Taking Step Ten

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


Suggested Reading for Step Ten:

Big Book:
Chapter 6 – Into Action

From page 84, line 16 to page 86, line 18

12 & 12:
Step 10


Your reading in the 12&12 pointed out that there are four varieties of 10th Step inventory:

Although all inventories are alike in principle, the time factor does distinguish one from another. There’s the spot-check inventory, taken at any time of the day, whenever we find ourselves getting tangled up. There’s the one we take at day’s end, when we review the happenings of the hours just past. Here we cast up a balance sheet, crediting ourselves with things well done, and chalking up debits where due. Then there are those occasions when alone, or in the company of our sponsor or spiritual adviser, we make a careful review of our progress since the last time. Many AA’s go in for annual or semi-annual house-cleanings. Many of us also like the experience of an occasional retreat from the outside world where we can quiet down for an undisturbed day or so of self-overhaul and meditation. [12&12, page 89, line 7]

These varieties of inventory differ primarily in their timing – when they are taken, and the span of time that they cover:

10a. The spot check inventory.

Steps One through Nine have sensitized us to see the truth about our own behavior and the manner in which the rest of the world, especially people, respond to our actions. Having developed this awareness we come to see, during each moment of each day, what is really going on. In other words, we are living in the truth of the moment.

We have, in addition to a new awareness, also developed some measure of ability to actually control our actions. No longer are we simply sleep-walking under the direction of old habits – habits, the way we think and act when we are not thinking about what we are doing, and our elaborate delusions. The process of exchanging good habits for destructive old habits is, unfortunately, laborious, and we don’t always respond in accordance with the principles of AA.. (In fact we never do get perfect – at least not in this lifetime.) But here are some of the ways in which the spot-check inventory works:

  • Just as we begin to render the digit of disgrace to a “lousy” driver while driving, we become aware of what we are doing. We also recognize that lousy drivers don’t deserve our preoccupation, they will not be improved by deprecation, and we have better ways to behave in the presence of the unwashed. We discover more and more that we do not render the sign at all, and when we do slip, we don’t respond to his finger with a shaking fist and a red face. We either break off the escalating exchange or we force out a smile – even if it is not a sincere smile. Responding with grace, incidentally, is one of the most perfect ways of “winning” an argument.
  • When our boss tells us he didn’t like what we did on a recent assignment, and we tell him to go to hell, we try to respond immediately with an apology for our inappropriate reaction. Next, we don’t enter into a long string of excuses about why we did what we did, but we try to find out what the boss is really saying. If he doesn’t have all the facts, we give them to him. If he does not foresee that his approach might cause unfortunate consequences, we gently discuss what we think might happen. But we don’t try to protect him too much against his will.

If, given our “invaluable counsel,” he still wants us to do things differently, we make sure we understand clearly what he wants us to do, and we tell him that we will try to do it that way from now on. And we do it, all the while trying to bring about his objectives and keeping him from getting egg on his face – even when we think he deserves it. Is this a tall order? Not really, it’s actually fun if we learn not to take it too seriously. Besides, all the other alternatives are worse.

10b. The daily review.

Most of us try to set aside a time every day for meditation. One constructive activity just prior to meditation is the daily inventory.

…we believe we can make some definite and valuable suggestions. When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflections, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken. [Big Book, page 86, line 3]

There is no need to embellish upon this direction. One point of interest, however, is that the topic in our mind when we drift off to sleep tends to remain in the unconscious mind during the night. Here are some things to avoid thinking about prior to sleeping: having a big fight with a coworker, taking revenge upon the ex-partner, being persecuted or victimized, performing destructive or unlawful acts, and the like. These ideas will keep us fighting, exercising or suffering all night. When we wake up we will be demoralized, bereft of the sunlight of the spirit and all pooped out.

10c. The periodic review.

There will arise occasions when we feel that a stock-taking will be a good idea. Maybe we are thinking about becoming engaged, and we want to avoid some of the pitfalls we have had in prior relationships. Our work partnership may be faltering or a new job could be coming up. Maybe we are stuck in the seeming malaise of the curse of living, and we just want a new start, or at least something.

The suggested format for a periodic review could well be the same as that used for Step 4. Why not reread our discussion of that step? It is a good idea to follow-up a periodic inventory with Steps 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, too.

10d. The annual house cleaning.

This might be like one of the occasions just discussed. It’s a good idea.


In the Step 5 guide we repeated the promises that follow that step.  Well, check out the bottom of page 84 for these from Step 10:

  1. And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone —even alcohol.
  2. For by this time sanity will have returned.
  3. We will seldom be interested in liquor.
  4. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame.
  5. We react sanely and normally, and
  6. we will find that this has happened automatically.
  7. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.
  8. We are not fighting it,
  9. neither are we avoiding temptation.
  10. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected.
  11. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
  12. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid.
  13. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.

With promises like these, who needs booze? No, really!  What were the promises of the bottle during our final months of drinking? We know, for a fact, that sobriety in AA beats drinking anytime. Yup, every day.

Excerpted from “Taking Step Ten” by the Big Book Bunch. The complete article is available online at http://www.sober.org/Step10.html.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.