I’ve wanted to start a series on what each step from the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous mean to me. Believe me when I say they mean the world to me! I can’t imagine my life without them. Just last night at our support group gathering after our ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) meeting I mentioned, “I wouldn’t trade my addiction and the things I’ve learned through recovery for anything — especially the relationship I now have with God.” I got several head nods and smiles of agreement from the rest of the group. Those of us that have worked the steps and continue to work the steps know how wonderful and valuable the steps are — especially when we’re helping others with their own steps. I’d like to share what the 10th step means to me.
The tenth step as written in the AA Big Book is as follows (emphasis by me):
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. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.
There are five components to a 10th step:
- Watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. The ARP manual also states the following in their 10th step: If you feel worried, self-pitying, troubled, anxious, resentful, carnal minded, or fearful in any way.
- We ask God at once to remove them. Please note that this is not, “later tonight”, “when I get home”, “when it’s more convenient”, or “tomorrow.” This is an emergency of sorts and the text is clear: at once.
- We discuss any of these feelings with someone immediately. Again, “immediately“.
- Make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone.
- Turn our thoughts to others and look for a way to perform an act of service.
I like the combined list from #1: selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, fear, worried, self-pitying, troubled, anxious, carnal minded. I would add “overly excited” and “depressed” as well.
When I first began recovery and was past the withdrawal stage of my addiction, I began to notice these crazy strong feelings I’d never had before (I wrote about it in my article on counseling). I didn’t know what to do about them. I didn’t know how to handle them and when they got too strong my urge to numb my emotions by acting out would get really strong. Letting those emotions linger for too long (we’re talking a few days) led me down a path towards relapse and is not a place I want to go any longer.
Now that I’m past my initial recovery period, I’ve gone through the 12 steps, and I actively work my maintenance steps (10, 11, and 12), I still find that I need to do a 10th step — sometimes 2-3 in a week. But they’re freeing! They release unwanted resentments and fears. They point me back to serving others. They help me make amends for any wrongs I’ve done. I’m constantly cleaning my life up and handing it back to God — the one person who actually knows best what I should be doing.
I’ll never forget my very first 10th step. I called my sponsor up (I think I was still working on step 4 at the time, but he recommended I start practicing 10 & 11 right away because I would need to get into the habit in order to do them the rest of my life). I shared with him what was going on. I had major resentment for a serious injustice at work where a coworker was making my life miserable and threatening my career. And of course, there was no fault on my part. I was the innocent victim. Or so I thought…
My sponsor, having experience of his own with 10th steps and thus wisdom, calmly walked me through the various parts of the 10th step as follows:
Sponsor: “Have you taken this to God and asked Him to help you?”
Me: “Yes, I have.”
Sponsor: “Great job for reaching out to me, that helps me as well.”
Sponsor: “Why don’t you briefly tell me what your resentment is?”
Me: <I filled him in on what was going on. Took 3-5 minutes.>
Sponsor: “Do you have anything you need to make amends for?”
Me: “No. This is all him. I’ve done nothing wrong here. Nothing to deserve this.”
Sponsor: “Are you sure? You’ve never talked bad about him to others, thus prejudicing them against him or being part of them having their own resentment? You haven’t been passive aggressive against your coworker? You haven’t withheld any work that he needed from you or your team?”
Sponsor: <more silence … patiently waiting for my reply>
Me: “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I did all of those things. I never thought of that as harming him. But you’re right. Wow, I guess I do have amends to make.”
Sponsor: “That’s usually the case. The more you do this, the easier it will be to see your part in whatever’s going on. One more thing, this sounds like a big deal. There’s a good chance this could take several months to allow God to take this from you — usually I find that’s because I’m not ready to let go of my resentment. God could take it away from you right away, but we learn more when we have to put our hearts into it and work with God to give it to Him.”
Sponsor: “Finally, be sure to do an act of service for someone. The sooner the better, and don’t over complicate things.”
In general I would say that’s how most of my 10th steps go. Though I’m more prepared to discuss what my part is and generally I already recognize the amends I need to make, but not always. I also find that sometimes I feel the strong feelings listed in #1 above, but I have no idea why I’m upside down and feeling out of control. But I do know that if I’ll invite someone from my group to help me with a 10th step, eventually God leads me to what’s going on. It’s amazing, but true. Every single time I walk away feeling totally elated, like my life is back in balance (because I’m letting God be in control again), and usually I learn something interesting from the person helping me — a small word of advice for example.
For people starting to do 10th steps for others I always coach them through how to do it the first time. It’s really easy: “Ask me if I’ve prayed yet. Ask me what’s going on and my part is in it. Ask me if I need to make amends. If I say no, ask me if I’m really sure. Invite me to do an act of service for someone right away.”
Once someone’s done it their first time, it’s really easy after that. And both people feel fantastic (because the person helping the one who called is actually doing a 12th step in that moment). So both are lifted by God and He can bless them so they can stay sober and live a more full life.
If you’re feeling battered, give it a try. If you don’t know what to do, invite a friend to help you by giving them the script I wrote above. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It just needs to be done.
Another thing I might add is that in general, it works WAY better if you do these with another addict. There’s a level of understanding, empathy, life-experience, and wisdom that a non-addict cannot provide. Also, I recommend to consider not doing your 10th steps with a spouse or partner. It can cause harm to the other person (which we should not do) and it can create an almost PTSD type scenario where they start freaking out any time you want to just talk to them. Your experience may be different, and I leave to you to ask God what’s best for you. But I thought I’d share what I’ve learned as it may be beneficial to you as well.
I love doing 10th steps, especially when I’m helping someone else with their own. They truly are a miracle and connect us closer to God. Try it out. Don’t sweat the details, just go for it and follow the script. The simpler the better. And be patient with the results, sometimes they’re instantaneous and other times we need to pray for help for days, weeks, or months until God guides us down the path we need to go (He will be there the entire time, we just may not be ready for His help yet — trust Him, He knows what’s best for us).
Best wishes in your efforts on your 10th steps.
My name is Mike
3 thoughts on “The power of a 10th step – my favorite step!”
My favorite part of the 10th step comes from the 12×12…
“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.”
— “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” (AA’s 12&12) Step 10, pg. 90
It points out that I am responsible. No matter what. It falls to me to do something to straighten it out.
Great post. Thanks!
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Thanks for the reminder. It’s good to remember that we always a responsibility to act even (especially!) when we are powerless to overcome on our own. We are still responsible to reach out to God and a friend.
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