Step Ten of AA: Accountability

Step Ten of AA: Accountability

Society sees the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the Bible for anyone looking to recover from addiction.  The program has an estimated success rate of between 8% and 12% according to addiction specialists. Furthermore, AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide.  Nonetheless, regardless of your thoughts on the program there are valuable lessons we can learn from their text. Above all, each step offers a different gift to an addict. In this series we take a subjective look explaining the benefit each step brings.

The Gift of Accountability

Step Ten:  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.  Whenever we work on something repeatedly we continue getting better. The more we do anything in our daily lives the better we get at it. Blaming others is far easier, and more comfortable, than admitting when we make mistakes.  Step Ten teaches us the value of accountability because admitting our wrongdoings is necessary for continued progress in recovery. The best part about this is the more we continue using the framework the less amends we need to make.

Continuing an inventory isn’t just about finding out when we’re in the wrong.  Recognizing what works helps us determine what doesn’t. By taking a “personal inventory” we recognize what’s important to us as well as what leads to emotional disturbances.  It reveals our social traits, motivations, strengths and weakness, and attitudes.

When something disturbs us, it’s usually because something- a person, place, thing, or situation- in our lives is unacceptable.  Our default response to this is to use/drink. We blame our feelings, as well as our reactions, on whatever we find disturbing.

What this Teaches

Oftentimes addicts turn resentment into an art.  However, we give other people strength over our lives when we say they “make us” feel a certain way.  Whether it be anger, upsetting, or fear the truth is we are the ones in control of our lives, meaning we’ve created the conflict.  In Step Ten we have taken back responsibility for our actions and clean up our side of the street whenever necessary. More than anything Step Ten is about maintenance.  It requires us to be willing to be unselfish, honest, content, and moral at all times. Whenever feelings of dishonesty or resentment come into play we have to be willing to let go of them the moment they arise.

When we take the time to acknowledge what’s working it helps us to recognize what isn’t.  Step Ten isn’t just about recognizing when we’re wrong. Afterall we can’t identify the times when we were wrong, without also identifying the times we were “right” for comparison.  This is one of the reasons sponsorship is important, identifying the situations where we did things right is very helpful for us to form our personal system of beliefs. Identifying the good is very bit as much a part of taking a personal inventory as is identifying our shortcomings.

In our recovery we’ve learned to be attentive of the impact our actions have on the world around us.  Step Ten teaches us what to do when our actions result in harm or negativity towards another person. We step forward promptly, take ownership for the harm we cause, and attempt to remedy the situation.  This is exactly what is meant by taking a personal inventory and promptly admitting our wrongs.

Why This is Important

During active addiction we usually become victim to our impulses and take the easy way out.  Recovery requires a level of discipline to do things even when we don’t feel like it. Things like going to meetings, calling sponsors, and working with others on spiritual principles are all done regardless of what are impulsive nature tells us because we’ve chosen recovery and these are the actions that help us continue down this path.  

The Tenth Step means being committed to doing all the things that have worked for us so far.  It means we continue growing in these virtues- being trustworthy, faithful, and honest- as well as being mindful of our reactive and proactive responses.  Despite experiencing a major change from working the first Nine Steps, since addiction is a progressive disease, there’s always the potential for us to return to active use.  We must be attentive to maintain active recovery.

This Step is important because it allows us to maintain a level of self-awareness and recognize destructive patterns before it’s too late.  Through these Steps we learn to not be so self-defeating, to not have so much self-pity, and focus on our positive growth instead. Perhaps more than anything addicts have a tendency to judge a situation based on their feelings, and anything that’s uncomfortable we want to stop immediately.  There are times when we need to access the situation, the way we’re feeling might make sense, after we evaluate the circumstances.


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