Step 10 of the 12 Steps: We continued to take personal inventory, and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Like it or not, recovery from addiction isn’t something you can do once and cross off your bucket list. We all get hungry again after eating, tired again after sleeping, dirty again after showering, flabby again after exercising—and tempted again after swearing off bad habits. Cynical as it sounds, the saying “once an addict always an addict” carries a grain of truth; old cravings can kick in full force at a sip or puff that a “clean all my life” person would consider a brief discomfort. It’s the same principle that applies during Step 10 of the 12 Steps, albeit in a much healthier context, to learning to swim: toss a person into deep water fifteen years after he last got wetter than a bath, and he’ll reflexively struggle to shore where the non-swimmer would flail helplessly.
Step 10 of the 12 Steps and the First Few Months of Recovery
When it comes to addiction recovery, the first few months are particularly dangerous because old habits are still deep-rooted; you may have to watch yourself almost to the point of exhaustion. For months or years, a major chunk of your life was scheduled around that next dose: you always had a drink with lunch and two more on the way home from work, then relaxed with a joint in front of the television. Your brain and muscle actions became literally programmed to carry out those actions and react with familiar sensations. Naturally, it feels “wrong” (and seriously uncomfortable) when you pack your lunch with a water bottle, drive straight home from work, and sit in front of the television empty-handed. It’s like driving a new-model car with all the buttons and levers in new-to-you positions, and having to operate them with your non-dominant hand to boot.
During Step 10 of the 12 Steps, you’ll have less of a battle against the pull of habit if you change as many associated actions as possible, sending your brain the message that this is something new to get used to. Pack an entirely different lunch (noodle soup and carrot sticks instead of the familiar ham sandwich), and eat it in the park instead of at your desk. Take a different route home from work, or, better yet, carpool or take a bus to make stopping inconvenient. Instead of watching television in the evenings, join a Meetup group or a fitness center. And whatever other new habits you practice, banish all habit-forming substances (legal or not) from your personal space; and set aside a specific time each day for journaling your personal inventory, with meditation and prayer.
A New Normal
Once you’ve been consistent for a few weeks or months and are getting comfortable with a “new normal” (and especially when your new life gets stressful with new responsibilities and challenges), you’ll be tempted to skip a daily personal inventory “just once” or to switch to every other day or every week. DON’T, certainly not without advice and support from your 12-Steps counselor or other mentor. The private decision that “I’m doing so well, what harm could it do to slack off just a little and do what I feel like doing?” is the trap that lets dieters gain back those thirty pounds, enthusiastic joggers devolve back into couch potatoes, and recovering substance users fall back into the clutches of old addictions.
Remember, a long-established habit still maintains a foothold in your brain, even if you can’t feel it constantly anymore; and the way down has the pull of gravity on its side. Even people who haven’t gone near a “fix” in decades report that its siren call still sounds on occasion.
Support During Step 10 of the 12 Steps
However long the period of sobriety, nothing drowns out that call like the voices of human support; in addition to taking personal inventory each day, keep going to support meetings. Stay close to your non-using friends, old and new—keep busy with healthy activities and good company so you won’t have time to think about “needing” a drink. And remember, don’t hesitate to call your 12-Steps contacts for support the moment you feel any of the emotional “use triggers”—anger, discouragement, self-pity—trying to sink in its claws. The longer you put it off and tell yourself “I can handle this alone,” the closer to the edge you get.
All that said, it’s still a minority of those in recovery who make it through the first year without lapsing at least once. It’s the second part of Step 10—“when we were wrong, [we] promptly admitted it”—that separates those who regain their balance quickly from those who get knocked down for the long count. If you slip and take a gulp of beer, a puff of cannabis, or a shot of hard stuff—or if you pull another habit-associated boner such as lying, or “borrowing” from your partner’s cash box—that doesn’t mean you’ve failed and are doomed to return to substance abuse at its worst.
It means that you revisit Steps 5, 7, and 9: come clean about what you did wrong; pray for forgiveness and renewed strength; and make amends for what you did. Then, consider your slate wiped clean and go on with Step 10 of the 12 Steps, ready to avoid future lapses and recover quickly from any that happen.
Next week, we’ll discuss the spiritual aspects of moving on to even higher ground.
About Kemah Palms Recovery®
Whether you’re on Step 10 of the 12 Steps or you haven’t started yet, Kemah Palms Recovery® has addiction treatment options that meet you where you are. For more about our 12 Step recovery program, contact Kemah Palms Recovery® today at 855-568-0218.