This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps. Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors. My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women. If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.
Step Ten: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step Ten is all about living out your recovery day-by-day. In fact, this step is often referred to as making your life a “living amends.” In recovery, it is not enough just to walk through the steps once, complete them, and then say you are done. Step Ten is about living each day differently as a result of the work you’ve done, making a conscious commitment to change, honesty, and authenticity.
Personally, this requires you to pursue self-care and healthier ways of coping. You will be more conscious of your character flaws and the path you’ve slid into before that’s led to your addiction. Step Ten also involves being conscious of when you are wrong and admitting it, both to yourself and others. This requires humility and self-awareness. In your relationships where you’ve caused harm, including with significant others, this involves the slow process of rebuilding trust.
Step Ten requires balance, integrating all of your life into your conscious awareness so you can eliminate chaos. A common phrase in addiction recovery is that addiction thrives in chaos: the less chaotic and more mindful your life becomes, the easier it will be to work your recovery.
In Patrick Carnes’ book Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps*, he talks about the difference between partial, convenient recovery and inconvenient, or full, recovery. Full recovery involves knowing that recovery is a constant process that continues past completion of the 12 Steps. It involves acknowledging that you are a human in process, imperfect and flawed but seeking to grow.
How to Work Step Ten
Keep consistent commitment to your recovery activities.
Maintain connection to your 12 Step group and your sponsor as you continue to take evaluation of your flaws. It might involve asking others, like your sponsor or 12 Step group members, to speak up when they see areas where you might be wrong. However, this will only work if you are willing to accept it.
Not only do you need to acknowledge these flaws to yourself, but you also must continue to be open and authentic about feelings and motivations, rather than holding them under a façade of having it all together. This is a huge trust-building skill in relationships, and can be a key factor in maintaining sobriety.
Remain in the present as you hold tension between the past and the future.
We’ve talked about the Stocksdale paradox before, which encourages you to face the challenge of your addiction both by knowing how bad it was while also having a clear vision and hope for the future. However, focusing too much on the past or the future prevents you from enjoying the present moment and creating awareness of your daily life.
This step involves remaining present to what’s happening in the moment, rather than detaching through using addictive behaviors, fantasy, or delusional thinking. It requires staying connected to your adult self rather than responding out of childhood wounds.
Create a personal care index.
Patrick Carnes created an exercise in Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps* that I find incredibly helpful in thinking of taking a daily personal inventory. He calls it the Personal Craziness Index, but I prefer Staci Sprout’s re-envisioning of it as a Personal Care Index. This exercise involves exploring 12 different areas of your life for indicators that you’re not working your best recovery and/or what needs to be taking place for your life to have balance. Signs might be as simple as not making your bed in the morning or forgetting to eat.
This is a simple and powerful way to take a daily inventory and observe your risk factors for slipping back into addiction. Take some time to work through the different areas that indicate you are succeeding or struggling in daily life and use the tracking system to monitor how these are affecting your daily life and recovery.
Do a daily examen or quiet time.
For many Christians, a daily quiet time of Scripture reading and reflection is a regular part of spiritual practice. But whether you come from a faith background or not, having a regular time to meditate daily can be a helpful practice to integrate into your recovery. There are several books of devotionals or meditations that can be helpful for recovery, such as:
The Language of Letting Go* by Mellody Beattie
More Language of Letting Go* by Mellody Beattie
Another great practice to adopt is a daily examen of consciousness. Essentially, an examen of consciousness is an intentional time set up at the end of each day to review the previous day, what went well and what didn’t, acknowledge where you felt the presence or absence of God, and seek change for the next day. This can involve prayer and confession as well.
Observe your intense emotional reactions and examine them.
As you’ve been walking through your recovery, you’ve likely become more aware of your emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant. Now that you’ve removed the addiction that previously allowed you to feel numb, your emotional capacity will increase. You’ll have strong emotional reactions that are unexpected or confusing, simply because they are unfamiliar and you aren’t sure about their origins. Take time with your sponsor, a therapist, or a trusted friend to talk through strong emotional reactions and what triggers from your past or childhood wounds they might involve.
Learn new ways to communicate apologies or hurt.
The last part of this step involves promptly admitting hurts or wrongs we’ve committed. Apologizing can feel like speaking a foreign language when your addiction has taught you to use lies or cover-ups to hide behaviors, rather than bringing them out into the open. Approach daily apologies or amends like you would learning a new language: test them out, expect to feel awkward at first, and be open to adapting the apologies once you’ve tried out a few methods. Talk with people in your life who have worked through this step, or practice with your therapist or sponsor.
Are you seeking to embody living amends on a daily basis, but struggling with the effort it takes to remain vulnerable and honest? Are you unsure of what you should be tracking or monitoring your daily inventory? Are you struggling to know how to apologize or take ownership of mistakes? At Restored Hope, I’m here to help you succeed on your walk through recovery from sex and love addiction. Connect with me today via email or at 734.656.8191 to meet with me at my Ann Arbor office and talk through how I can help.
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