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What is Step 10 of AA?

“Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, we promptly admitted it.”

The Purpose of Step 10 (Personal Inventory) 

In step 10, AA participants take a personal inventory. It’s a time to evaluate how far you’ve come since step one and access where you are daily. 

In this step, you prove to yourself that you are capable of controlling your actions. You are not handcuffed to your old habits and character defects. You’re capable of thinking about your actions and not carrying out your addiction behaviors like a robot.

In this step, you are encouraged to practice self-examination and moral inventory as part of your daily routine. You’ve achieved a great deal of success in steps one through nine, but you must keep them in check and continue on the right path.

Falling back into bad habits is easy. By putting step 10 into practice, you are reducing the risk of this happening.

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Spiritual Principles of Step 10 in AA

Several spiritual principles are a part of step 10. For example:

  • Acceptance
  • Discipline
  • Humility
  • Patience
  • Mindfulness
  • Self-restraint
  • Honesty
  • Fair-mindedness
  • Tolerance
  • Love
  • Persistence

Perhaps acceptance is the most important of all of the spiritual principles in step 10. In step 10, you recognize your present condition and don’t attempt to change it or rebel against it. You might feel uncomfortable about things, but instead of avoiding it and pushing it down (and drinking), you confront it and take personal responsibility.

Step 10 is a maintenance step. 

It’s a step that helps you accept your situation every day and remain grounded in reality. You conduct an ongoing personal inventory, daily or even hourly when needed. This helps you stay free from frustration, anger, self-righteousness, and fear. 

This process also prevents resentment from taking root. You’re able to turn things over to your higher power or God and continue moving forward in your recovery.

Step 10 AA: List of Daily Inventory Questions

The daily inventory questions to ask in step 10 include:

  • Was I dishonest or resentful?
  • Did I say or do anything that warrants an apology?
  • Am I worried about yesterday or tomorrow?
  • Do I allow myself to develop an obsession with anything?
  • Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?
  • Do I suffer from problems physically, mentally, or spiritually?
  • What can I do to be better tomorrow?
  • What am I grateful for today?

You can do this spot check anytime and anywhere. It’s helpful to create daily to-do lists to keep you on track. Also, take time each day to journal your thoughts and feelings. If things seem off or you’re struggling with something, check in with your sponsor or a trusted friend.

How to Complete the Tenth Step of AA 

Step 10 is a maintenance step. It helps you be present and control your behavior. 

Several things can help you move through step 10, including:

  • Avoid immediate decisions based solely on emotion. Instead, take a step back, breathe deeply, and then act.
  • Be honest in your assessment of situations.
  • Admit to any mistakes you're making.
  • Forgive others when they’ve made mistakes.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection.

In this step, self-appraisal should become a habit. This is the step in which you put into daily practice all you’ve learned in the previous steps. No matter what occurs in your life, you apply the lessons you’ve learned by working the steps.

It’s no secret that you’ll face daily tests to your sobriety. Remaining sober requires emotional stability and humility. Making right your wrongs is an ongoing process and requires constant self-examination.

This isn’t to say you won’t fail. If you notice an emotional disturbance, do a self-inventory as soon as possible. This silences your volatile emotions and helps build your character.

Why is the 10th Step Important for Recovery?

Step 10, like all of the steps in the twelve-step program, is important for your recovery. 

Ongoing personal inventory helps you:

  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Manage your emotions
  • Stay in control of your moods
  • Maintain better physical health
  • Improve relationships
  • Achieve a productive work life
  • Function as a healthy and productive member of society

Emotional disturbances can trigger negative behaviors. Many people return to abusing alcohol because of how they feel. They respond to their emotional triggers in a self-destructive manner.

Step 10 is about helping you better manage these triggers.

Better management requires recognizing your emotional disturbances and knowing what to do to avoid turning to alcohol and other substances. A 12-step program offers support when you face challenges in life that tempt you to use alcohol.

Many people view step 10 as the tool that helps you keep a clean spiritual house. You’ll make mistakes. But remaining sober requires owning up to those mistakes and righting your wrongs as quickly as possible. Some people consider this “nipping the problem in the bud.”

By facing your mistakes and taking responsibility for them, you’re preventing things from festering until they become anger and resentment. 

Step 10 allows you to walk away from any situation knowing you’ve done your best to make things right. You’re taking responsibility for your behavior.

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Resources

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“Why Is Spirituality an Essential Part of a Recovery Program?” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-craving-brain/201706/why-is-spirituality-essential-part-recovery-program.

“What Makes AA Work?” Harvard Gazette, 12 Sept. 2011, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/09/what-makes-aa-work/.

Schneider, Kathleen M., et al. “Evaluating Multiple Outcomes and Gender Differences in Alcoholism Treatment.” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 20, no. 1, Jan. 1995, pp. 1–21, 10.1016/0306-4603(94)00037-y. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1981.tb05352.x.

Stone, David A., et al. “Therapeutic Factors and Psychological Concepts in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Journal of Counselor Practice, 1 Jan. 2011, 10.22229/nav074629. https://journalofcounselorpractice.com/uploads/6/8/9/4/68949193/stone_et_al_vol8_iss2.pdf.

Suire, Jared G., and Robert K. Bothwell. “The Psychosocial Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous.” American Journal on Addictions, vol. 15, no. 3, Jan. 2006, pp. 252–255, 10.1080/10550490600626622. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16923673/.

“Alcoholics Anonymous: Is A.A. For You?” www.aa.org. https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/is-aa-for-you.

Tonigan, J, and Susanne Sturmhöfel. Alcoholics Anonymous: Who Benefits?. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/ahrw18-4/308-312.pdf.

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