A Twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step Ten reads:
Continue to take personal inventory,
and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
At this point in working the Twelve Steps, it starts to feel like they have transformed into daily practices, not just milestones that you have passed. They become a part of our routine and how we interact with the world.
What Is This Inventory?
If you are learning about this step for the first time, I should explain what we mean by “personal inventory”. It is the same as Step 4, but it’s done in such a way that it’s significantly less work. As a recap of Step 4, I essentially created a series of lists about my entire life. I listed everything that I’m afraid of, all of my hangups and resentments, everyone that I have harmed as an alcoholic, and any selfish romantic mistakes that I may have made.
Most of us (if not all of us) experience a re-surfacing of our character defects from time to time. Some would argue that these are instinctive behaviors, so they do not go away completely. We may have to try to manage their intensity. I know that I will always have fears, worries, resentments, and ego-driven moments. The inventory is essentially some sort of listing of our fears, resentments, and harms done, followed by the part of ourselves that contributed to these.
If you are doing a good job of managing your shortcomings, then the Tenth step will be easy. Your personal inventory will be minimal. Congratulations on being a good person! However, most of us will have our good and bad days, so we need to “monitor” ourselves. The inventory is something that we are asked to put into practice. The multitudes of sponsors out there will have different ideas about how to approach this. I would suggest doing a daily inventory until such time that you can confidently say that you don’t need to. I, for one, am going to try to do this every day.
When We Were Wrong
The Tenth Step asks us to promptly admit “when we were wrong”. Part of this is recognizing that a character defect might be at play. Fear and self-reliance are common culprits. One aspect of this is when we actually do wrong towards someone else. My experience is that when I drank, I didn’t understand how my character defects were manifesting in my daily life. Now that I’m working the Steps, I often notice the part I’m playing, such as when fear creeps in, or when I’m being a jerk. Now I can immediately recognize, acknowledge and admit my wrong.
Sometimes we won’t realize that our character defects were at play until “after the fact”. This is why the Tenth step has us do an inventory. It doesn’t explicitly say to do this every day, so there is some leeway on how you actually do the Tenth Step. Personally, I’m striving to do this actively every day, at least until I’ve had a few years under my belt.
A daily inventory might be summarized as an analysis of your missteps and shortcomings for the day. I’m going to borrow some material from a mobile app called “Tenth Step”, because I think it does a good job of explaining what a Tenth step might be.
The Tenth Step App
In Tenth Step, the mobile app, you answer some questions every day:
1. Was I resentful?
2. Was I dishonest?
3. Did I promptly admit when I was wrong today?
4. Do I owe an apology?
5. Did I do or say something today out of fear?
6. Have I kept something to myself which should be discussed with another person at once?
7. Did I think today of what I could do for others?
8. Was I kind and loving towards all?
9. Did I reach out to someone in recovery today to see how they were doing?
10. Did I take the time to connect with my higher power through prayer or meditation today?
If you’re like me, you may often not “score” very well. That is a good thing because it’s like a net. It catches you in the act, so that you can make some positive changes in your life.
I highly recommend using this app, or simply asking yourself these questions daily. It’s probably a good thing to do before you go to bed, after interacting with the world.
The ideal would be to immediately notice our wrongs and immediately acknowledge them. I believe that eventually in our recovery we can become the type of people that are keenly aware of fear, resentment, selfishness, and such things. If so, we can react appropriately in the moment.
For those of us in early recovery, it might be good to make this step part of our daily routine. Here is a sort of model day for my own daily recovery:
- Wake up and recite the Third Step Prayer, thereby acknowledging the first three steps each day.
- Practice meditation (part of the 11th step) to increase my conscious contact with my higher power.
- Create a gratitude list. Recite the St. Francis Prayer. Recite the 7th step prayer.
- Make any amends that need to be made, whenever possible (9th step)
- Incorporate things that make me happy and healthy. Diet and exercise are critical!
- Incorporate reading, writing and creativity into my day.
- Practice mindfulness and try to be keenly aware of my character defects. Try to be a virtuous person always.
- Meditate again. Say another prayer.
- Call my sponsor, or talk to someone close, if I need to acknowledge some character defects (Step 5).
- At the end of my day, do a Tenth Step inventory. This will inevitably walk me through the Steps 4 through 8.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
The list above is a loose framework, but hopefully it makes some sense. It is just an ideal for me, as I am still working on my routine. As you can see, I believe that the 10th Step is the beginning of a daily practice incorporating all the steps. The 11th and 12th steps are similar, in that they are incorporated into your everyday life. We begin to reach a point where the Steps are animated parts of our daily existence, not just rungs on a ladder.