When I was about halfway through my Fourth Step inventory, I made a date with my sponsor to do the sharing with “another human being” part of my Fifth Step. Since she lived in a distant city, this date coincided with the next time my husband and I were scheduled to be there for business. I continued to work on my inventory as the deadline approached.
I finally completed my Fourth Step the night before leaving to see her. I was ecstatic to have the burden lifted. At the same time I was filled with fearful obsession over what I imagined was to come. I had dared to be completely honest in my Fourth Step, writing down things i had never told another person. I was afraid of sharing certain shameful parts of the inventory with her, even though she had never given me any reason to be afraid.
On the plane ride there, I started feeling sick. At first I thought it was just the physical manifestation of my fear, but before long it became clear that I was really sick with the flu. I couldn’t believe it — I had worked so hard to be ready and now this! I knew it would be months before I could see my sponsor again, and I wanted to do the Fifth Step in person, so we forged ahead.
In my weakened physical condition, I did not have the energy to do my usual routine of “putting the best face on things.” Instead I bared my soul — truly for the first time. I was amazed. My sponsor accepted me just as I was, at my very worst. Her nurturing support gave me the courage to go on, particularly as the shameful items moved closer and closer to the top of my sharing list. I couldn’t believe it when she didn’t bat an eye at the stuff I had been so afraid to reveal. She just nodded her head in support. When I was done sharing, she suggested that some of the shame I had been walking around with was not really mine to carry. As for the rest of the defects, she smiled and said I was “a pretty average S-Anon.” She also validated my strengths and even came up with some I had never considered.
I felt relieved and even proud — I had completed this part of the Fifth Step. While I do not recommend the “flu method,” it certainly was a blessing to me. It shattered the remaining layer of emotional isolation that was so characteristic of me previously. More importantly, my willingness to finally get honest and my sponsor’s acceptance was a springboard for my own self-acceptance and for my belief that my Higher Power accepts me just as I am. The experience seemed to melt my fear about opening up with God. When I did share the truth about myself with my Higher Power, I finally started to have a real relationship with God. It was a turning point in my recovery.
Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 54-55.