Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Ten Essay
"This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along." (AABB, page 84)
Here is the proof that the previous nine steps have not made us perfect and that we will continue to make mistakes in our lives. Some may feel disappointed by this, but I think it is the strength behind our program of recovery because it will ever remind us that our lives are still unmanageable and of our need to a Higher Power to intervene. Without these reminders, we would soon lose whatever humility we had achieved.
"We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit." (AABB, page 84)
This is the sentence from which I have gleaned my basic philosophy that spirituality is an action and not an attitude. To be spiritual, or in the "world of the Spirit," means there is action I must take and these actions appear to be focused primarily on how I treat others. The bulk of Step Ten is utilization of skills we have developed while working some of the earlier steps with the added instruction that we now do these on a daily basis.
The actual instructions behind Step Ten seem less confusing when looked at individually. Virtually all these come from just one paragraph in our Big Book on page 84.
1. "Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear"
2. "When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them"
3. "We discuss them with someone immediately"
4. "and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone"
5. "Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help"
We learned to identify selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear while doing our fourth steps. Asking for our HP to remove them we practiced in our seventh steps, and discussing these character defects with someone is what we did in our fifth steps. Of course, making amends is something we've just begun doing in our ninth steps. And to me, the most exciting part of this Step Ten is that it gives us our first brief glimpse of what will be the cornerstone of our recovery, the one thing that the Big Book tells us gives us the best chance, above all others, of staying abstinent - Step Twelve.
The purpose of trying to identify and make amends for these character defects on a daily basis is not so that we can be hard on ourselves or create self guilt, or wallow in the self pity of our imperfect natures. It is so that we take care of our mistakes before we have a chance to turn them into the kind of resentments and fears that will, uncorrected, drive us back to the food for comfort. We find we can save ourselves days of resentment and fear by resolving disputes as they occur, instead of allowing these hurts to grow and fester.
There are more "promises" made to us as a result of this step.
"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone - even food. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in overeating. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward food has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality - safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition." (AABB, page 84-85, adapted to compulsive overeating)
These promises, though, can be of a fleeting nature if we aren't careful. The words "so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition" are the key to our survival and our fit spiritual condition is maintained by our continued and active involvement in these steps. The first paragraph we looked at tells us that our course of action must be taken "vigorously."
The section in the book on Step Ten also gives us one of the most famous and frequently quoted phrases in 12-step recovery....
"What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." (AABB, page 85)