Step 10

In my experience, Steps 10 to 12 are quite different from the previous nine Steps.  I've heard some oldtimers talk about 10-12 as the "maintenance" Steps.  I've also heard others say that we go through Steps 1-9 once, but we work Steps 10-12 continuously thereafter.  Both of these have had some truth for me, but have not been quite on the mark.

Step 10 says, "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

I was struck from the very beginning by the verb "continued."  This told me that Step 10 was actually a continuation of the preceding Steps.  Some deep thought (well, as deep as any sexaholic can manage in the first weeks) led me to realize that it was talking about continuing the process of Steps 4 through 9.  The phrase "...when we were wrong" was what Step 4 was all about, that moral inventory to discover in what ways I was wrong (many!).  The following Steps showed me what to do about my wrongs:  use a series of lists, observations, and prayers to clarify them for myself (4);  share them honestly with God and another human being (5);  examine them to determine what character defects were cropping up, and how I could live without those defects (6);  ask God to remove the character defects (7);  identify those whom I had harmed (8);  and make amends for the harms I had done (9).  In working those Steps, I found it miraculous how my life-long emotional turmoil settled down into peace.  I righted some wrongs that were decades old, wrongs that had tied me in knots for all that time.  Now, Step 10 tells me not to let it build up again.  "Continued" to take personal inventory.

Today, I look for times when I am emotional off-balance, when peace isn't in my soul.  In recovery, I've come to believe that peace is the natural state of my soul.  When it's not there, something is wrong.  So I stop what I'm doing on my own, and I try to follow the recovery path instead.  I look for the people, institutions, or principles that I'm resenting, and I list them.  I make the other Step 4 lists about each one.  I follow all the directions in Step 4 on what to do about resentments and fears and harms.  Then I also go through Steps 5-9 in a small way on whatever the issues are.  I call my sponsor and share with him.  I examine my character defects.  I pray for God to heal me.  I make my own wrongs right.

This is very different from what I used to do before recovery.  Then, I would examine my harms and (1) try to blame someone else for making me do them, (2) try to forget them, and (3) eat myself up from the inside through my knowledge that I was really at fault.  They would trigger every bit of perfectionism in my make-up.  The Steps provide a much more effective way of dealing with them.

This kind of self-examination has become a constant thing with me.  It's not just in the evening (although I do examine each day as I go to bed, as part of Step 11) or in the morning.  Jesse L used to talk about his "hawk," flying high above him and watching himself all the time, looking objectively for the wrongs in his life.  At its best, that is also Step 10 for me.

One of the main results of this in my life is that I react to others far less frequently and less violently than I used to do.  Gradually, this self-examination has been training me on how to behave with others, how to love others.  And I find myself smiling gently a great deal of the time, enjoying being in my own skin.