Step 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous is a step that I feel I did complete, wholeheartedly. It requires you to share your story, seek advice and accept it. By honestly divulging the truth of your experiences, you can receive honest advice and counsel.

Most AA-followers use their sponsor or another AA member for this step. Some people choose a psychiatrist, psychologist, or some kind of therapist in their quest to rid themselves of untold stories and hear the advice of another. I chose a therapist, at considerable cost, because I didn’t trust anyone else with what I had to tell. The problem with choosing a therapist, however, is that they seldom offer advice. A therapist’s advice might be more in the line of, “And how do you feel about that?”

My friend Joe has been a sponsor for several alcoholics over the years and has been their sounding board for Step 5. Joe is a great guy and as devoted an AA follower as you will ever find, but he has also divulged some of the stories that he has heard. If someone as honest and sincere as he is will tell a secret, then I was right in trusting no one except a trained professional. At least that’s how I look at it.

Sharing your story with another makes it concrete and irrevocable. By letting it out and having another comment on it, you no longer carry the burden by yourself. As I slowly and painfully told my story to my therapist, I found that the weight of what I had been through, what I was responsible for, and what was tossed upon me, was lifted. It has been nearly a decade since I have seen that woman and she has long since moved on. I don’t know where she works or lives and she couldn’t trace me if she tried. I feel my secrets are fairly safe.

Step 5, although seemingly straightforward, requires a lot of trust and honesty and it is the first step that requires the involvement of another. Choose your advisor wisely.