The tenth step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program says
We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
This is the first of the steps to deal with maintaining our sobriety. The Big Book says on page 85 that after we become sober that
It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.
This article looks at the 10th step inventory questions that should be asked.
Why Is This Necessary?
Page 85 of the 12 and 12 says
When a drunk has a terrific hangover because he drank heavily yesterday, he cannot live well today. But there is another kind of hangover that we all experience whether we are drinking or not. That is the emotional hangover, the direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excesses of negative emotion—anger, fear, jealousy, and the like.
One of the causes of drinking is emotional issues and in order to stay sober, we need emotional sobriety and maintenance of our spiritual condition. For years our typical response to emotional issues has been an issue in our daily lives. We handed over our character defects in step seven.
This step brings some of the previous step work into our daily lives ensuring we constantly accept personal responsibility where appropriate. The Big Book says
We must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others.
This is a constant necessity as guilt can be devasting to the sober alcoholic. We review it in order to become a better person, not to berate ourselves over our defects of character.
The Big Book suggests the following questions:
1. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid?
To this, we need to add anger and guilt. The items here can be divided into two areas. What we did and how we felt? Resentment, anger, fear, and guilt are how we felt. Selfishness and dishonesty are what we did.
The two are often interlinked and one will follow the other. Selfishness results in dishonesty which leads to guilt. Guilt can lead to resentment. The cascade needs to be arrested before it overflows into risk.
2. Do we owe an apology?
Most times we will owe an apology. There may sometimes be a reason that an apology is needed with an explanation. This makes the other person aware of the trigger and they will hopefully avoid it. As an example, my son is on the autistic spectrum. Condemn autistic or other special needs people and I will explode. Full stop. I will apologize but I will also let the other person know exactly where they went wrong.
3. Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once?
This ties into the previous question. Often speaking immediately ties into an apology and a discussion. I find that often people are amenable to discussions and that relationships can be strengthened.
4. Were we kind and loving toward all?
Often not. We react like the proverbial bull to a red rag. We need as far as possible to recognize that others have the same feelings and triggers as we do and as we take stock of our emotional disturbances realize, with empathy, that we are not alone in these disturbances.
5. What could we have done better?
This is generally true, but the real question is how could we have done better. This helps us pause the next time and reorient ourselves so we can avoid or attempt to avoid repetitions of such events. There are always times when we wonder how we will deal with some people and forget that we were such people.
6. Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?
This is not so much an immediate question to be asked at the very moment of an incident. We ask it in our end-of-day reflection when we have time to consider things more deeply. This neatly brings us to the next section – when do we do this step?
When to ask
There are essentially two times to ask these questions. It should form part of a daily reflection at the end of the day. It is vital that we set aside time with our Higher Power each day and take a daily inventory.
By reviewing our daily life, we purge ourselves of negative emotions and can take corrective measures. As noted, the sixth question is really meant to be considered during this time. It also allows us
The other is the spot check inventory, done as soon as a need is perceived. If possible, we should address issues as they arise and not wait until the next day. Langston Hughes wrote:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Change “dream” to “resolution” and it reflects a common outcome for us. Unresolved grievances and guilt can eat at us and fester and to “resolve” it and we may run back to the bottle. As soon as we realize something has happened, we need to think about it and resolve it as soon as possible.
What to do
The Big Book directs us to do the following after asking these questions”
1. Ask God at once to remove them.
We seek God’s forgiveness and ask as we asked in step seven that these problems be removed. This keeps us in conscious contact with our Higher Power. The whole aim of any step program out there is aimed at developing and expanding our conscious contact with God. Anytime, though, that we approach our Higher Power is a time of spiritual growth and a chance to grow in humility.
2. Discuss them with someone immediately.
In step 5 we “admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Here In step ten, we do the same. When we recognize a mistake, we admit it to ourselves. When we ask the God of our understanding to remove the problem, we admitted it to God. Now by discussing it with someone else, we admit it to someone else and we close out the step 5 triumvirate.
3. Make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone.
It may not always be possible to make amends immediately but do it as quickly as possible as it brings closure not only to us but to those we harmed. Often the longer taking amends makes the more likely we are to become intimidated and balk at the thought.
4. Then "resolutely" turn our thoughts to someone we can help.
This fast tracks us to step 12.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
This is the core of the 12 steps. It cascades the grace and freedom we have received in having a spiritual awakening to others who may be ready to receive it. It’s a beautiful thought. Where once we hurt others, we become healers. So now after having reflected on our error we look inwards and see the good that we are capable of.
There is no doubt that where the maintenance steps form part of daily practices. the chance of sustaining sobriety is improved. This is the first of those steps.
In various professions, reflection consists of two types which are reflected here. These are a reflection in action and reflection on action. Pausing to consider what has just happened is a reflection on the action of our daily lives. The end-of-day review is a reflection on how we practiced our daily lives just for today.
The net result of taking this effort is to significantly avoid the likelihood of going back to our addiction. Think of what that means in big terms not just for yourself, but for your family, your friends, and your colleagues.
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous