My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
Yesterday, I hiked from the top of the mountain, Pichincha, to the volcano Ruco Pichncha. (For those of you following the news, DON'T WORRY! It is not the volcano that erupted last week, though it is active.) It took my 2 friends and I about 2 1/2 hours to get up and about 1 1/2 to come down. (Younger and more serious hikers would no doubt smoke that time.)
I have read, from an experienced hiker, that mountain climbing is simply about placing one foot in front of the other. There were times when we though we were on the last big hill, only to crest it and discover another challenge. Working the 12 Steps and the rest of our recovery program is like that. Just keep taking the next step. When we are tempted to think we are finished and to coast, we discover another challenge, another summit to achieve. We rested when we needed to, and took in the spectacular view. The hike was a process to be enjoyed, not simply a destination.
The 12 steps are not a destination either. We practice them for our entire lives, one day at a time, and the process brings us great joy. The final 3 Steps are all about the process of recovery. So lets keep placing on foot in front of the other!
Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
By the time we have arrived at Step Ten, we have made great strides in recovery from compulsive overeating, the transformation of our defects of character, the healing of our relationships, and our spiritual growth. The Tenth Step will safeguard this progress and propel us into even deeper recovery. The AABB proclaims, “We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.” I love the word vigorous here because it speaks of the energy, enthusiasm, and momentum required for strong, continuous recovery.
Step 10 is spelled out in the AABB in five simple actions:
- We examine our thoughts and behaviors for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.
- When we become aware of these attitudes, we immediately ask HP to remove them.
- We discuss them with someone as soon as possible.
- We make amends, if called for.
- We look for someone to help.
In order to be conscious of our feelings, we must develop an acute interior awareness. The program aid which supports this development is the spot check inventory. Whenever I find myself off the beam, I pause to ask myself what I am feeling and why. With practice over time, this has become quite natural for me and I am usually able to identify these feelings quite quickly and adeptly.
The young volunteers here in Ecuador have a phrase which they use to describe their life-transforming experience here: Ruined for Life. It means that, since living here and seeing the stark reality of the poor with whom they relate, their lives, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions will never be the same. I find the same has occurred with me in working the 12 Steps: Ruined for Life! Whenever I find myself off the beam, a little twinge or an interior voice nudges me, “Isn’t there something you should be doing here?” I can no longer deny, ignore, justify, or cover up these feelings with food. My life will never be the same.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeater’s Anonymous instructs us that, “Step Ten allows us to recognize our emotions and walk through the pain they cause us, but then let go of them, and turn them over to HP so that we can regain our emotional balance.” Asking HP to relieve these emotions and discussing them with someone (Our sponsor or other OA member are often good choices) are actions we can take to aid us in letting go of them. Talking to another person can also help us to learn from our experiences in order to change future behavior. I used to believe that every mistake was a failure, but now I know that errors are wonderful learning opportunities.
Sometimes we don’t want to let go of negative emotions. Nothing like a juicy resentment to get my blood flowing! But the reason for doing so, despite our reluctance, is simple. They lead us right back to the buffet. The AA 12&12 calls wallowing in negative emotions such as jealousy, envy, hurt pride, etc. dry benders and cautions us against them. It warns us that “emotional hangovers are the direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excess of negative emotions.”
If we allow ourselves to be swept away by our emotions, it is likely that we will behave in ways that harm ourselves or others. If this happens to you, welcome to the human race! The remedy for this is immediate amends. When I recognize that I am wrong, I apologize promptly. If I need to do something to repair the damage, I take action. This keeps my side of the street clean and I thus avoid another big ole 4th Step Inventory. (Though I have done other inventories around specific issues.) Our abstinence is enhanced every time we make an amend. Every amend removes another barrier between ourselves and other people.
As we become increasingly aware of our emotions and the behavior they provoke, we can sometimes take preventative action. As with all things, prayer is a powerful support. I heard someone say in a meeting once that she prays every time she opens her mouth. This works for what goes into my mouth (which can be either nourishing or damaging) or what is released from my mouth (which can be either healing or harmful). The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous advises us to apply “restraint of tongue and pen.” The book goes on to define restraint as “an honest analysis of what is involved, a willingness to admit when the fault is ours, and an equal willingness to forgive when the fault is elsewhere.” Step Ten makes us self critical and less apt to criticize others. It keeps us on the beam.
Being on the beam involves courtesy, kindness, respect, justice, and love which keeps us in harmony with others. When we examine our behavior, it is important to recognize the good we accomplish and the progress we have made as well. As the AA 12&12 reminds us, “It’s a poor day indeed when we haven’t done something right.”
The final suggestion for Step 10 in the AABB involves searching for someone to help. Being of maximum service to others is one of the keynotes of the 12 Step Program. Being extremely attentive to other people who come into our lives is a wonderful way to treat self-centeredness. HP places people in our lives and we’ll miss the opportunity to learn from them if we’re thinking solely of ourselves.
In addition to love, kindness, and the willingness to be of service, it is critical that I develop an attitude of gratitude. I foster a posture of gratitude on a daily basis: The miraculous gift of my abstinence, a strong and healthy body that functions in the way I need it to, getting a seat on the Metrobus (Always a pleasant surprise!), the heart-tingling sensation of warm hugs from the Indigenous children at school, the excited tail-wagging, body-shaking greeting of the school dog, the breath-taking spectacle of my favorite snow-capped mountain, Cotopaxi, the inspiring vision of the sun setting over the Pichincha mountain range, the soothing song of a chipper bird, and a million other daily experiences of wonder, large and small. Focusing on thankfulness and abundance, rather than self-pity and want, enhances my recovery tremendously.
Practicing the Tenth Step on a continuous basis strengthens daily, permanent recovery. Remaining aware of our emotions and behavior, relying on HP to companion us through the rough spots, asking others for support and guidance, promptly admitting our mistakes, making genuine and swift amends, being willing to improve our lives on a daily basis, supporting and helping others in need, and maintaining a posture of gratitude for all of life’s blessings is the heart of Step Ten and the recipe for a contented life of freedom and usefulness.
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- Have I worked the Program vigorously so far? Please explain.
- How acute is my awareness of my emotions?
- How do negative emotions or dry benders affect my equilibrium?
- What actions help me to manage my emotions and get back on the beam?
- How will making prompt amends support and enhance my recovery?
- How is an attitude of gratitude manifested in my life?
- In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous p. 84 (Bottom “And we have ceased fighting…”- p. 85 (First paragraph) (4th Ed.), you can find what I have heard called The Extended Promises or The Tenth Step Promises. Does this describe my current relationship with food? Please explain.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AABB, 4th Ed. pages 84-85)
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous - Step 10
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step 10
The Twelve Steps