In my early 20’s, I was curious about the concept of being a born-again Christian. I tagged along with a friend, who had done a lot of “bad things” in his life, to a non-denominational church service.
As my friend sauntered down to the pulpit with his palms raised towards the ceiling, the clergyman laid two hands upon his head and said some indecipherable words. When it was all over, my friend walked back up the aisle, tears streaming down his face and told me he was reborn. I sat in so much judgment of my friend in that moment. I immediately thought what in the fuck just happened? How is it okay that you do all the shitty things you do in your life and then you just raise your hands towards the heavens and you’re reborn? I called bullshit on this. No way was I buying into the idea of being reborn. If this guy could be reborn, then I never wanted to be reborn. It was in this moment that I stopped believing in God.
A few months after this incident, a Mormon missionary came by my house for a visit. I had stopped attending Sunday church services due to my recent revelation about God. I shared with him what I had witnessed and the act of my friend being born-again and that I didn’t understand it. Do Mormons believe in being born again?, I cautiously asked. He quietly and simply shared his belief that “being born-again is a process, not an event.”
I immediately wrote down that powerful sentence on a blank 3” x 5” index card and tucked it into my Book of Mormon and then promptly forgot all about it. I left the Church of Latter-Day Saints shortly thereafter and spent my twenties looking for answers I never quite found when it came to spirituality. In early sobriety, while purging boxes of books from the back of my garage, I stumbled across this 20-year-old index card and immediately recognized my handwriting. I re-read those words and finally understood what they really meant. I thought about them a great deal as I was about to meet with my Sponsor and complete Step 5 of the 12 Steps.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 5 definitely felt like an Event with a capital E.
Admitting to God, myself and my Sponsor the exact nature of my wrongs was precisely what I needed in order to push the envelope of my sobriety. Step 5 was pivotal for me in agreeing to continue to work the 12 Steps.
Before I began my Step-work, I had to remind myself that recovery is a process, not an event. Step 5 wasn’t just the end of my old ways, but actually more like a beginning to living a more honest and intentional life. Shedding the old had to happen in order to make room for the all the new things that were flowing in.
As I read my 4th Step inventory list aloud to my Sponsor, she helped me sift through my resentments to see where I had a part in things. She offered that maybe I didn’t have a part in my parents’ divorce or the abuse summarily dished out by a relative. She allowed me to cross those heavy burdens I’d been carrying around all of my life off my list, bringing me immediate relief.
For all of the other items, my Sponsor helped put a name to each of my character defects as they related to my resentment(s). When we were done, I had the framework for a working document that I could easily reference in the future. On that list were things like judgment, dishonesty, gossiping, procrastination and fear, to name a few. I didn’t have a lot of feelings about assigning these words to my prior actions and I was actually looking forward to the spiritual work it would take to address these less than admirable character flaws later on down the road. To be honest, I already knew these things about myself, but I had long ago buried them deep and dark and tried to pretend they didn’t exist or that they were normal behaviors. By bringing them to the surface with my Sponsor, these truths were finally being illuminated and I could clearly see where I needed to focus my energies over the next several months. Step 5 produced a road map for me as I headed into my recovery and now all I had to do was rest up for the trip and begin once I felt ready.
As I drove home from my Sponsor’s house, my mind was completely blank, devoid of any thoughts. I drove home in silence. I was exhausted from the three hours I had just spent examining my life. I pulled into my driveway, parked, and made a beeline for my art studio. I started tidying up my space and getting it ready. Ready for what? I wasn’t quite sure. Something important had just been loosened inside of me and I wanted to be ready for what came next.
I felt like my emotional slate had been wiped clean. I felt unburdened and heard, by God and by my Sponsor.
In sobriety, immediately upon waking every morning, I now feel reborn. I feel grateful as I start the day without a hangover, shame or regret. Step 5 helped me to understand that I’ve been in the process of being reborn ever since the day that Mormon missionary shared his wisdom with me back in 1991. It just took the Event of Step 5 for me to see the correlation between the two.