The 10th Step Inventory: Growth Through Introspection
As a Clinical Assistant for Michael Griffin in Group 3 at Evoke Cascades, I work primarily with young adult males with substance abuse and addiction issues through a 12-step lens.
First things first, I am a person in recovery. I struggled with active addiction in one way or another for over seven years, and I certainly struggled with the underlying issues for many years before that. Today, my program of recovery and personal growth takes many forms - 12-step work being one of them.
One of my favorite groups that we run in Group 3 on a nightly basis is the 10th step group. Here’s the 10th step as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
An exercise in reflection and introspection, the 10th step provides a space for the guys (and instructors) to verbally process their day in order to gain awareness, relief and a sense of personal accountability. The AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book describes the importance much more eloquently:
“For the wise have always known that no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong.”
The group can take quite a few forms, but here is how we typically break it down into six basic sections:
1. Acknowledgements (Sometimes Expressed as Gratefuls)
The group begins their 10th step reflection by expressing things they’d like to acknowledge. It’s often about family, friends or activities throughout the day. It’s an opportunity to give space to the things we cherish. Shifting to an “attitude of gratitude” can be a simple tool for changing our perspective at any given moment.
The best way I’ve heard resentments described are as “an abandonment of self.” When we do not allow ourselves to speak our truth, show up authentically or be in healthy conflict we consistently find ourselves hurting. Holding onto significant resentments almost undoubtedly leads to serious brooding and prolonged misery. Relief comes in our ability to speak our truth, to have courage in the face of the fear that often keeps us from doing so.
Our guys will explore their resentments, speaking them aloud in an effort to ease the burden. After expressing a resentment, they are asked to reflect on what their part may be in the resentment. Yes, unfortunately, we are not exempt. The truth is that our resentments towards others are often rooted in something internal. Getting to root causes provides a cathartic and healing experience!
Next, we take a look at making amends. We ask the group to search their day – did they feel they had wronged anyone? The amends process helps us set aside our ego and take accountability for our actions. While the amends can be for others, it’s also for ourselves. Despite our wrongdoing, this process of making amends heals us as well.
4. Something I Did Well Today
Almost all of the guys I work with struggle, on some level, with a sense of shame (I do too, a lot of the time). They have an internal narrator that tells them, “they aren’t enough” or “they’re going to fail.” Acknowledging something from the day that you think you did well is one way of challenging the shameful narrator. We encourage the guys to take pride in the little victories throughout the day. It could be successfully busting a fire, working hard to bust a fire, making it through a long hike, giving an “I feel statement,” or even allowing oneself to struggle while meeting it with compassion.
5. Something I Can Do Well Tomorrow
Looking forward, what can we set our sights on tomorrow? Where would we like to increase in effectiveness? This section gives an opportunity to set a goal, often rooted in things we have addressed prior in the 10th step inventory. While we focus a lot of our efforts on staying in the present moment, it’s important to look forward at times given new insight.
6. I’m Feeling...
Finally, we ask the group to share how they’re feeling. Just like with I Feel Statements, we encourage all kinds of opportunities to work on identifying our emotions at any given moment. With our guys, sometimes even seemingly simple emotional identification can be difficult. We meet it with understanding and healthy encouragement. A lot of times, clients come into the program with one emotional mode: numb. Through the sharing of feelings we hope to slowly, but surely, break down barriers to emotional expression.
Ultimately, we hope our clients use the 10th step group to practice looking inward. To pause and open themselves to their blind spots, as awareness becomes the first step. Recovery from addiction, for better or for worse, does not just mean abstinence from drugs and alcohol (although this is a critical component). Recovery means a willingness to move forward - to grow personally, face your reality and move closer to authenticity.