Making Changes


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 Joan Ebbitt, LMSW

Step 10If you are involved in a 12 Step program, then you know the importance of keeping in “fit spiritual condition” as the AA Big Book reminds us.  It is only “by keeping in fit spiritual condition” that we get “a daily reprieve” from our active addictions.  That involves daily commitment to paying attention to the effects of my behavior on others, along with the willingness to make changes as needed.  What a challenge!

Most of us have broken our New Year’s resolutions by February.  We are often hard pressed to find the discipline it takes to “keep on keeping on” with whatever it is we are trying to achieve.  But if you have had the experience and the joy of being in recovery from your active addiction, then you have indeed applied some discipline in working the 12 Steps, attending recovery meetings, talking to your sponsor and carrying the 12 Step message to others who are suffering, in order to maintain happy and healthy recovery.

Step Ten, Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it, is a wonderful and important Step in the Program to help you maintain recovery. If you want to make changes and keep growing healthy in all aspects of your life, this Step is a guideline that will keep you on the right track.  It might even help you to get your New Year’s resolutions on track!

Step Ten Says we continued to take personal inventory.  Why?  Why do it over and over?  When we review our past behavior and look at our current behavior, it can help us to become more aware of where changes might be necessary to improve the end result.    Since Repetition is the only form of Permanence that nature can achieve (OA/Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions), practicing Step Ten is a must to keep on track.  Perseverance is the key to keep moving forward in life.

The second part of this step calls us to promptly admit it when we were wrong.  Oh…this can be a stumbling block for so many of us.  To actually have to admit to being wrong about something can really stick in your throat.  When I was a young counselor, new at working in the addictions field, I kept making mistakes with a young man who was my patient in residential treatment.  I missed an appointment with “Charlie” because I had the time wrong; I neglected to set an appointment for a family conference that was to take place; I got into a verbal power struggle with him…and I just kept making mistakes.  I was horrified at my behavior and found it increasingly difficult to meet with this young man because he was becoming hostile in our sessions (I wonder why?!!). Our humble and highly knowledgeable Psychiatrist, Dr. Altman, said to me in our morning staff meeting after another trying episode with Charlie, “Why don’t you go to your next appointment with Charlie, apologize for all your mistakes and ask to start over with him.”  I was shocked at the suggestion; after all, I was “the Counselor” and I was “supposed to know what I was doing”.  I believed, in my youthful naïveté, that Counselors should not show vulnerability…as I perceived that as “weakness”.  But, after thinking it over, I decided to give Dr. Altman’s suggestion a try.  So, with fear, and embarrassment, in our next session, I apologized to Charlie and, indeed, did ask him if we could start over.  Charlie graciously accepted my apology.  We repaired our relationship and continued on with treatment, working together to help Charlie establish a healthy recovery plan.

The lesson I learned became a living Step Ten example of the need to promptly admit it when I am wrong.  It emphasized the reasons for working Step Ten on a daily basis.  If I continued to take personal inventory, I could monitor my behavior, and, make changes along the way, promptly admitting my errors, lapses in judgment, and a myriad of other faults!  I could then ask forgiveness, and move forward on my recovery path without carrying the heavy baggage of pride, fear of failure, embarrassment and shame.  I am forever thankful to both Dr. Altman and to Charlie for helping me grow.

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Working Step Ten brought self healing, greater connections with others, and the consciousness that my Higher Power continues to lead the way if I pay attention.