Continuing Personal Inventory - Step 10

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

Pg 84 in the AA Big Book says, "This thought brings us to Step Ten." What thought? The thought that the promises of recovery will ALWAYS materialize IF we work for them.

I have often said, to my patients as well as in my writings, there are two parts of recovery that require our attention:

  1. getting clean.
  2. staying clean.

Anyone can get clean; staying clean is another matter. (See article on relapse prevention, which started out as this article on Step Ten). So, step 10 is about continuing in recovery, staying clean. For all but sociopaths, those in serious denial and those using something to cover feelings, ongoing recovery means dealing with reality, especially feelings, real feelings. When we are using, we can deny or cover uncomfortable feelings; when we are clean, we don't get to do that.

Having feelings just happens. Dealing with feelings means action. Hence the personal inventory we learned to do way back in step 4 and the amends we learned to do recently in step 9. Sorry, once is not enough; it is a great start, but we gotta' make it a way of life, continue to take inventory and make amends when we are wrong, when we do harm in any way. Our book goes on to say, "we vigorously commenced this way of living." and, "We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear." Whew!

Putting this step into practical, everyday use is pretty straightforward. Many begin living in this, as well as in steps 11 and 12, from early in recovery, as they cannot stand to accumulate more of the above four (selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear) when not using drugs. Sponsors often start new people out by helping them initially take responsibility for any messes they make each day. It is a simple, not easy, task: taking daily inventory of ourselves and our behavior, then admitting where we were wrong. By living this way, we clean up each day's mess that same day or as soon as possible, refusing to carry the negative feelings and thoughts even one day longer than necessary. In so doing, we cannot help but, "grow in understanding and effectiveness." Those who do not clean up messes are likely to relapse, as most of us cannot live with ongoing negative thoughts and behavior without drinking or using.

Some of the cool results of living in step ten from early recovery include developing the mind set of taking responsibility for ourselves, something few of us did while in our active addiction. We were used to playing the "blame game", always sure that what we did or said was someone else's fault. Now we have the instructions for how to grow up and function independently, behaving like an adult. We stop thinking like toddlers, assuming we are the center of attention. We stop whining and begin to see we can change ourselves. We learn that our lifelong efforts to change situations, other human beings, and virtually everything we did not like were futile and adolescent. We begin to become, "emotionally sober."

By starting this growing up process when we first stop drinking and drugging, we become able to look at our resentments (steps 4 and 5), then our character defects (6 and 7) and then make amends(8 and 9) very effectively; the process is now a way of life. Many years and decades after commencing recovery, life continues to come at us. Like Michael Jordan, who used to shoot many baskets a day, we continue to practice our new way of living. Jordan did nothing different in year ten of playing than he did in year one, just continued to practice a lot. Shooting baskets was a way of life for him. If we continue to take personal inventory and promptly admit when we are wrong, it becomes a way of life and we get better and better at it; progress, not perfection, this is what we seek.

So, often called the maintenance steps, 10, 11 and 12 are important from as soon as we are able to do them and for as long as we live.

Next week we get to look at step 11.

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver


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