A New Take on Step 10

A New Take on Step 10

I used to think that Step 10 had the be THE. LEAST. SEXY. of all the 12 Steps. First of all, there was no drama in it. Not like Steps 4, 5, or 9.

Second, it assured us that even after we had completed an inventory and made amends we would continue to be wrong.

The thought that I would continue to be wrong was actually quite scary for me because in my family of origin, and even in many relationships in my adulthood, being wrong made me a target for emotional abuse.

That meant that I had to establish a new relationship with my humanity, and, more importantly, with this step.

The truth is, working this step has allowed me to embrace my humanity even more than Steps 4-9.

The fact is, I now look at this step as the very definition of perfection. If I address my wrongs in a timely manner, then I’m doing the absolute best that I can do. It doesn’t get better than that. It really doesn’t.

But wait, there’s more!

I’ve come to discover that this step is, in many ways, a sleeper step. There’s so much more to it than meets the eye.

I came to this realization when I was volunteered to speak on this step. For the reasons stated above, I had never actually chosen to talk on this step.

As I let the thought of sharing on this step simmer in my mind, a Native American AA speaker by the name of Don C. came to mind.

Don C. talked about how in his Native American spiritual practices, they put the Steps in a circle. The idea of putting the Steps in a circle made me think about my own spiritual work which I do around the phases of the moon.

So, I thought, if the steps are in a circle and I think of their positioning as representing the phases of the moon, then Step 10 would represent a quarter moon.

Now, spiritually, quarter moons represent moments of instability, so I asked myself if being at Step 10 in our Step work could also represent a moment o instability.

After thinking about it, my conclusion was “Oh my flipping God, YES!”

As one of the maintenance Steps, one of the messages of Step 10 is to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

But here’s where things can get quite unstable.

If we have earnestly completed the previous 9 Steps, we are going to be feeling an incredible amount of freedom. I mean, the promises in the Big Book show up in the middle of Step 9 for a reason. Doing the inventory and completing our amends bring about incredible blessings to those who do the work.

However, the reason Step 10 represents a moment of instability is that, because of the freedom, peace and all kinds of other good feelings that come from completing amends, much of the pain that had motivated us to take the previous 9 Steps will have been removed.

This totally unglamorous and unsexy step says to keep doing the work we’ve been doing anyway.

And it’s incredibly important that we do.

At this point, we have put our lives in the hands of the God of our understanding. And if we’re “even halfway through” our amends, we’ve gained a tremendous amount of spiritual momentum with God at the wheel.

So, what happens to any vehicle going at a respectable speed if someone yanks the wheel away?

It spins out of control.

Which means that Step 10 contains a warning. We need to keep the God of our understanding at the wheel of our lives by continuing to do the things that had already brought us so much healing.

Freedom from pain, guilt, and shame does not mean putting ourselves back in charge.

But Step 10 also contains a promise.

Each time one of my meetings discusses Step 12, I’m always so heartened by the fact that even people who have only completed Step 1 can nevertheless speak of spiritual awakenings happening in their lives.

Without diminishing the power and importance of those early spiritual awakenings by any means, I think it is important nevertheless to acknowledge that the Steps do not promise a spiritual awakening until Step 12.

To me, the fact that the Steps do not speak of a spiritual awakening until the twelfth Step means the specific spiritual awakening referred in Step 12 is of an entirely different order than anything we will have experienced before that Step.

And so I believe the ultimate importance and the final message of Step 10 is this: Don’t give up before that miracle happens.

Now I’d like to hear from you: what blessings have you experienced working this Step? Are there other “sleeper” messages that you have discovered in this step?

Share your experience, strength, and hope in the comments. I read every one.

P.S. If you need help with your daily inventory practice, I’ve created a new and improved Daily Inventory Journal with Coaching Exercises to support you in this incredibly important work. Check it out HERE.

Embrace the Darkness

Embrace the Darkness

My friend shared with me a couple of days ago about a solstice event she attended. It was all about embracing the darkness. Embracing the grief. Embracing the fear. Embracing the broken places inside us.

The moment she said the words ‘embracing the darkness,’ something really resonated inside me.

I’d been struggling with a number of broken places inside me: feelings of unworthiness, resentments, grief over the past. And it really felt like those things needed to be gone to be able to move forward with my plans and my dreams.

When I heard those words, however, something shifted. I felt like Spirit had just sent me a gift, an answer: embrace the darkness.

It was another profound reminder to me – a reminder I definitely needed – that, as long as I’m still wearing this mortal coil, I will always be living with these kinds of things. I will never shed my humanity as long as I’m here in human form. That means as long as I’m alive.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to grow, but simply that that growth requires an acceptance on my part of my own humanity. Acceptance that there will always be layers of the onion underneath.

I realize today that when I don’t recognize that, I don’t even get to enjoy my own growth. And the truth is, I’ve had miraculous growth.

But when I’m too busy focusing on the problems that are still there, I don’t get to appreciate, let alone own, how far I’ve actually come. And I gotta tell ya, I don’t know about you, but not allowing myself to appreciate my own growth and successes fells A LOT like the abusive environment I grew up in. I’m always amazed at the ways I keep perpetuating that in my own head.

I mean, it’s a perfect set-up for perpetuating those fears, those feelings of unworthiness, those resentments. Don’t ya think?

So what if I embraced the darkness instead? (more…)

Paris: My First Geographic

Paris: My First Geographic

“What made you decide to study French?”  I get this question all the time.

And it’s a tough question to answer for several reasons.

I mean, you’ve perhaps heard the joke: “What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual.  What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language?  American.”   IMHO, the lack of foreign language skills among Americans is both an economic and a national security crisis.

Except, that’s not why I took French.

Nevertheless, I studied French from junior high through grad school.  And I speak French with so little accent, most French people cannot tell I’m not French.  For an American, that makes me a bit of an anomaly.

So inquiring minds would want to know: “What made you decide to study French?”

I rarely answer the question honestly, but here it is: French was a way out. (more…)

Two Ways You Can Turn Your Problems Into Your Path to Growth

Two Ways You Can Turn Your Problems Into Your Path to Growth

My imperfections and my failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at his feet. ~Mahatma Gandi

But ooohhh man, did I seriously used to think they were failures!

Let me tell you a little bit about the committee in my head. Or maybe I don’t need to; you probably already know all about the one in yours. But just in case, my committee is the one that constantly repeats the refrain:

“You. Are. Never. Going. To make it!”

Or, “If you don’t start (doing x, y, or z,) you’re never going to get anywhere!” “Oh my God, you always (fill in the blank – whatever it is, it’s not good according to the committee.)” In sum, every time I don’t manage to do something I set out to do, or I don’t succeed in changing a behavior, the consensus of the committee is: “Fail. You know, we really don’t think you have what it takes.”

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I know.
Been there.
Done that.

But what do you do when all this stuff so totally feels like a failure? What about that To Do list with so little crossed off? What about the dishes that are piling up, or the clothes I haven’t put away, or the emails I haven’t responded to, or the workout plan I haven’t stuck to, or the diet I haven’t been adhering to?

Aren’t those all failures?

I’ve got good news and bad news for you, sisters and brothers. The answer is a resounding


So what are these things then?

They’re your path to growth. (more…)

In Honor of Lois Wilson

In Honor of Lois Wilson

“Our hearts do not need logic.
They can love and forgive and accept that which our minds cannot comprehend.
Hearts understand in ways minds cannot.”
~Lois Wilson

Last month was women’s history month and this month is alcoholism awareness month. And this past March 4th marked the 134th birthday of a very special woman to me, and to the history of alcoholism: Lois Wilson.

I very well might be dead without her.

She’s not terribly well-known, I know. Most people know her husband, Bill, if they know anything of her at all. Her husband was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Lois played a significant role in the founding of that Fellowship because it was Lois who pointed out to Bill that, even if he had not yet once succeeded in getting another alcoholic sober, the mere effort to help another alcoholic was keeping him sober.

After Lois pointed that out, Bill faced a crisis that had him seriously tempted to drink again. And so he knew he had to find someone else to try and help or he would indeed turn back to drinking. He found Dr. Bob, and thus Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

But I’d like to honor Lois for a different awareness: the realization that she herself had been profoundly affected by someone else’s drinking.