Working With Others: The 5 & 5

The 5&5 is an exercise I was given in early recovery by my sponsor. It had been given to him by his sponsor and I have continued to pass on the exercise to men whom I have had the privilege of taking through the work. It is a simple yet integral part of my spiritual toolkit when working with others.

Step One 5&5 – Sponsee calls sponsor each night for two weeks with five current examples of Powerlessness and five current examples of Unmangeability.

Step Three 5&5 – Sponsee calls sponsor each night for two weeks with five examples of when they believe they have done God’s will that day, and five examples of self-will. (God’s Will = The Right Thing, Self-Will = Not the right thing)


My first experience of working the first three steps looked something like this:

  1. Say a prayer for an open mind and a new experience (known by many as the ‘set aside’ prayer, I also like to think of it as ‘The Matrix’ or ‘Red Pill’ prayer)

“God, please open my mind and show me the truth of my existence. Please remove all my old ideas so I may have a new experience. Please help me to see what you would have me see and to be what you would have me be. Please show me the truth. Amen”

I said the above prayer anywhere between twenty and fifty times a day until I reached Step 3.

2. Read the Big Book with my sponsor and after each reading session, listen to the corresponding Joe & Charlie talk. I was also advised to read Pass it On: The Story of Bill W and Doctor Bob & The Good Old Timers to gain a deeper understanding of the history of Alcoholics Anonymous.

3. Call my sponsor each night with 5 current examples of Powerlessness and 5 current examples of Unmanageability.


  1. Sister-in-law ordering wine in restaurant.
  2. Man posting photo of can of Heineken on Facebook.
  3. Friends’ son at dinner mentioning ‘hitting the whisky’ early.
  4. Playing song (Body of an American) by The Pogues on the acoustic guitar. (Euphoric recall)
  5. Hearing about man taking a drink at 11 years sober.


  1. Impatience with pregnant wife.
  2. Obsession with purchasing expensive new guitar.
  3. Lust – seeing photographs of attractive women on Facebook.
  4. Resentment towards sponsee.
  5. Political conversation (rant) with/against brother and sister-in-law. (Ego)

Sponsee provides no less than three examples of times when they have exhibited powerlessness over alcohol. This means an occasion when they drank having made a firm decision not to drink. See ‘More About Alcoholism’ Page 36 and Page 40. As much information as possible in order to create a compelling narrative.

Call Sponsor each night for two weeks with this exercise.

God’s Will:

  1. Not responding to message from ex-girlfriend.
  2. Not looking at news on internet.
  3. Catching up with work on day off.
  4. Not gossiping when I had the opportunity to.
  5. Not buying guitar.

My Will:

  1. Snapping at wife.
  2. Resentment towards old schoolfriend.
  3. Not consistently practicing the disciplines of Steps 10/11.
  4. Mindless internet surfing.
  5. Putting off doing expenses for work.

The 5&5 is a useful exercise for several reasons:

  1. It gives the sponsee a specific reason to call their sponsor.
  2. It ensures that the conversation is recovery focussed.
  3. It teaches the sponsee to categorise their drama as unmanageability.
  4. It will not allow the sponsee to hijack the conversation.
  5. It immediately gets the sponsee in the habit of written self-reflection. The 5&5 is a rudimentary form of inventory. Steps 4 and 5 are far less overwhelming when preceded by a month of written work and honest sharing.
  6. Quickly helps to determine whether or not the sponsee is actually serious about putting the work in.
  7. Immediately gets the sponsee in the habit of sharing honestly with their sponsor. This can give immediate relief in the form of alleviating that sense of loneliness.
  8. Helps the sponsor to get to know their protégé quickly.



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