When I came into recovery, the promise of a life beyond my wildest dreams, as the direct result of a relationship with a power greater than myself, sounded weird and far-fetched. I was not at all sure that I would not rather die a slow, painful alcoholic death. My perspective upon the world was distorted and cynical, with everything viewed through a filter of misery and rage. My disappointment with myself was only rivalled by that which I felt for the world in general.
I would not have believed that the sort of life that I live today would be possible for me. Mainly because the little progress that I had made in any area of my life up until recovery had been accidental and lacking in any kind of security or permanence. I believed that I was doomed to a life of constant upheaval, lurching from one crisis to another, doing my best to adapt to changes as they came. A life that truly fitted me in which I was able to be honest, and progress gradually as the compound effect of sustained hard work over a period of time, was just not an aspiration that felt relevant to me, or indeed attainable.
Step Ten has been the key to realising this unattainable, irrelevant, wonderful way of life. Itt was the Twelve Steps that gave me the profound change that brought faith, consistency, and a new outlook on the world. Many of my beliefs about myself and the world could then be discarded and replaced by much more positive and constructive ones. But it is Step Ten that keeps those new beliefs in place.
Whilst drinking I could not sustain relationships for any length of time due to resentment. Step Ten has provided the "safety valve" that has given me choice in the way I handle my relationships, and the ability to grow up. I remember that often I would leave a job, or a girlfriend, and just not be able to explain why, other than to say "it just all got too much". Today I have learnt that my serenity is directly linked to my ability to take my inventory to God, and afterward make good choices as to how I react to what is happening.
That is not to say that I always get it right, because I don't. But one of the strong emotions that characterised my alcoholism was that feeling of being trapped, having no choice (and not only in whether I drank or not). Since I took the Steps and started practicing Step Ten, that feeling has only been a fleeting illusion. The result for me has been consistency, the one thing that friends and family knew I was incapable of. I stayed in the same job for six years and they were sorry to see me go (at least that's what they said). I have paid my mortgage for eight years, and been married for four. The smart money was not on any of that when I came into Alcoholics Anonymous.
Each time I sit down to take my inventory and examine where I may be at fault and owe amends. I accept, by so doing, that I am still sick and need to keep taking the medicine, that my daily reprieve is indeed contingent upon me remaining in fit spiritual condition. It is not contingent upon things going my way, upon success, or the world treating me with the respect that I deserve. Because the simple truth of the matter is that I was washed up at 32 and ready for the grave. And my life today is a gift given me by a forgiving God who loves me and has work for me to do. I am recovering. A work in progress. Not cured.
My defects of character are still active within my life today, they have simply assumed different guises and are subtler in their effect upon my demeanour. However, they still cut me off from the sunlight of the spirit, cause me discomfort, steal my time and affect my usefulness to God and my fellow man. Untreated, I will turn back into that angry, frightened, self-centered boy I was and blame God and the world for the way I feel – which will be out of all proportion to what is really happening.
This gives me the clearest indication that I need to take inventory. When I feel my outlook upon the world shift, little things make me really angry and I find it hard to accept that what is happening is God's will. Then I need to practice Step Ten, as the Big Book says on page 84, "Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code."
I take my inventory in three columns in a very similar way to that outlined on page 65 of the basic text. The way my sponsor showed me that he did his, and he schooled me in it so that I could be sure that I was getting the correct result. And that result is a levelling of my pride capable of allowing me to make amends, or accept that what is happening may not be to my liking, but is God's will and I will do my best to fit myself to it. Serenity is what I'm after, the peace that comes when I can truly accept that things are exactly the way God intended them to be and butt out. It is very important to me that I remember that there have been many times in my recovery when I have not understood what was happening and have not been able to see a way forward. Yet despite my inability to navigate I have come through. God's plans for my life are far better than my own.
It is also of vital importance to me that I remember to take my defects of character to God when I have taken inventory, and using the prayer described in the basic text on page 73, I ask for them to be removed and for my focus to be reinstated. Self-knowledge is of no use or relevance to me unless I am fully surrendered to the fact that it is God that has given me mastery over alcoholism, and not myself. Humility and an interest in others, as well as a desire to do service in AA and the world around me, is the by-product of working Step Ten well.
Recovery has been good to me, I have had twelve years of unbroken sobriety. I have met and married my soulmate in AA, and we are expecting our first child. I have started my own business doing something I love, and so far it has been successful. I have just sold my flat and my wife and I are moving to a house in the country. I have many friends and my family is very much part of my life. However, I am still fully surrendered to the spiritual illness that almost killed me and I am ready to use Step Ten to be able to accept whatever God has install for me in the future.