Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Many mornings in my first decade of sobriety I would awaken with a crow sitting at the foot of the bed squawking, “Larry, you are a loser, you will never measure up. Go back to sleep.” I would then rapidly create self-sabotaging thoughts to reinforce the crow’s words: “No one really loves you, you don’t have enough money, love, respect or meaning in your life!” Thank God I am now aware that the crow is actually my self-destructive ego. I have learned to quickly shrug off those mindless untruths and boldly initiate my daily routine, which goes like this:
I begin with the Serenity Prayer on my way to the bathroom. I scrape, not brush, my tongue with a spoon to dispel the bacteria that grows rampant in one’s mouth during sleep. I brush my teeth, use my water-pick and wash my face with a warm cloth. I then drink 16 ounces of room temperature filtered water and take some enzymes and probiotics. Before I let those crazy thoughts reenter my mind, I grab a spiritual reading and head for a quiet place to read.
I read a sentence, a paragraph or maybe a page or two and try to process an intended message for the day. When the message is clear, I close my eyes and meditate. If my mind drifts off I gently guide my thoughts back to the message. I never plan the exact reading until I’m ready to start, always trusting God to guide me to the precise reading I need for that day. This process never fails to deliver.
I follow the quiet meditation by journaling my thoughts. I am not an inherently creative person, but what I put on paper sometimes surprises me. On occasion, I get inspired to bypass the journal and start typing on the computer. When thoughts rush in faster than I can type, I know for certain these thoughts do not come from my conscious mind, but from the God-consciousness generated during my quiet time with my Creator.
On the occasions I miss dealing with the crow right off the bat. My ego reappears with another hopeless thought or maybe even thoughts of arrogance. My ego constantly tells me I am different. When I recognized that I have distanced myself from the Spirit I invariably find myself frustrated and fearful, but recovery has taught me one important message: I can start my day over anytime I choose.
In step 8, I suggested a guided imagery to create and maintain hope. Now I suggest lucidly experiencing five minutes alone with the mind of God. Our will controls our bodies and God’s will is our spirit. I don’t have a soul, I am a soul, I have a body.
Our souls always have been and always will be part of our Creator. We cannot escape or avoid truth. Man is unable to understand the mind of God but we can still align ourselves with God’s mind without understanding it. Prayer, mediation and quiet time quickly align us with reality and truth, and consequently God’s mind. Consider starting a day with this:
Five Minutes Alone With God
Sit up straight, close your eyes and breathe only through your nose. Relax your jaw. With every exhale release the tension and toxins that separate you from perfection. After a minute, visualize your mind separating from your body forming a white mist floating above you. For these brief minutes, allow only one thought: “My mind holds only what I think with God.”20 Let each word shine with the meaning that God has given it.
Our strength is determined solely by the maintenance of our spiritual condition, which is best achieved by a daily devotion. Quiet thought and a thorough communion with God each morning prepares us for the 24 hours ahead.
By starting the day this way, we fast track ourselves into step 10. If we could always remember that nothing needs to come between God’s will and our will, we would have no need for a personal inventory. However, we tend to forget that our purpose on this planet is to learn, love, forgive, heal and teach. Instead, our egos will occasionally take over and we can become isolated from our higher power and revert back to our old ways.
When this occurs – and it will – try not to descend into guilt or shame; those are products of the ego. Instead quietly ask God, “What is Thy will for me right now?” The answers will come.
The Big Book takes a practical and much-needed approach to planning our days. It states, “We ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonesty or self-seeking motives.” It reiterates that “God gave us brains to use” and “our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.”
We ask God for inspiration in our thoughts and decisions. For all these suggestions to be effective, though, we must quiet our minds, avoid chaos and struggle and trust the process of recovery.
During the Day: Monitor and Breathe
We can monitor our days by taking a few moments every few hours to assess our feelings and emotions. If we find ourselves agitated, angry, afraid or doubtful, the Big Book suggests we simply say “Thy will be done”.
Living in the present is the key to our survival. There is no past and no future; we only live in the present. We can think of the past or the future, but we obviously can’t relive the past or literally project ourselves into the future.
Every so often, bring to mind the five minutes that initiated this glorious day. This not only delivers us to the present moment, but it makes it easier to find gratitude in the beauty around us.
Many may argue, “There is no beauty around me”. Compared to eternity, this world is an illusion and we see only what we project. So we can actually create our own reality by searching for beauty in the smallest of objects. A piece of fruit, a plant, a flower or even a weed can reveal its own special beauty.
If we project love, healing and forgiveness, everything we see changes. My friend Herb K. states, “You know what you do not know you know”. We add, “You see what you cannot see”. God-consciousness allows us to perfectly align our wills with God’s will. Perfect alignment is a million times easier than picking and choosing what parts of God’s will to accept as our own.
This is much like recovery from alcohol and drugs or any other form of compulsivity. It is far easier to maintain total abstinence than to try to control the addiction by limiting the amount of drugs, booze we consume and the compulsive actions in which we engage.
Deep breathing takes conscious effort and is extremely effective in relieving tension. It also nullifies head, back and stomachaches. Think of how a baby’s belly goes in and out as the baby breathes. Mimic this by taking air deep into the stomach; this increases blood flow and oxygen through our systems. Increased oxygen delivered to our brains brings clarity if we are in a fog. Deep breathing counteracts stress immediately, so practice it often.
Begin by breathing in through the nostrils while counting to five, letting the lower abdomen fill with air. Slowly let out the air through pursed lips. Say “in” when breathing in, and “out” when breathing out. With practice we can increase the lengths of the breaths. In only two minutes we can change our perception of reality.
A Course in Miracles calls the present moment the “holy instant”. I suggest using this affirmation throughout your day:
This instant is the only time there is. Thanks for this instant, Father. It is now I am redeemed. This instant is the time that You have appointed for Your Son’s release and for salvation of the world.
At the End of the Day
Before we go to sleep at night we take time to review our day. Did we spend our time with the Spirit or with our egos? Did we listen to the quiet voice within? Did we react or did we respond to life’s challenges? This review is never meant to cause guilt or shame; it is only a tool for personal growth.
Personal growth delivers emotional maturity. Many adults still live with the attitudes of teenagers. Teenagers have the built-in excuse for selfish behaviors because their frontal lobes have not fully developed, which is why, at times; they lack social and moral consciousness. (This is also why teenagers often take risks that seem insane to an adult.) The reason so many adults failed to emotionally mature is simply because their egos have been their teacher and they have ignored the voice of the spirit.
We recognize the ego has had a good day when we recognize our thoughts are distorted and have taken over by deceptive brain messages. When our brains lie to us it creates a twisted perception of reality. These messages are void of truth even though our egos insist that our thoughts are always true. By listening to our egos we become selfish and self-centered. The evening personal inventory has one purpose: to realign our perceptions with reality.
Review the following list daily. It is an inventory not only our behaviors, but also of our thoughts. Were we…?
Are we subject to…?
automatically thinking the worst
negative filtering and discounting the positive
believing our thoughts are always true
denial of reality, in any form
The remainder of step 10 has to do with promptly admitting our wrongdoings. We need to immediately recognize our behaviors, thoughts and beliefs. We review our values and elevate the standards to which we hold ourselves. Personal growth should be inventoried the same as wrongdoings, always remembering our goals by experiencing the 12 steps as a spiritual awakening. We ask ourselves, do we wish to have a small awakening or do we want to genuinely experience this world with meaning and purpose? Many people in recovery believe that abstinence from booze and drugs is enough. They end up as dry drunks and usually relapse overtime.
As we continue with the steps, the worldly road gets narrower. Our behavioral options in life become fewer and fewer. Nevertheless, the reward of spiritual transformation becomes glaringly obvious: there is no better way to experience life than by having a clear mind, a mind that allows for God-Consciousness. Our goal is to “live in time as we will live in eternity: in the holy instant of the present moment.”
After the Step
In AA meetings, people often say they are seeking a daily reprieve from their addiction. I also need a daily reprieve from fear and conflict.
Countless times in my fifteen years of sobriety I have lost my serenity by reacting to outside forces. I conveniently blamed people, places and things for my abrupt change in behavior when I was really reacting to my fear and attraction to chaos. I self-sabotaged my recovery with excuses and blame when what I really needed was to start every day with quiet time with God.
My quiet time revealed that teaching others would heal my deep-seated negativity. Christ said, “Do this in memory of me”. This quote is an appeal for cooperation from teachers and healers. I can do more on behalf of my own healing by sharing my vulnerability with others as long as I teach the solution of empowerment of mind over ego, light over darkness.
Being an educator of recovery has given me meaning and purpose. I strive to start each day with a vision of how I want my day to unfold. I share affirmations to reinforce the lessons that are gifted through sobriety. My daily affirmations are often simple, such as “I am brave” or “I am an example of God’s love”, or they can be more sophisticated, such as:
“I am content to be wherever God wishes me to be
because I know He is with me.”
“I am here to represent my Father who sent me.”
“I need not create worry, fear or conflict. All will be
made right in eternity.”
“Today is my greatest day simply because it is today.”