At the heart of the 10th step is self examination. Many of us bring a strong sense that our real problems are external and are a function of people, places, and things that are not as they ought to be. We may feel victimized by these circumstances which seem to unceasingly make us ’restless, irritable, and discontented’.
The steps and our recovery challenge us with a very different perspective and point of view. In Appendix 2 of the Big Book, recovery is described as a ’profound alteration in our reaction to life’. It further outlines that this change requires an indispensable dose of ’honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.’
Our recovery is less about changing what is happening externally and more about changing our perspective on what we see as we learn to respond differently in our actions and attitudes to the realities of our lives. The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus in the 2nd century described this realization as ‘we are not disturbed by things, but by the view which we take of them’. Many would describe recovery as a lifelong ’inside job’ of transforming our responses and worldview as we seek to practice spiritual principles for what we desire and for what we do … ‘our wills and our lives’ as described in Step 3.
We do not need to wait until we have completed Step 9 before doing Step 10. Step 10 work can begin immediately as we begin our journey in sobriety. The Grapevine article entitled ‘A Good Look’ very accurately captures the value of embracing self examination early in sobriety. It’s never too early or too late to practice Step 10.
The Twelve & Twelve is really outstanding in the depth and specificity of what is written for Step 10. Here are some key highlights from this very powerful chapter. Following these Step 10 suggestions may be something to embrace as a daily process to maintain and enhance sobriety as we learn to identify and investigate what disturbs us. These disturbances very likely have great potential to be ’reframed’ as we experiment with adopting new perspectives and taking principled actions. This process has proven to many of us that much of our suffering was not inevitable but rather something that we were self inflicting. It has been described that ‘we are volunteers not victims’ as we learn to unlock the power of this step. And by changing the stories we tell ourselves through new perspectives and by creating new experiences as we act in spiritually principled ways; we can meet the ‘acid test’ outlined as our 10th step goal to ‘stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and live to good purpose under all conditions’.
Sandy B., one of the most effective AA speakers over the last 30 years, delivered an outstanding talk about Step 10/11 that is both very entertaining and incredibly insightful. If you enjoy this talk , you might want to check out other talks from Sandy which are all accessible from the Recordings Menu of the GUGOGS website.