Perspective: Step Ten

by Kathy L.

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Now that we have completed the first nine steps (at least for the first time), we are ready to begin living life. We know more about ourselves than ever before and have done whatever we could to face up to the wreckage of our past through amends. If the Promises (what I call the 9 ½ Step) have not come true for you, it is still important to continue with the recovery process. Remember the Promises come sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly but they are indeed promises that are kept!

I have come to love Step Ten because every time I am in a step meeting and ten is the focus, I learn more and more about it. Step Ten is private. It is between you and your Higher Power. Step Ten, like many of the steps, has a promise. This promise reveals to us one of the most miraculous discoveries of recovery and that is:

“We have ceased fighting anything or anyone — even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have been returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we will recoil from it as from a hot flame.” (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84)

If we were not aware at that point in our recovery that the obsession had been lifted, this might serve as a reminder. I don’t believe that this means we never think of it but the obsession is gone. Do you remember the obsession? How your entire day revolved around drinking or the thought of when you could have the next drink? I remember clearly and the thought can still make me anxious. When the realization that we are free of the obsession hits us, we breathe a sign of relief and say prayers of gratitude. Many of us may be rid of the obsession to drink before Step Ten but we are reminded of this freedom at this time.

We must be careful, though, because this is also where we are told that “we are not cured of alcoholism.” We absolutely must maintain our sobriety and the only way we can do this is by the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Step Ten is the first of the three maintenance steps and what gives us the “daily reprieve” from our addiction.

The nature of Step Ten is not something only suggested in 12 Step Recovery Programs. This type of conscience examining is recommended by both religious and spiritual folk and has been for many ages. Our old behaviour was never an examination of ourselves but all of the other people we had encountered that day. Usually they did something to us and now we were angry. How often did we lie in bed thinking of the day’s events and taking everyone else’s inventory? Today we examine our own behaviour for the day. Were we honest, kind, helpful? If not, did we say or do anything that would harm another? We have stopped blaming everyone else and have taken responsibility for our own behaviour. If we must make an amend we do so as soon as possible as the Step suggests.

Do you know what I have noticed about myself and what I hear others share? That by the time we get to this step and have been honest with ourselves, we don’t even have to wait until evening time (as suggested) to take personal inventory. We know immediately when we have said or done the wrong thing and we do everything in our power to apologize before too much time has passed. We grow up a lot in recovery and, thank God, we begin to understand that hurting others, even accidentally, is not something conducive to happiness. It really is the old “do unto others…” that most of us have heard since we were children.

When we take personal inventory, it does not mean that we have had to say or do anything to another person. Perhaps we did not give our employer a solid workday; maybe we had jealous thoughts; maybe we had an opportunity to help someone but we ignored the chance. These are not situations that require an apology to anyone but can be as detrimental to our sobriety and spiritual condition as anything else. Sometimes what I think is much more dangerous than what I say or do. Those sorts of thoughts or non-actions can build and if we cannot rid ourselves of them, there is little chance for peace and serenity.

Step Ten isn’t all about looking at our “dark” side. The “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous tell us Step Ten should be a balance sheet of both good and not so good. Surely we do good things every day and we should acknowledge them to ourselves and in prayers of gratitude. It is true that there are times when the good things we do are not done for the right reasons. I heard just last evening at a step meeting that giving unsolicited advice to someone was not helpful but was more like criticism. If we are not asked for our advice, why should we be so righteous and all-knowing that we tell someone else what he/she should do? Or perhaps we volunteer for something so that people will admire us. I understand now the difference between self-seeking and real service and I have come to terms with how many times in the past it was all about me. Ironically, especially when I am never sure how anonymous I want to be in my addiction, anonymity has clearly helped me define that issue. This step has taught me how to give of myself without expectations.

The steps are in an order for a reason but there is no reason why anyone can’t review their day. Even the newcomer to recovery can begin this type of inventory, providing any apologies necessary are only apologies and not Step Nine amends. No one has to teach us how to do this. This is nothing more than a nightly chat with your Higher Power. If you are not in the habit of taking Step Ten at night, I suggest you try it. Talking to God right before sleep gives us the peace we might have searched for all day. Sweet dreams!

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Copyright © Kathy L. Reprinted by permission of the author. Kathy L. is the editor of Bella Online 12 Step Recovery, where more of her writings on recovery can be found. She also hosts the Grateful Recovery page on Facebook.

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Contributors to Renascent’s Blog share their stories of addiction and recovery and/or their professional expertise.