Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 10 is the first of the “maintenance steps:” actions to be taken on a daily basis for the rest of our lives. Assuming that you have done the “searching and fearless” inventory required in step four, and assuming you have done (or are working on) the amends process in steps 8 and 9, step 10 is pretty simple. As often as need be, I was taught at least on a daily basis, take a look yourself… thoughts, actions, attitude… examine, and ensure that all are in line with your new way of living. Of course, the not-so-fun part, if you happen to discover that you’ve said or done something that is not in line (Who? Me!?!), repair the damage as quickly as possible, so that you may move on.
This step is a good way to continue the practice of looking at myself, my behaviors, and my mistakes, rather than reverting to form and condemning the behaviors and mistakes of others. It’s an ongoing way of “keeping my side of the street clean.”
It’s also a way of maintaining the serenity gained from working the first nine steps. Here’s an analogy: I am guessing that everyone has at least one area of their home that serves as a dumping ground. Sadly, I have a few areas, but the worst offender is the basement. And when I do not maintain the order, and keep inventory of what is going into the basement, things slowly but surely spiral out of control, organizationally speaking (which, by the way, is the current state of affairs). Numerous times in the past 7 years of living in this house I have done the “big clean:” purge the basement of all non-essential items, organize the remaining, and then clean it from top to bottom. But then, we host a big party, and we need to get stuff out of the way, immediately! Then, Christmas comes, and all the newly emptied boxes need to go somewhere, as well as the gifts that we are unsure where to put. And then a change of season comes, and the previous decorations need to come down in a hurry, so who has time to store them properly? Before you know it, the basement is a disaster.
Now, if I had just taken the few minutes needed for each of those occasions, found a home for new things, organized the old, the basement would be in good standing. Because I did not, I now need to do the “searching and fearless” inventory that I had already done several times before.
Step 10 is taking those few extra minutes each day to keep my life in good working order. If I fail to regularly take a look at myself, resentments start to pile up, regret over poor choices gather, and, before I know it, I am feeling horribly and can’t begin to unravel the emotional knot my life has become.
There are other benefits from taking this mini-inventory: it keeps me from the wasted energy of judging everyone else, it keeps the focus on what I can control (myself) and keeps the focus away from what I can’t (everyone else). Making amends promptly is, like everything else, not easy to do, but with practice gets a lot easier, and there is something to be said for laying my head down at night with a clean conscience!
The picture above is my son and his boy-band mates (my son, in the middle, sang, while his friends played sax and guitar) after their performance in the school talent show yesterday. What a miracle to witness their enthusiasm!
Did you ever suspect something to be true (usually something negative), and, once the suspicion takes root in your mind, twist every subsequent event to fit your theory? If you have not, I am happy for you, because this thought process is unnerving, anxiety-producing, and absolutely draining.
As a person in recovery, this kind of thinking is the opposite of everything I am learning, but damn if it isn’t a hard habit to break. Once I have it in my head that someone is thinking a negative thought (about me, because isn’t it always about me?), then it is exceedingly difficult for me to:
1. let my suspicions go without reacting to them, and
2. create continuing scenarios in which I essentially build my case against the person, simply to justify my paranoid thinking.
I can say with authority that this process, once begun, never ends well. So why do I continue with this behavior? At this stage of my journey, the best insight I have is that it is all ego… I am so sure of my powers of perception, so confident in my ability to analyze the behaviors of others, that no one is going to persuade me I am wrong.
And the solution to this problem? Well, since I am a work in progress, I can’t be too hard on myself if I haven’t fixed every character defect, or gotten to the bottom of every issue in my life. For the time being, I can acknowledge that this is an issue with which I struggle, and I can turn it over to God, and ask Him to continue to direct my thoughts and my actions to better serve His will.
It sounds good, I’ll keep you posted on how it works!
The first of AA’s 12 steps reads: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” I have found 2 things to be true: that you absolutely cannot succeed in recovery without some basic belief in this concept, and that acceptance of this is an ongoing process.
But what I am also realizing is that acceptance of powerlessness does not apply only to recovery. I am powerless with respect to all people in my life. I cannot control what they think, say or do, and if I don’t like one of the above, that’s just too damn bad for me. The sooner I can accept this powerlessness, the happier and more serene I will be.
One of my big character defects is railing against injustice, or what I perceive to be injustice. Ironically, I used to consider this character defect as a strength… I believed I had a highly developed sense of right and wrong, and I spent a lot of energy in the past trying to get others to see my point of view.
I now realize this is nothing but an overinflated ego on my part, and I have nothing to gain by trying to control the people and events around me. I have control over exactly one person’s thoughts and actions, and it is enough of a project trying to control my own behaviors!
The upside to all this introspection is that when I truly accept these ideas, my mind and heart are so much calmer, and I really can look at my day with a happier, more serene perspective.