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When I arrived at AA in October 2015 I was terrified about where drinking was taking me. The last five years had been a consistent monotony of waking up unable to remember the events or conversations of the previous night, the realisation that I had consumed far more alcohol than I had intended followed by the tears of shame, guilt and regret. I drove to work each day over the limit, praying to a God I didn't believe in to please not let me get breathalysed. If this prayer could be answered, I promised I would not drink that night- - but I always did. I tried to look into the future to see where this would end and the only vision I could imagine was being arrested, losing my job and my house followed by custody of my son. I wanted a way out.
Today, I thank a God I do believe in that my sister told me to get to an AA meeting, she gave me her 10 years of experience, strength and hope in recovery which I had never listened to before, and since that day, I have stayed sober - the 12th Step in action.
I liken my journey through Steps One to Nine to building a new house. One to Three were my new foundations and Four to Nine were the rooms and the roof. In Step Ten, I began the job of maintaining this new property, mending broken gutters, replacing damaged structures and trying to keep this new home in good order.
Someone once described Step Ten as the constant clearing of a drain; if little pieces of rubbish, twigs, leaves and sweet wrappers are left to build up, the channel will be blocked and water will be unable to flow freely. The effect is the same for me if I allow my character defects to build up, I see the results in my actions; my problems multiply, my connection to my Higher Power is blocked and I suddenly find myself 'restless, irritable and discontented' once again. My new house starts to crumble.
For me, the two most important words are 'continued' and 'promptly'. 'Continued' reminds me to focus on this Step as an ongoing, lifelong process and the Big Book tells me to 'continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear' (p.84).
I had learnt through the painful but vital inventory in Steps Four and Five that my years of mistakes and failed relationships had become a mountain of fear, resentment and hatred and I was indeed the maker of my own problems. If nothing changes, nothing changes - right? That initial inventory had been a turning point in my recovery, realising for the first time that I had repeated relationship patterns over and over, each time expecting a different result and always drinking on the self-pity I created. Inventory-taking was never part of the solution, piling one problem on top of another, pushing the feelings down and drinking to change the way I felt was all I knew then.
The 12x12 tells me that 'the quick inventory is aimed at our daily ups and downs, especially those where people or new events throw us off balance and tempt us to make mistakes'. On the same page, it lets me know that 'nothing pays off like restraint of tongue and pen', (and for me, texts, emails, instant messenger, Facebook etc). I've certainly found that if I pause to reflect and think before I speak, there will be fewer situations to report on the debit side of my ledger.
New situations have occurred during my sobriety which have triggered 'old thoughts', those ones that I'm supposed to let go of but which are intrinsically linked to my character defects. I ought to go through Steps Four to Nine again and check my motivations, discuss things with my sponsor, pray that God removes the defects at once and sets right any new mistakes - what if I don't? After sitting with a particular situation which was troubling me for a couple of months, a light bulb went off for me at a Step Four meeting when the person sharing was highly specific about the danger of taking the wrong path and that straying down the road of old behaviour would very likely have a drink waiting at the other end. Guilt, shame and regret might leave me no choice.I remembered something I'd heard a wise man at my home group say, "It's only old behaviour if we're not doing it anymore!"
Neglecting defects and daring insanity to take over for two months is hardly admitting my wrongs 'promptly'! This lesson taught me to try and bring Step Ten into my 'all day' awareness. If I only consider what I am doing on a daily basis for five minutes before my head hits the pillow, I can sometimes spend all day ignoring things I know to be wrong. Today, it is less important to me how far away I am from my last drink. I am more concerned about how close I might get to my next. Living in the Programme to the best of my ability has allowed me to enjoy the amazing promises of this Step beginning with: 'And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone - even alcohol' (BB, p84). I once thought that life would be over if I could never, ever drink again. Today I am free from that obsession but I must remember that I only have a 'daily reprieve' based upon remaining spiritually fit and this maintenance Step is a key element.
I'm truly grateful to be living sober one day at a time but I didn't do this by myself, the Fellowship of AA showed me how this works and every meeting I go to provides evidence of living miracles - so I keep going back as I have a lot more to learn.