from the San Diego AA Coordinator, May, 2020

Step Five involves something few alcoholics have, and it is rarely discussed or even mentioned. Trust. Without that element, the idea of telling someone you think of as a new found friend, your deepest most troubling secrets is often overwhelming.   

According to NY Central Office, around eighty percent of those who come to Alcoholics Anonymous never get beyond Step Three. Meetings are great, but they are not how you stay sober. Sponsors are also important, but their primary function is to get you into the book and through steps one through twelve.   You know how many people I have gotten through all twelve steps in forty-seven years? Not more than a dozen.  I have gotten hundreds through steps One, Two, and Three. Probably hundreds more through inventories then listening to inventories. Sometimes I’ll pickup a sponsee who is interested in doing an inventory (after considerable sobriety) and then letting me hear his work.  But to work with someone all the way?  It’s rare.

So trust, again, seems to be one of the biggest obstacles for some and it rears its head in different ways. It can cause someone to hold back valuable information discovered in their personal inventory work. This problem, unless corrected, can cause relapse later because the Inventory, as instructed in the book, was not fearless and thorough. How could it be?  Imagine the guilt that can foster later. 

And a lack of trust can cause a person to doubt their sponsor’s worth.  Building a relationship with someone means that not only will they find out about you, but you might be shocked about something your own sponsor tells you about himself or (worse yet) you hear or overhear gossip and don’t want to let your sponsor know that information you discovered about him, even wondering  whether or not it is true. My own belief is this:  anything you wish you knew for certain about your sponsor, you have the right to ask.  And you should be willing to risk that with him or her.  If you are not willing, it is a sure sign you don’t trust the individual and perhaps you should find someone else you can trust. And by the way? You are entitled to do that.  You deserve that kind of integrity. 

Books have been written about the intimate stranger relationships we have with each other in Alcoholics Anonymous. Often, for us, the people who know us best are people we know little or nothing about. Yet we are expected to share and reveal things which are often embarrassing or have other potential ramifications which are complex and scary. I was lucky that I had a belief in a Higher Power which made the leap much easier. For those who don’t, I would suggest getting advice and help from folk who have been around a while and who perhaps would give recommendations. The importance of the Fourth and Fifth Steps of the program cannot be overstated. It’s one of the few things Bill W. wanted AA’s to understand– if you don’t do these two Steps, you are most likely going to relapse.

Luke P

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