June Newsletter: Core Principles in the 12 Steps

SteinbergBy John Steinberg, MD – The Bergand Group

Continuing the series of step-oriented topics in our Bergand Group newsletters, we come now to Step Ten: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” The essence of this step is an explicit reminder that recovery is an ongoing process. Indeed, the step could be simply stated, “stay on track.”

While some in recovery make it a practice to repeat steps Four/Five or Eight/Nine every few years, as they become more aware of their true natures, others prefer to utilize an efficient and effective Step Ten as a means to continuously clear the decks so that one never builds up enough detritus to either require another Step Four/Five or Eight/Nine again. Like pruning a tree or tending a garden, a little bit of work every day prevents one from ever again requiring a major overhaul. As recovery progresses, and we become more and more aware of ourselves and of our true natures, we see more opportunities for recovery to change our lives.

Some of the things referred to in Step Ten can be of the type of ongoing incidents where we realize we owe an apology, or a payment of a sum of money, or some other material, specific, and limited reparation. All too often, these sorts of things arise from things that we do even though we realize the things we are doing-or saying- are wrong even as we are doing or saying them. Of course, further work on the change processes of Steps Six and Seven as discussed earlier can help reduce the frequency of such missteps and mistakes.

Other types of wrongs revealed by the daily introspection and inventory required in Step Ten may be more like epiphanies, the ah ha moments when we suddenly realize that some fundamental aspect of our entire lives has been flawed- the way we parent our children, the way we handle our relationships, the role of money in our lives, the excuses we make, the very way we see the world gets suddenly readjusted. The price to be paid for fundamental change, through this constant reworking, this constant inventory, is embodied within the step in the words “when we were wrong.”

I was once asked to differentiate the concepts of “intelligence” as opposed to “wisdom.” My response was that wisdom included an element of doubt, the ability to realize, “Hey, I might be wrong.” It behooves us to always remain open to guidance from our sponsors, receptive to input from what we hear at meetings, from the work some of us undertake with our therapists. Alcoholics Anonymous tells us in Step Ten to keep on track. Narcotics Anonymous has a more specific saying, “More will be revealed.” This is only true if we are willing to keep looking.

The possibilities of growth in recovery are unlimited. The benefits of a robust and full bodied recovery are inexhaustible- provided that, on a daily basis, we keep looking, keep pruning, keep doing our inventories, and always, without fail, as we look at ourselves, be willing to consider that we might, in fact, be wrong. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Drugs and alcohol gets our attention in a manner so painful that we have no choice but to examine our lives or we die. Step Ten simply tells us to keep on examining. We promise that more will be revealed.

John Steinberg, MD
Medical Director, The Bergand Group