Step 5 was the answer. It was the beginning of true kinship with man and God. This vital Step was also the means by which we began to get the feeling that we could be forgiven, no matter what we had thought or done. Often it was while working on this Step with our sponsors or spiritual advisers that we first felt truly able to forgive others, no matter how deeply we felt they had wronged us. Our moral inventory had persuaded us that all-round forgiveness was desirable, but it was only when we resolutely tackled Step Five that we inwardly knew we’d be able to receive forgiveness and give it, too. ~ 12×12 p 57-58
Without forgiveness for ourselves and others, we are wounded beyond repair. The trouble is that we don’t even know it. Most of us learn early in our life that wrongdoing separates us from man and God. When we harm others there is a separation from them until the wrong is righted.
Sometimes the wrong cannot be undone or righted. When I’m wronged and they don’t fix it, or when I’ve done something wrong and can’t fix it, that’s where the struggle of unforgiveness happens.
My first case of unforgiveness was the duck incident. Like any self-respecting alcoholic I have a whole database of other unforgiveness illustrations to draw upon. When I was 5, my best friend and I got matching tubes of candy lipstick. Cindy’s was strawberry pink. I picked orange because I liked it better and also there would be no chance we would become confused about ownership. Turns out I had good reason to consider that. Cindy ate all of hers by noon and I was barely into the rounded tip when I lost mine. I later found the empty tube in the kitchen garbage. I was furious! She claimed to have no idea how it got there. Do you believe her?
I didn’t. Never did. My sponsor smiled when I was recounting my 5th step and confessed that I’d never quite forgiven Cindy. Smiled!! I had to be careful or I’d have another resentment.
Though the incident I shared is one of little consequence, yet I felt a lot of anger about it. We alcoholics are afraid of emotional pain. No surprise. We’ve spent the better part of our lives running from it and drowning it.
The penalty for refusing to do the hard work of recounting all my resentments is quite steep. For me, it would have meant that I would continue to pickle myself in the juices of unforgiveness and resentments. Eventually, I would add some alcohol to that brine so that I could escape the memories and self-loathing that was the result of all my unresolved issues.
Many an AA, once agnostic or atheistic, tells us that it was during this stage of Step Five that he first actually felt the presence of God. And even those who had faith already often become conscious of God as they never were before. ~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 2011, p62