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The 10th Step: Learning to Take a Daily Inventory

A person doesn’t become an addict overnight. The disease of addiction results from a confluence of different factors, which can include biological or genetic predisposition to chemical dependency, growing up with addiction in the family, having addicts and users for peers, living in place where addiction is exceedingly common, being curious about recreational substance abuse, and so on. Moreover, alcohol and drug addiction results in a number of profound effects, which include the physical and health effects, harm or destruction to important personal relationships, sacrificing financial stability and employment, and many other negative effects. However, despite the profound and negative influences that chemical dependency can have on individuals, recovery is both possible and attainable.

While much of recovering addicts’ success is often attributed to addiction treatment programs, there’s increasing support for the central role that twelve-step support groups have in long-term sobriety. Since Alcoholics Anonymous was created in 1935 by Bill Wilson as a means of helping a colleague achieve lasting sobriety, the recovery fellowship has gained considerable traction as the preferred means of achieving mental and spiritual recovery from alcoholism. The renowned Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been used or adapted for many derivative groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and several others.

Beginning with accepting one’s powerlessness to addiction (Step One), those who are working through twelve-step recovery progress through each of the successive Twelve Steps, which also include turning oneself over to the higher power of one’s understanding (Step Three), admitting our wrongdoings (Step Five), making a list of those who have been wrong and becoming willing to make amends (Step Eight), and making amends wherever and whenever possible (Step Nine). By completion of the Ninth Step, individuals are reaching a point of stasis whereby the process of spiritual recovery is in a maintenance phase after having corrected as many of one’s prior wrongdoings as possible and making a commitment to overall betterment going forward.

The 10th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous: Continuous Moral Inventory

young girl writing daily inventory

As put forth by Wilson and his colleagues in Alcoholics Anonymous: How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered From Alcoholism—known colloquially as “the Big Book” by members of twelve-step groups—the Tenth Step is as follows: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” According to Wilson in the Big Book, much of the importance of the Tenth Step is putting into daily practice what has been learned over the course of the Fourth through the Ninth Steps. More specifically, individuals should continue to monitor themselves for selfishness, fear, dishonesty, and resentment as is put forth in the Fourth Step. When such feelings emerge as suggested by the Sixth Step, individuals should ask the higher power of their understanding to remove them as in the Seventh Step. These feelings should also be discussed with someone, as suggested in the Fifth Step, and amends should quickly be made if anyone is harmed due to these feelings (Steps Eight and Nine).

There are two essential components that form the basis of the Tenth Step: First, to incorporate that which is learned over the course of the preceding steps in one’s daily life and routine. Second, the framework of the Tenth Step, as well as one’s efforts in all others, emphasizes progress rather than perfection in anticipation of the setbacks and struggles that inevitably accompany recovery. As such, although the Tenth Step involves maintaining a certain level of integrity, ideals, and principles, it understands that spiritual perfection is all but impossible and instead motivates individuals to merely seek spiritual progress. In the case of the Tenth Step, spiritual progress is made through the taking of a daily personal and/or moral inventory.

Continuous Effort Despite the Progress Made

man praying at night

One of the most important traits of the Tenth Step is that it helps individuals to minimize the buildup of certain negative emotions that might deter one’s recovery or make an individual more likely to relapse, which includes situations of resentment, jealousy, irrational fear, anger, shame, self-pity, and so on. Moreover, the Tenth Step merely provides a means with which one can maintain the progress made over the course of prior steps, but should not be seen as an end-all-be-all cure for negative feelings and experiences. In fact, the Big Big even says that although it’s easy to become complacent in later Steps and rest on one’s laurels after making noticeable progress; however, each day’s sobriety should be seen as the fruits of one’s efforts with complacency leading to decreasing effort and increasing potential for relapse.

With the Tenth Step, individuals make a daily appraisal and assessment of self. The difference between this step and the previous is that prior steps dealt with making amends for one’s wrongdoings over the course of active addiction; in contrast, the Tenth Step requires continuous assessment and amends in order to identify and address one’s ongoing shortcomings, deficits of character, and wrongdoings committed from one day to the next. As part of the Tenth Step, the assumption is that as one continues to take an appraisal of self and make amends for any of the day’s wrongdoings, the wrongdoings will become less and less over time as the individual becomes more accustomed to the Twelve Step way of life. Moreover, making a real, genuine amends means not only restoring balance for a misdeed, but having regret for the incidence and the intention to not commit such a deed again in the future. As such, an important aspect of the Tenth Step is the development of self-control and restraint, especially with regard to how one’s actions, feelings, beliefs, and opinions affect or could harm others.

Find Your Way to Recovery Through Treatment

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs and would like to learn more about addiction treatment or twelve-step recovery, the Palm Beach Institute can help. Call today to speak with one of our experienced recovery specialists who can answer all your questions and help you find the addiction treatment program that best meets your needs.

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