We Write Alone but We Are Not Alone: Fifth Step, Part 2

Step 5 – Admitted to the world, to another person, and to ourselves the exact nature of our disease.

I grew up Roman Catholic and I love being Catholic. My brother Scott calls Mass the longest dinner party in history. Yes, the Church has issues, lots of issues, and the Church has slaughtered people all in the name of a homeless pacifist who was probably a little crazy and definitely a lot poor. But I love the Catholic Church even though it is so, so flawed.

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In Catholicism, there are the seven sacraments. I’ll try and name them all, though I can never get it right. Here goes: Baptism, Dopey, the Eucharist, Dancer, Sleepy, Confession, Holy Orders, and Vixen. Oops, that’s eight.

Anyway, Confession, or Reconciliation, is the sacrament where you go and tell the priest your sins. But notice, it’s really not called Confession any more. It’s called Reconciliation. By talking about your sins, the priest represents the entire church, Jesus, God, and you are forgiven. You are reconciled with the community and everyone feels better.

speakIn 12-Step programs, we call that healing through our mouths.

Some kind of magic happens when you admit where you are wrong, where you tell someone about your troubles, where you air out your dirty laundry. Let me give you an example.

My book had just come out. I was working on marketing. I was terrified. I was dying. Now, them crazy Catholics would say that I lacked faith. And I did. I truly believed that I was alone in the world and DESTINED to fail. That is one of my character defects. I think that of all the people in the world, I have been chosen to fail. Forever. A failure.

I’ve been working the steps long enough to know that when I’m in that space, I need to reach out, and so I called two writer friends, Chris Devlin and Angie Hodapp. They met me at a Village Inn and I think I even blogged about it at the time.

So we all got into a booth, flirted with the waiter, well, I didn’t, but the girls did, and then I spilled my guts. I admitted my fear. I talked about my character defects. I let them in on the freak show that is my head.

And Angie said, “Yeah, I understand. But everyone is afraid.”

Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone any more. Suddenly, I found courage where none had been before. I was shrived. I was reconciled back into this family or writers and artists who create and sell and fear.

That is the power of the 5th step. When another person witnesses our struggles, our dark places, our foibles, our sins.

I’ve heard a lot of 5th steps, and people thank me for listening. I then thank them. Because it’s a sacred thing to bear witness to another person’s life. Everyone is helped.

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So them crazy Catholics were smart to include Reconciliation in their list of sacraments. There is power in talking. Suddenly, our thoughts become real in our words, and so, we can see how silly they are, or how real, or how unnecessary. And all the power is removed.

We heal through our mouths.

Not sure how much more I have to say about the fifth step, but next week I’ll add more. Like most things, it’s simple but oh so powerful.

Thanks, everyone reading along!

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