Working My Fifth Step with a Priest

Step Five: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

My journey into a lasting and more abundant sober life coincided with my diving deeper into my Catholic faith. I had been in, out of, and around AA for 14 years. But what finally ended up working the best for me in recovery was doing Step Five with a priest.

My husband had already been in recovery for many years and he had completed his fifth step with a priest when he initially got sober. I was blessed to learn from him what has worked when it comes to recovery. He was able to share with me the incredible gift of forgiveness and grace that comes when the other human being whom we decide to tell our wrongs to is a priest. 

I realized that pulling God into my fifth step can allow for a greater level of healing and relief. I was also grateful that a sponsor in the past had already shown me how to put pen to paper and work my fourth step by conducting a “searching and fearless moral inventory.”

The worst of my drinking—blacking out and consuming large quantities of alcohol—didn’t occur at the end of my drinking years. In fact, my last drink was just that—one drink. But after that one drink, the agony of alcoholism as well as the utter defeat and remorse from years of drinking was greater than ever in my life. 

When I was drinking the most I was living with my parents, unmarried, and wasn’t yet a mother. But once I became a wife and mother, I realized my drinking now put these wonderful gifts in my life at risk, gifts that I wasn’t willing to lose. I knew that if I wanted something I never had—true sobriety—I had to do something I had never done before. That was participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I remember fervently writing out my moral inventory and then researching a church for confession. I did my fifth step from behind a confessional screen with a priest in my diocese. I can still recall being in second grade before my First Communion and feeling so afraid and embarrassed to face a priest but I was now willing to go to any lengths for healing. Thank God at this point in my life I’m blessed to feel detached from the mistakes I’ve made in the past and know that they do not define me.

As I did my Step Five, I felt an immense weight lift from me and grace flow through me. It felt so healing to admit to God, myself, and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. I only learned later there is sacramental grace that comes from going to confession, grace that strengthens us and accelerates our progress toward holiness. This one step truly became a catalyst for my recovery within Catholicism.

A few months after getting sober, I went to confession with a different priest and after I was done he asked me, “You know that God loves you, right?” I remember thinking that I wasn’t so sure I knew that. Today, I know for sure that God loves me, which has been the fruit of a continual process of healing.

My husband went to college with a friend who became a priest, and we have been so blessed to have him in our life. I have been able to see that friend once a year to do a thorough confession. Our diocese vocations director is also around our age and is another priest with whom I have developed a relationship that I really value. I find it so important to get to know and connect with priests who can help sustain and strengthen us in our recovery.

I am so grateful to have both of these two priests in my life because, even though they are men and aren’t recovering alcoholics, I feel that I can share anything with them. I have had some amazing healing conversations with them. And I believe this healing has come from my desire to be truly open and right my wrongs as well as my willingness to pick up my cross and walk with Jesus.

One of the most important things I have learned through the years of trial and error has been the ability to be honest with myself and others. The more open and honest we are, the freer we are. I am beyond blessed to be in a sober marriage as well, where we both contemplate God and sobriety through our openness in almost everything we do. 

Another gift of my recovery is that I now have some wonderful close friends and people to support me. Some are Catholics but not alcoholics. Some work rigorous Al-Anon or AA programs but aren’t Catholic. And some are neither Catholic nor in recovery but have had their own ups and downs in life. I have been a witness to how the gifts of honesty and humility can break the chains inside of both us and others when we share our experiences, strength, and hope.

 

Allison is sober from alcohol and a self-proclaimed “cradle convert” who has received a great deal of grace after coming back to her Catholic faith. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to be a sober Catholic wife and mother and loves nothing more than being with her family. She loves daily Mass and connecting with God outside through nature.