Step Ten

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong,
promptly admitted it.


For much of my life I could not feel my feelings. Perhaps this is related to growing up in a home where the expression of feelings, most particularly negative ones, was strictly forbidden. And if I expressed any anger, I could be sure that retribution would be swift and harsh. So I learned that feelings were dangerous, and learned to live almost entirely in my head.

The fact is, I learned to stuff myself in order to stuff the feelings and mask the pain that was surely there over not being able to have them, since they are a natural part of being.

And there was more. I am actually a highly intuitive person. My intuitions would tell me that something not good for me was going on. So these, too, must be devalued, not trusted, since to follow up on them would result in another episode of punishment. Instead, I used the gift to develop hyper vigilance, so that I could avoid those fearful moments of retribution.

It is a fact that I do have a good intelligence, but it is also true that for much of my life I was crippled by not trusting or not seeing most of what my mind knew or felt. This is not a good way to live, and the cost of living that way was fearful. I became an addict, and because I started so young, food became the primary substance.

Taking any personal inventory was beyond me.

It was not until I had been in program for nearly a year that I reached the point of being able to make my initial amends. I was so afraid, as I mentioned last week. Living as Step Ten seems to envision was really not possible at that time. However, I continued to work the Steps, so that amends were at least for incidents no more than a year old! Note that this is progress.

It was in my third year that I began to be aware that some few of my habits were beginning to change. My intuition was slowly being released, and turned to more positive activity. I could begin to sense that something might be amiss in a relationship, and I had by now heard it said so often that maybe I played a role in the problem, that I was able to make an amend for something in a rather shorter space of time. Soon it was down to days!

The thing that became my signal was the presence of resentment. Resentment is never useful when taken by itself, but is when taken as a sign that I need to look at something and see what's really going on. The negatives are given to us so we can look for the positives. Gradually, more and more of my intuition was being reprogrammed from hyper vigilance to sensing the realities present in my relationships to others. I am certain that I was a slow learner, even with some good therapy. And the therapy was coming from a food addictions counselor, so the focus was on the Steps and me. Eventually, I managed to retrain myself to use my intuition as a tool that enabled me to see what was going on, often in the very moment of it.

Then the feelings began to arrive. That was very scary. But I soon learned that feelings do not kill or even injure, and that they are true only of "how I feel," and not a description of reality itself. I feel fear because I am afraid, not because there is a creature under my bed waiting for dark to come out. If there is something in reality that is related to the fear, such as I feel when coming across a rattlesnake, I can take measures, such as flight, and be safe. Most of the time, I feel feelings that are baggage, rather than "real." So I began to learn to unload the baggage train with more and more speed. What once took a year, now might be done almost at once.

The feelings, too, have become signals. First look about in reality. If there really is a snake there (human or reptile), I may take certain actions. But most often, I am being asked to see that something in the present situation is an emotional parallel with something that once was a situation of danger. It is a purple vase.

The story of the Purple Vase is that a girl who was being incested repeatedly by her father would concentrate on a purple vase on her dresser, and try to forget what was going on. And she was successful until one day later in life when she entered the home of a friend and saw on the mantle an identical purple vase, and suddenly remembered what had happened to her in childhood. The experience was overwhelming, as might be expected.

So also, in other ways. So many of my "feelings" were responses to those parallel situations. I had to work to know what was real. The parallel situation might contain no danger at all to me, just remind me of dangerous situations that once were common in my young life. The danger is, that I respond to these feelings and therefore to the other person in the situation in ways that are totally inappropriate. The quicker I get in reading my emotional realities the easier it is to stay out of trouble. My wife tells me I am really getting better at it, and she ought to know. She has put up with me for an awful long time.

Now this is not very old stuff for me, and I have been abstinent and working the program since April 9, 1993. So you can see that Rome was not built in a day. But if we truly believe in progress not perfection, we will begin, and when we fail, pick ourselves up and start over again. The situation is not hopeless at all. The Promises of the Program are for real. And when we reach this step, even if it is the first time, we are beginning to realize them.

Some of you are more mature in program than I, and some are less. When we share our stories we all help each other, because our stories are really all we have. This step story is about raising consciousness, consciousness of our behavior, our understandings, and our feelings. This is done by continuing to work the Steps even when we may not be seeing a great deal of progress. It does eventually sink in. And then we can "promptly" admit our wrongs, and do our amends.

That's how it was for me.

How is it for you? Share with me.


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