Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Ten Essay
Now we come to the "lifetime" part of the steps. We may need from time
to time to take a personal inventory. We may yet need to make amends for
things out of our past. Some of this repetition is because we rarely
remember everything the first time. Memories will come up later on, even
though they are of old events. And that is certainly all right. But there
really is a sense in which the steps Four - Nine are done only once in a
lifetime. If we did them perfectly the first time, they would indeed be a
once-in-a-lifetime event. Since I am not yet perfect I do go back once a
year and work all the steps again. Perhaps you will find that useful to do
But now we are being urged to continue to work these steps every day.
When something comes up, we should learn to respond to it at once. This
means that we have to internalize the work of the steps, so that it becomes
an automatic thing with us. Every relationship we have will produce some
occasion for an amends or at least an apology. And for those of us in
recovery, we have to assume that in any fracas or rough edge, we played some
part, even if we suspect the other person played a greater part. Their amend
is up to them. Ours must be forthcoming. And this needs to be a way of life
I want to share with you something I was told by a therapist who treats
several kinds of addictions. She said it takes a year for the addict's head
to clear, for rational thought to be restored. This, she said is true of
COEs just as much as alcoholics or drug addicts. The mental habits of
addiction take that long to be seen for what they are -- "stinkin' thinkin' "
-- and for healthy thoughts to begin to take control. The main task of that
first year is to go to meetings, get a sponsor, and to work the steps
carefully and thoroughly. It is in the constant contact with recovering
people that we learn what the behaviors are that are sane. It is in working
the steps that we discover and root out the unhealthy ones in us.
Then it takes another two years to learn the good habits of life, what
they are, and how to use them for ourselves. It takes yet another year for
these good habits to become firmly entrenched. Thus, the earlier phases of
recovery take five years.
The really important thing to remember here is that the time is dated
from the last relapse or binge. This is why so many of us don't make a long
term of abstinence. For some reason, we seem to not get through the stinkin'
thinkin' phase, so we continue to think that way. I believe that we need to
become aware that this is true, and realize that we are asking for immediate
results after a lifetime of addictions and their habits of thought.
Therefore, making Step Ten and Eleven and Twelve realities for ourselves will
not occur overnight. They will occur, however, if we use all the tools we
have, and work the Steps. Working the Steps, even beginning to work these
particular steps, is critical.
How can we become conscious of what is going on in our minds? There are
two ways, and this Step takes up the first one: Don't let things build up.
Take the garbage our before it begins to stink. Form the habit immediately
of trying to see that for what we are responsible, we need to act on now.
Resentments have been said to be a binge waiting to happen. Therefore, we
have to dump them off. A resentment is so much fun. We get to skulk, sulk,
and sit on the pity pot. Suppose we take a resentment as a sign that we owe
someone an apology or an amends. How can I bring that change into
consciousness, how can I remember to do it? How can I bring it into
consciousness, so that it is there most or all of the time?
First, patience. Mostly with ourselves. Then forget feeling guilty. I
can remember when I could finally realize that I had a resentment that I was
enjoying. It took me an average of three days after the event to realize it!
But I also realized that this was enormous progress, that I was indeed
bringing things into consciousness and dealing with them, even at a slow
pace. How much better than bingeing over them!
Secondly, form the habit of looking at the day and its events. Some
people journal, and I am one of them. What's going on with me, and how am I
feeling about it? Once upon a time, before recovery, I used to journal. I
have read some of those journals. They are wallowing in self pity, and
complaints about how mean everyone is to me. There is not the slightest
insight into the reality that all relationships have two sides, one of which
is mine, and that I just might be responsible in part for what is going on.
There is of course, no consciousness that my resentments are building to the
inevitable explosion followed by a truly horrific binge. Not that I needed
any excuse to binge, of course. It had become a way of life.
Thirdly, we will also come to Step Eleven just next week, and put another
piece in place in this process. For now, though, let us consider where we are and what we are doing about it.