The Fifth Step – More Ups than Downs

JUNE 1974


Learning to see the ridiculous in the things we are doing wrong


THIS PAST winter, I drove down to our little park when there was a lot of snow on the ground. Some teenagers began throwing snowballs at my car. One hit my windshield hard. I burst into a perfect rage. I almost ground my teeth as I stopped the car. The kids must have seen that I was furious. How gratifying! I got out of the ear, and I can’t tell you what my intentions were. Was I going to kill all the little darlings and chop them into small pieces? The absurdity of the thing hit me, and I began to laugh. I made a couple of snowballs and threw them at the kids. They threw a few at me. A good time was now being had by all.

So I said, “I think my score’s pretty good for an adult.” And I got back into the car and drove off, still laughing.

I think it’s perfectly wonderful when we can see a ridiculous element in something we’re doing or thinking that’s wrong. In the snowball episode, I admitted that I was being an ass. I didn’t need God or an AA friend for that one, though I told on myself later.

Anger, like fear, is destructive and self-destructive. So are envy, resentment, self-pity, insecurity. Fear and insecurity can make us opinionated and domineering, which isn’t good for our nearest and dearest. Good old aged-in-the-wood resentments can crop up with the right stimulus and make us take other people’s inventories full-volume, or nag them gently and forever, so that life becomes miserable for our beloved victims. Resentment and envy can make us malicious and gossipy, unpleasant company both for those other people and for ourselves. Have we looked in the mirror when we’re feeling this way? It’s revelatory.

Perhaps we haven’t lashed out at anybody with words or actually done anything to them. Perhaps our anger is backed up into depression, and we feel like the wrong end of a worm. Self-pity. Yes, yes! There’s plenty of cause for this–situations all the way from irritating to tragic. But we need to regain our inner strength, or learn to get some if we’re new in AA and feel we never had any.

If we have taken Step Four, we have probably discussed some of our character defects already, so it’s easier to remember them now. Step Five is a further sharing and verbalization of the moral inventory. We are beginning to learn that nobody is going to send us to the guillotine because of our shortcomings. We won’t be rejected. We won’t be punished. Not in AA. We can pray for guidance and insight, and we can choose someone who is wise, loving, and discreet to talk all this over with.

How many times I have taken this Step with myself, with my AA friends, and with God! And I haven’t always done it too well. But I am learning, as I go along, to eliminate complaint and excuse and admit that I’ve done thus-and-thus to others or to myself, because of this or that anger or fear–or that I have omitted doing what I really wanted to do, because kindness and consideration have been submerged by harassment or worry. When someone else comes to you for help, or you listen to others at a closed meeting and contribute some remarks yourself, you find, for the thousandth time, that you are not alone. Other people have these feelings. They have done the same things. It’s perfectly astonishing how often we go back to thinking of ourselves as “special.”

When I was drinking, I was an angry person who hated herself and took other people’s inventories. When I was first sober, I was an angry person and went on taking other people’s inventories. Now and again, I still am tempted to set somebody straight. If I do, I try to make amends. I am not as given to arrogance as I was, because I am slowly accepting myself, liabilities and all. I even think I might have a few assets. AA taught me that it was safe to evaluate myself.

Ten thousand thanks and a golden coffee mug to each of you, whom I love so much, who have listened to me so long, who have helped me to find out about myself. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you don’t have to be a god or a goddess, a saint or a genius, to lead a reasonably happy, sober, healthy, communicative, constructive, and useful life–with some laughter thrown in for good measure.


“The Fifth Step – More Ups Than Downs”.  3 May 2021.