Step 5 of 12: Admission

I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really...I was alive. Alive.

-- Walter White, Last Episode of Breaking Bad

Step 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

In the dualistic system of retributive justice that has been promoted by most western religion for the last 500 years, good behavior is rewarded while naughtiness is punished, sometimes forever. The 12 Steps, on the other hand, follow the life and teachings of Jesus by stressing that our failures can, if we let them, actually lead us to transformation and enlightenment.

Once we sweep the searchlight of Step 4 back and forth over our lives and honestly expose our delusional thinking, we need to talk to someone about it. The searching and fearless moral inventory that we took of ourselves in Step 4 was, after all, only a look. Our solitary self-appraisal was a great start, but it isn't nearly enough. We need the help of God and another person. While we might believe that God already knows, we can't be honest with God if we're not honest with ourselves. Our best chance of being honest with ourselves is to be honest with another person, leaving nothing out.

Remember, our admission is just to A person. There's no value in talking to everyone. If our wrongs include potential criminal activity, we should talk to a criminal lawyer and NOT a state or federal prosecutor or anyone remotely involved in law enforcement. The other person is also not Oprah, a 60 Minutes reporter, or our Facebook wall, but he/she could certainly be a paid professional like our lawyer or psychologist. It's often someone who is in our 12 Step group. If so, it should be someone who is emotionally and spiritually equipped to listen and process what we say. We might also tell part of our story to one person and part to another.

It is not uncommon for people to say that Step 5 is incredibly ego deflating at the outset, but is also, not coincidentally, the point where the presence of God is felt as never before. There is spiritual power in simply telling our story to a trusted ally, rejecting the need to be "right." We'll notice, as our words are spoken, that our long-held thoughts are just thoughts, a mixture of clarity and confusion, and not necessarily reality. As this happens, the weight of anger, fear or shame is lifted by the power of love and forgiveness.