Once the reparations required in Step 9 have been made or are well under way, it's time to proceed to Step 10 (maintaining our recovery) and conduct personal inventories on a daily basis to avoid getting caught up in old destructive attitudes, emotions and behaviors, which can compromise your mental health and your sobriety.
Step 10 is All About Mindfulness
It's easy to revert to old ways of thinking and behaving if you don't closely and objectively assess your emotions and actions on a daily basis. During Step 9, you likely felt the joy and lightness of being that come from forgiving and being forgiven, and your goal from here on out is to experience these feelings every single day through your actions and your interactions with others.
Step 10 requires spot-checks throughout the day to review your behaviors and identify those that are selfish, dishonest or driven by fear or resentment. It requires constant self-assessment to identify old emotional and behavioral patterns that can lead you to cause harm to others or to yourself, and it requires taking immediate action to repair any damage done to others through words or actions. This kind of mindfulness leads to better health and a higher sense of purpose and wellbeing.
While mindful meditation isn't specifically mentioned in Step 10, it's the foundation of Step 11. Engaging in formal meditative practices, including yoga and sitting meditation, can help you hone the skills necessary to take these daily inventories and reach deep inside yourself to thoroughly examine your motives behind certain interactions with others and evaluate your attitudes and behaviors with detached honesty.
A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that engaging in mindful meditation reduces stress, anxiety and even symptoms of physical illness, and it improves psychological functioning—all of which are invaluable assets for continued recovery.
Step 10 is Also About Achieving Self-Restraint
Through the mindful examination of your thoughts and actions on a daily basis, you will learn to identify the emotional states that most often lead you to make mistakes that are harmful to yourself and others. For example, when you're stressed at work, you may find that you're more likely to lash out at home, which affects the wellbeing of your family. You may find that when you don't get enough sleep, you're cranky and tend to snap at others. When you're feeling poorly about yourself, you may have a tendency to say negative things about others in an attempt to feel better. These are all destructive behavior patterns that can only be addressed through the regular mindful evaluations that define Step 10.
Through continued practice, you'll find that even if you're tired and cranky or stressed and angry, you're able to rein in the associated behaviors and develop the self-restraint necessary to avoid saying or doing things that will negatively affect others and, in turn, leave you with feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred, which are potent emotions that can put your sobriety at risk.
Forgiveness is Essential
When making your daily inventory, you may find that at times, it's other people's behaviors and attitudes that lead you to make choices that you later regret. Learning to forgive other people for their flaws is an important part of Step 10. Just as you're not perfect, neither is anyone else, and just as you're prone to fly off the handle now and then, so are others. Part of your journey is acknowledging that you have the power to make good choices even though someone else isn't.
As you strive to make Step 10 an integral part of your life, it's essential to remember at all times that you're not striving for perfection, but rather for progress. No matter how mindful you become, you will make mistakes, and immediately forgiving yourself for your mistakes is just as important as forgiving other people for theirs. A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology cites a number of studies linking self-forgiveness to positive self-esteem and a high level of life satisfaction, while a lack thereof is associated with neuroticism, anxiety, depression and hostility.
During your daily inventory, you'll examine the things that went wrong, and you'll forgive yourself for them. If you didn't make amends on the spot for wrongs done to others, you'll do so at the first available opportunity. In doing so, you will keep your slate clean, gain a high level of compassion for yourself and for others, and continue on a trajectory of personal growth that will strengthen your relationships and your resolve to achieve lifelong recovery.