Step 5: Life of a Firecracker

Step 5 is a little like reviewing your life. It’s not supposed to be an autobiography, but I didn’t know that when I started working on it.

Autobiography Project 1961

In 6th grade I had to turn in a project for English that could be a scrap-book, an essay or anything about our life as long as we wrote 300 words and included some pictures. I made an autobiography. The title came from the fact that I was born on the 4th of July.

No one else spent weeks compiling stuff for their project. No one else had their mom type it up. I loved that project! It was about me. I have always liked Heidi stories!

Therefore, I looked forward to this… my AA Heidi story, Step 5.

On May 29th I took my Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Afterwords, I didn’t feel any great relief, or immense lightening or any of the other things that I’ve heard people experience. I felt like I’d cleaned the basement, the attic and the garage all in one weekend. I was exhausted.

I also omitted one big issue in my life. I’d promised myself years ago that I’d never talk about it. I made it two blocks away before I had to return to talk about it, also. Walking back to the car I thought, “Now, I can expect the rush of relief.” I was immensely disappointed. I felt nothing. I wasn’t even sure I should have unveiled my secret resentment.

During my home meeting at 9:00 upstairs in the Fellowship Club, I mentioned that I had revealed the secret that I had planned on taking to my grave. Someone stopped me in the hall later and told me that it’s the secrets we’d take to the grave that actually take us to an early grave. Makes sense. I was drinking to forget, to drown the memories, the worries. Over time it takes more and more alcohol to drown the bad stuff of our lives.

I still don’t know why everyone seems to dread that step. For me, it made sense. I love to clean and organize. I saw it like Spring housecleaning…of 56 years’ worth of dusty old trash.

Until this week when I was reading my journal for this entry, I didn’t realize that just 9 days later on June 7th I wrote, “Yesterday for the first time ever I felt really peaceful…serene… maybe. It was foreign, but wonderful. Maybe 3 minutes’ worth.”

I had no idea what people meant in the meetings when they talked about serenity. To me it sounded mysterious and was obtained by making funny symbols with your hands and humming at a very high pitch or something. One helpful member of AA described it as feeling like you’re wrapped up in cotton. I could imagine that. Some people want 15 minutes of fame, I wanted 15 of the cotton cocoon!

So now I think that brief serenity was a gift directly resulting from completing my Step 5. It just took some time and back then, I wasn’t aware of the connection between the serenity and taking the steps. That marvelous, strange feeling started to return frequently.

The very next sentence on the 7th is “I woke up depressed (restless, irritable and discontent?)” I’m a typical alcoholic in that my emotions were very slow to stabilize during sobriety.