Home Steps Hard, Healing, Emotional Work

Hard, Healing, Emotional Work

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Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.


I recently finished Step Five with my sponsor. I’ve done a Step Five before, but it’s been over a year since my last one. This time it was hard. Really hard.

Those of us who have done a Step Five recall the absolute dread of having to admit to another person all the things we’ve done and everything that’s been done to us. It’s scary, and yes, the first time I did Step Five, talking about it was the hardest part. But this time around, the hard part was digging into my resentments, old beliefs, fears, and other problem areas to reveal the reasons behind my defects of character—in other words, doing the emotional work.

Every day of my life, I’ve done work in some form or another, but it’s usually either physical or mental (or some combination of the two). When I work my program, something more is demanded of me: I’m required to engage spiritually and emotionally. While the spiritual work is complex and still fairly new to me, I find the emotional work much harder, probably because I’ve been actively avoiding it for years by numbing out with food, television, and a host of other distractions.

Doing the emotional work is incredibly uncomfortable. In this space I find that my self-esteem is in shreds, fear runs my life, and my persistently high expectations of myself and others leave me feeling worthless and lonely.

If I could somehow avoid this work, I would, but that’s not how program works. Without doing the emotional work, I can’t heal; if I can’t heal, I’ll continue eating compulsively. There’s no way around it. The work must be done if I am to recover.

While I feel emotionally exhausted from this process, I acknowledge that I’ve now taken a huge step forward in my recovery. By unearthing the reasons for my defects and connecting back to a time in my childhood when they weren’t an issue for me, I am able to imagine myself living happily without them once again. It is at this point where I can become entirely ready for my Higher Power to remove all these defects of character.

The emotional work is some of the hardest work we’ll do in our lives, and I applaud each and every one of you for your effort in this area.

These are simple Steps, but they are not easy.

— April P., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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