes us feel somewhat normal.

I’ve heard it said that once a person starts to drink to cover up these feelings, especially in adolescence, they stop growing emotionally. When they finally show up at A.A. they have the emotional state consistent with the age they were when they started drinking (absent of the coping skills of a normal person). They’ll have to revisit all those underdeveloped behavioral patterns and replace them with mature and healthy thoughts and actions. Easier said than done!

When I look around the room at an A.A. meeting we all seem to look about the same in the way we dress and in our outside appearances. The only thing that makes us different is what is going on in between our ears. If we all woke up this morning with amnesia, we would all be the same. It’s the tortures of past that torment us and therein lies the problem and the solution. If we can understand and accept this well-established approach to our mental condition, we can take actions that will restore our self-esteem and live incredibly happy and peaceful lives.

Therein lies the problem and the solution

We cannot change one moment of the past, but we can resolve the issues in our lives that brought about the need to escape from those horrible memories and things we regret. The habits that led us to seek relief in the bottle can be reined in. If you are fortunate enough to believe this, you may want to revisit the Fourth and Fifth Steps.

photo captions available upon request to thepoint@aasf.org

Identify those deeds you drag around like a ball and chain which keep you from actuating the rest of the program. “Even A.A. oldtimers, sober for years, often pay dearly for skimping this Step” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 56). Those things will not go away but the mental and emotional pain we drank to nullify can be arrested. We can finally put it all behind us and live a wonderful life. I know this from experience.

When I revisited my Fourth and Fifth Steps, I was stronger and talked to someone about those deeds from the past that plagued me. I realized most people who abuse alcohol have them, to one degree or another. If they are willing to address the past, they can be free of it.

My experience is: Step 5 freed me up to continue the rest of the steps with pleasure. From the day I entered A.A. to the day I mustered the strength to do this, I had no comprehension of the effect it would have on me. Otherwise I would have cut to the chase much sooner. I would have avoided several years of discontent.

As long as those deeds were in the past and not habits of the present, this process worked exactly as it was intended as per the program. I hope that this encourages at least one person to find someone they trust to work these steps with and find the relief I experienced as the result of cleaning the slate. I wish them a happy life. It worked for me.

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