Episode 143: Step 10 with Angela and John

Angela and John discuss Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. A step that many see as an effort to continue keeping our side of the street clean, but it can also be looked at as striving to live at our full potential. At other times this step is best expressed by the acronym H.A.L.T., take care of yourself and try not to become too hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. 

Transcript

[music] 

00:22 John: Oh, I forgot to talk. Hey, Angela how are you doing? 

[chuckle] 

00:26 Angela: Good, how are you? 

00:26 John: Oh boy, I guess I’m doing okay. You know what? I totally messed up what I was going to try to do here. [laughter] That’s okay. What I did is I’ve actually pre-recorded an introduction that I was going to play where I’ve already talked about everything that I was going to do, but anyway. So we’re here today to talk about Step 10. And I did some preparation for this by reading… 

00:50 Angela: Awesome. 

00:51 John: Yeah, I read the Twelve and Twelve on Step 10 and I read Staying sober without God about Step 10, and then I’ve been in AA for 31 years. There you go, that’s my prep. 

01:06 Angela: Okay. [laughter] Excellent. I looked at the Twelve and Twelve, I actually picked it up and went to Step 10 and started to read and was like, “Yeah, no. I just didn’t have it in me.” [laughter] 

01:21 John: Yeah, it’s so funny. Of course, I grew up with these books and what I noticed about it, I noticed the first time I looked at it as an atheist, was like, “Just leave this God stuff out and it would have been just fine,” because Step 10 really doesn’t really involve anything to do with God at [chuckle] all really. But he has to throw it in there at the end of every paragraph, says, “And now God loves you or you’re closer to God,” or whatever, just come on. 

01:51 Angela: Right. Yeah, exactly. Only if you do this stuff, then God will love you. Yeah no, for me, I consider this step, I guess we should say what the step is, right? 

02:02 John: Oh yeah. What is it? “We,” oh God, “continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” Is that right? 

02:10 Angela: Right, yup. And yeah, the idea for me on this step is basically learning routine. So I think the secular guide listed as we continue to monitor ourselves, to acknowledge our successes and quickly correct our lapses and errors. And so, they suggest that the principles on this are perseverance and integrity which is interesting. So when you did it, what did you do for Step 10? Did your sponsor have you go to, what is it, page 84 in the big book and that whole thing? 

02:47 John: Well, we did, we basically with these steps, it was more of a learning thing where you just basically go through the literature and we talked about what we read, but in actual practice, in the early days of my sobriety and by that, I mean like the first couple of years, I actually journaled a lot, and that was helpful for me because I could actually, I was actually reviewing what was going on in my life and in a way that helped me kind of see patterns and understand what was going on. But for me, this has never been something that I do like where I set aside a certain time of the day like it says before you retire at night to do this little inventory, I don’t do that. I’m more of the spot check inventory type of person. So what I have learned to do over time, is that when I am wrong, I promptly admit it. And so I’m very much more aware of my feelings, I guess, and more in touch with what… I know there’s something going on with me. I can pretty much catch that pretty quickly if it’s connected to some sort of a relationship problem, a personal, interpersonal relationships at work or whatever. 

04:08 John: And I am pretty good now about saying, “Yeah, I was wrong there, I’m sorry.” And it’s almost gotten to this point where I have to do it. If I don’t go up, and I’m very clear about just letting the person know I’m wrong. That was kind of beat into me fairly early on that you tell them you’re wrong. Just say you’re sorry that you’re wrong. I try to do that and I am pretty good about it. So yeah, this was just kind of a learning experience for me over time, but yeah, we started off just by reading the 12 and 12, sponsor suggesting different things. I think journaling was recommended to me early on. I don’t journal now, but basically what I do is I just take a look at any time I’m disturbed as it says, I try to take a look at what’s going on, and if there’s something I’ve done wrong, I do go to the person to let them know that I was wrong and I move on and sometimes, usually the people take it well and they also will offer some sort of an apology and sometimes they think this is kind of odd because sometimes the person doesn’t pick up on the fact that I was upset. And it throws them off that all of a sudden, I’m coming over telling them, I’m doing all this deal but, anyway. 

05:28 Angela: Right. Yeah, I like Joe C, in the Beyond Belief book, frames it pretty well. He says it’s taking the time to meditate, visualize or prepare for the day, and then taking stock in the evening. It’s how we get better at living to our potential. So I like that because sometimes I hear with this step people feeling shame. Again, it’s kind of like I’ve heard at meetings, it’s the fourth step in action. And so, with the fourth step, a lot of people feel like it’s about shame, or shaming, and that kind of thing. And so, I liked reading that and thought that was pretty good that I plan to share with some of the people that I work with. But what I did again, my first sponsor didn’t use the book at all, and my second sponsor did, and so when I worked with my second sponsor, she did questions. And I haven’t looked to see if they were the same as the book, I did it one time, but she had me write down kind of journaling like you did, where I’ve been resentful or fearful, and/or used others towards my own personal goals, which was interesting to be able to start noticing that were kind of… I was looking at people or being helpful to somebody because I knew it would be helpful to me either in my career or some sort of gain and then I would write down what went right. 

07:10 Angela: And sometimes when I realized it was, I used someone to my personal goal, I would have thought that that went right, I got what I wanted. But really, it’s where have I been helpful and where was my act of courage. Where did I do something that was different or difficult for me but positive and moving towards the direction that I want to be for my ideal self type of thing? Another thing that I was reading in one of my journals is that she suggested that if I got stuck, I could look over my step seven cards. So those were the cards that I wrote about different traits and then what I could do instead, positive action or how I would like to act on the other side. And look at those and see if any of that had popped up during the day to remind me of the different things I wanted to work on, and see if, was I able to access the positive response or did I respond less skillfully? And so that was helpful. 

08:23 Angela: Another thing I was thinking, about a friend of mine, I’m sure that he practiced the step by writing a list of the character traits or behaviors he wanted to improve upon, and then he taped it to the inside of his closet door. And each morning when he got up and got ready for work, he would pick one for the day that he would choose to be intentional about. So if it was like rigidity, he would try to catch himself reaching for rigidity or acting in a way that was rigid and tried to pause at the situation and figure out if what he wanted was truly warranted, if that was the correct response or if this was an opportunity for him to try to be more open to new ideas, or ways of doing things or more collaborative with his co-workers, that kind of a thing. And so I thought that was kind of interesting. I’d never heard anybody approach the tenth step in that way before. And so I thought that might be helpful to some people. It was helpful to him. So he’s doing really well in life. And so, yeah, so it was effective to someone. 

09:35 John: Yeah, yeah. And a lot of people benefit from something like that. Just having a reminder and something to actually work on for that particular day. I know a lot of people do that. I might have done that to a certain extent. For me, it would probably be in the way of early conversations that I might have with a sponsor, and he might suggest that I pay attention to one particular trait or whatever during the day, but I don’t know. Do you actually block time out of your day to do this? 

10:07 Angela: It depends. If I know that I’m in a spot where I’m under a lot of stress or there’s a situational problem in my life or something like that, then I do it because I know that it will help me get through it. When things are going pretty well and I seem to be able to stay on an even keel, then yeah, and then it’s not as important. I think I get the benefits of working the steps in other ways throughout my life in general, but I do like that it is something that I can go to, it’s a tool to help me feel like, yeah, things will get better, that I’ve lived through enough of weird difficult stuff in sobriety, and this has helped me to walk through it. And so, yeah, so it gives me hope that if I do that again, that maybe it’ll come out better on the other side. 

11:04 John: Yeah. I’m the same way. If I’m going through kind of a rough patch and there are some problems that I need to take a look at, then yes, I do set some time aside and I really do take a serious look at what’s going on. And if I do have to straighten something out with somebody, I would certainly do that from that process. So I do that as well, but most of the time, it’s just the way I live my life. And I just do it because it’s just become a habit. And I think that that’s what the whole intent was, is that this is a maintenance-type step and it just becomes a habit. And that’s not to say that I… There’s certainly, there have been times where I’ve offended somebody or I’ve done something I want and I just hung on to it and didn’t go do what I was supposed to do, but I would say most of the time, I’m pretty good about saying, “Yeah, I need to clear the air here because otherwise, I’m not going to get any work done.” That’s basically how it is for me. 

12:02 Angela: Right. Yeah. For me, too, the positive part of it was important because I was still pretty good at identifying where I was not doing things right, that critical part of my brain. And so I needed to balance it out with what things I did do that I was either proud of or felt like it was moving in the right direction. And so resentment, this one was another one that I often still have to go back and work on. And I was reading in the alternative 12 steps, the Secular Guide, I really like this chapter too. They have a lot of good things to say and to think about. But one of the things they had said was that resentment drains our mental and emotional energy and keeps us attached to the person or thing that we resent. And that it’s like a secret weapon we use to inflict mental justice on somebody else. And that one really got me because I’ve had… It’s the holidays, and I have some resentment. [chuckle] 

13:18 Angela: And so when it was phrased that way, it’s funny how you can hear some of the same things over and over again or the same ideas, but sometimes it’s the language that helps you to see something new. And yeah, and that is really true for where I’m at with this resentment that I’ve had, is that it’s a sense of justice that I feel like has… Or injustice that’s happened. And so I keep thinking about it, and it’s not helpful to me. I know it’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies, all of those things, but I really like the way that they wrote it, in that resentment is the secret weapon we use to inflict mental justice on somebody else. because my inventory brought up lots of justice issues where I felt like something was unjust, and then it wasn’t fair. And so yeah, and it’s something that I continue to have to work with is, yeah we live in a world that’s not fair. So yeah. But another… Okay. 

14:29 John: In the 12 and 12, it talks about that a little bit. It talks about righteous anger and the dangers of being righteous anger. So in other words, that there are situations I guess where we have been treated poorly and we aren’t at fault and yet the anger or bad feelings or resentment are with us and still need to be dealt with. And if all I do is stew in my self-righteous anger, it’s not really going to get me anywhere, it’s going to kind of impede me from doing anything constructive, while I’m dwelling in that. So, I don’t know. They always suggest… They suggest, all the meetings I’ve ever been to is that if you are feeling that self-righteous anger, is like the main thing is just to get out of whatever that feeling is and you got to kind of get unstuck and kind of take… Get… Don’t worry so much about who was right and who was wrong but just deal with whatever negative emotion you’re dealing with at the time. 

15:37 Angela: Yeah. Yeah. I think the writing is helpful for that, and for resentments in general, to write it out so that you can see it clearly on paper, and to use that part of your brain that is slower, and understanding it better so you can get a different perspective on it. All that is good. But I do try to really understand it. So part of my journey right now is to actually feel my feelings. So if I’m feeling resentment, not to try to get rid of it. because we talk about that a lot in meetings, is that get rid of it because resentment will kill you. You’ll go out and drink and die. That’s what they say. And yes if you don’t deal with your feelings and problems and issues, then it often leads to acting out in unpleasant ways. But for me, sitting with my feelings and trying to identify where they’re at in my body, like with anger, my stomach clenches up and I grind my teeth and recognizing those things because there’s part of me that it’s like I’m not supposed to feel anger as much. I’m supposed to be zen and serene and stuff. 

17:03 Angela: I have other people I’m working with, what happens if I’m not experiencing serenity and things like that? And so recognizing that “Yeah, I haven’t let go of whatever it is and I’m feeling it and my body is feeling it,” and working with that. And sometimes that starts with writing things down so that I can see it a little more clearly and just recognizing that it is a feeling and it will pass, that they all do. When I’m feeling joy, that passes as well. And that I can actually tolerate the feeling now even if it’s unpleasant, at least long enough to look at it differently and then usually when I can look at it differently, a different feeling arises. 

17:50 John: Yeah. Sometimes, I have to say that looking back in my past life in AA over the last some time, there were periods where I was a little bit, I don’t know what I was expecting but maybe to become some sort of automaton, where I didn’t have any crazy emotions or anything. But it’s like as a human being, you’re going to have anger and all this kind of stuff. And just having these aren’t by themselves bad, you want to be a real-life flesh and blood human being and react to certain ways. I know the thing that they used to always say that there was a spiritual axiom that if we’re disturbed… Anyway, it’s always that if we’re disturbed, no matter what the reason for it, there’s something wrong with us, it always says. And that little thing and I would hear it in meetings all the time. And I don’t know if you’ve heard it so much if you were going to a secular meeting most of your time. But they used to say that a lot. And it did kind of put this message in my brain that no matter what was going on if I felt some sort of negative emotion, there was something wrong with me that I needed to address right away. 

19:13 John: But sometimes that really wasn’t the case. Sometimes it’s just something that, “Yeah, I’m a little angry but just let it go, it’ll pass, it’s not that big of a deal.” But I think that I kind of had times earlier on in my life where I was a little too tough on myself because of that message I got. 

19:15 Angela: Yeah. And if you’re going to a lot of standard meetings, that stuff gets ingrained in you. And so, most of my program has been my meeting that meets once a week, but I went to two, sometimes three meetings a day for the first several years of my sobriety. So I heard a lot of stuff and I did feel that when I was working through the steps, because that took me about a year the first time, and there were times when things were happening that I was still getting myself into situations that were not ideal and then I’d go to a meeting and be like, “I don’t know if I did the previous step right because why am I feeling this way? Or maybe I need to go back or do something.” And that’s what I heard other people say. So, a lot of it was mimicking what I’d already heard. 

20:27 Angela: I felt it too because I heard that and then I’m like, “Oh, that must be what’s happening is that I didn’t do a step right,” and that generally wasn’t the case. It’s just feelings. [laughter] And it’s just that I haven’t learned a new way to handle whatever the situation is and that I will probably continue to have this pop up until I’m able to have a routine of looking at this a different way and making a different choice, and that’s not easy. That’s one of the things that I think is helpful for the steps, in the steps, even for secular people is the system of looking at things, examining what they are, seeing them for what they are, looking at the good and the bad and then learning a routine of trying to make a change. 

21:19 Angela: And so yeah, I think another part of Step 10 that I recall is that this is where I hear a lot of people talk about the HALT acronym, the hungry, yeah, hungry, angry, lonely, tired and we also in our group mention boredom a lot because yeah, a lot of people have talked about being bored and that’s really what they worry about or what they’ve had, that’s taken them out several times is that it’s not that things are going bad, it’s just that they’re bored and they don’t know how to deal with that. And so, I think this Step 10 can be helpful in that aspect as well because it actually gives you some things to think about and to be working on. 

22:13 Angela: And so, you have something to do and a goal, I guess, to be able to improve on these things. Again, we know that we’re not ever going to be perfect, although sometimes we feel like that’s the goal in recovery. But yeah, having something to work on is important I think, particularly in early recovery, stuff to do, and this is a list or a way, a step, that gives you things to do. So one of the things in the secular guide that they do is they kind of break it down, “What are we supposed to be monitoring for in this step?” And they break it down to like moods, you know? So what is our mood like and can we catch anxiety or depression or whatever it is that’s going on with us early before it gets a stronghold? And then, can we correct anything that we had started to do that was representative of that mood and stuff? 

23:27 Angela: Also, they do emotions separately from moods and this is where they do talk about the hidden stuff that undermines our best efforts to make positive change, and oftentimes that’s body sensations that come with our moods which I mentioned before like jaws clenching and tense stomachs and stuff. And they talk a little bit about, that the body gives us clues that we’re angry or afraid and then our head decides how to deal with that. And so, what we’re working on is trying to cooperate with what our head thinks we should do on that and get that connection between the cortex and the amygdala. 

24:16 Angela: And so, this one also talks about knowing, listening to our fear or our anger, whatever comes up to see if it’s warranted because sometimes it is. I think there’s stuff in the rooms that I hear where it’s like you’re not supposed to feel angry, and so learning to because sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes there’s something going on and I don’t want to just let something go that’s going to come back or that could hurt me in some other way. I need to really understand what’s happening and not avoid it. So I think sometimes in the steps, people end up avoiding looking at issues or problems or things that come up from them because they think they’re supposed to just let it go, any sort of negative feelings that they have. 

25:11 Angela: So I thought that was really good and helpful to me to read again that, yeah, look at what’s going on. Sometimes your anger and your fear is warranted, and so if you can learn to pause and maybe leave the room or call a friend or do something else and go back to that and see, until you get that intuitive sense and you start to know, and even then, sometimes you’re off still having the practice of, again, writing or calling a friend or doing whatever is helpful for that. 

25:44 John: That’s where the big book is kind of interesting because in some of the literature, it warns us about going to extremes, but when it comes to fear, especially in the fourth step, it goes into a lot of extremes with it. It says that it’s an evil and corroding thread weaving its way through the fabric of our existence, and it’s just like… It’s like fear by itself is just a super bad thing, but honestly, it’s not. I mean, maybe an unreasonable fear is, maybe an irrational fear, but fear itself is a defense mechanism, I guess. I mean, we’re programmed to be afraid of, like you said, bears, right? 

26:22 Angela: Right. 

[laughter] 

26:23 John: Things that can actually hurt us and eat us. 

26:26 Angela: Right. 

26:26 John: It’s a good reason to have a little bit of fear, and there’s some purpose behind it. Probably the same thing could be said for anger too. It’s just keeping things in perspective, I guess. I don’t know. 

26:36 Angela: Right, and it’s practicing being able to do that. It’s not like we read through all of this stuff and then we put it into action and all is good. There are lots of things going on within us, and for me, alcohol was something that I used to try to calm a lot of that down and it worked for a little while and then it didn’t. And previous to alcohol, I used food and yeah. And the other thing with fear is that I found when I do inventory on pretty much anything that’s bothering me or I feel like I need to write about, it all comes back to fear, that it’s pretty much the core emotion for me is love and fear and fear. So I need to address it and look at what’s going on and see, “Why am I fearful about this?” It may have come out as anger, but the core feeling is fear. 

27:42 Angela: And oftentimes for me, that is I’ll get angry because somebody said or did something that either I disagree with or I feel like they’re blaming me for or something again with justice oftentimes. And so, what is that when I break it down, it’s a fear of what people think about me or of not being perfect or doing something right or that I made a mistake. And so that fear comes out because I need to be loved in order to survive in life, you know? And if you break it down to when you were a child is that you needed to be loved in order to continue to be fed and housed and stuff, but those feelings are still there. And so, I have to look at that and when I can look at all of that, it takes some of the power of anger, of the feeling of loss of control that often comes up when I get angry. And yeah, it makes it easier. 

28:47 John: Yeah, a guy from my home group, he always says that when he’s angry, he always stops to ask himself what he’s afraid of because he says almost all the time his anger is connected to some sort of a fear of just like what you were talking about. 

28:58 Angela: Yeah, yeah. And then I look at, well, what can I do to either feel better or do the situation in a way that makes me more empowered? 

29:13 John: It’s kind of interesting how anger… Anger by itself is not always what’s going on. Like I know for me, when I’m angry, when I’m most often angry, it’s when I’m going through a period of time where I’m depressed. So for me, depression manifests itself as anger because I think I get impatient maybe. I get, I don’t know, it just wears me down, and that’s what happens to me. I get angry when I’m depressed. 

29:42 Angela: Yeah, I can see that. I think with depression that I felt it’s generally that I have the less emotional bandwidth to deal with things. It’s like my brain is trying so hard to keep me alive that I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be open-minded and cooperative and all of that. And so, yeah. 

30:09 John: because I can almost, sometimes when I’m really depressed, I can almost feel it physically. It’s like a tightening of my chest. It’s just like it’s awful and I’m feeling this feeling and I’m going about my life and “Oh, God,” I guess I need some sort of a release valve. So that’s… When I… So I notice that anger for me, that sometimes there’s something else connected to it. And for me, a lot of times a total… It really is depression. 

30:34 Angela: Right. And so, this is probably, yeah, probably a good time to remind people that depression is a problem that a lot of us face and some of us drink over it and some of us experience depression after we stopped drinking. I didn’t see a therapist or have antidepressants or anything like that my first year, but shortly after my first sobriety birthday, I fell into a depression and needed to again seek outside help and get some things with that because I’ve seen people working on the steps and going through feelings, and depression kicks in and they don’t know if it’s that they’re just stuck on a step and that they don’t want to deal with or what’s going on. And so, I really think that seeing somebody, your doctor or a professional, if this is something you’re feeling and it’s lasting longer than a couple of weeks is a good idea because when you’re depressed, you’re suffering and it’s tough. And like you said, it can be physically painful. And while the steps help us to try to learn to work with our emotions, there are chemical imbalances that need to be dealt with. And so seeking outside help is a good thing and I still find that term “outside help” strange. 

32:01 John: That is weird, but yeah, outside help. 

32:03 Angela: Or outside issues. A relationship is an outside issue. It’s like, “No, all of it is involved in my addiction and recovery.” 

32:09 John: I’ve tried really, really hard to get rid of AA speak from my vocabulary, but it’s really hard because it’s so deeply ingrained in me. But “outside help” is one of those terms, isn’t it? It’s because like… 

32:09 Angela: Yeah, yeah. Well, and you know I think it’s like religious terms too. 

32:29 John: Yeah. 

32:30 Angela: I still catch myself saying religious things. Mainly, it’s mostly swearing actually. So like, “For the love of God,” or things like that yeah. Anyway, it is. The language is interesting. 

32:48 John: On depression and how AA, I’m lucky it didn’t kill me. I have a history of mental illness in my family that goes back generations and involves suicides, and in one case, my brother to this day has schizoaffective disorder. I mean we just have a really bad situation of mental illness in my family. I don’t have it as bad, but I certainly had depression. And when I stopped drinking, that was a really, really difficult thing for me to deal with, and I was dissuaded, strongly dissuaded from getting help. People were telling me to pray more, people were telling me to get out of myself, people were telling me to help others. This is the message I was getting and I think, God, was it 10 years before I went to see a doctor? That was a lot of suffering, and it was unnecessary. 

33:40 Angela: Yeah, needless suffering. 

33:41 John: Mm-hmm. 

33:42 Angela: Yeah. 

33:43 John: And as soon as… So I started off going to therapy, which was helpful, and I learned some really good skills that kind of helped me deal with it, but honestly, it wasn’t until I started taking medication that I really got real relief, and it was almost an instant thing for me and they say it’s supposed to take a while, but it was like, “Wow, this is what it’s like to be able to function.” 

34:07 Angela: Yeah. Well, and for some people it’s, they needed medication prescribed by the doctor that they take as prescribed to get them to the chemical level in their brain to be able to work on this kind of stuff, either in therapy or in meetings or whatever it is. And then some people can then not have medication anymore. They don’t have major depression as defined as something that they’re going to deal with for the rest of their life. It’s just that they needed that help in order to get to a spot where they could work on these things.

34:47 John: That’s what my doctor actually says too. She says that you may not need this for the rest of your life, and we’ve even actually talked about getting off of it, but for whatever reason, it works for me, so I still keep doing it. I’ve been on it for a long time now but it has made a big difference for me. I still get depressed and I still have problems sometimes that cause me to become depressed, but it’s not like so debilitating like it used to be. It used to be really, really awful. 

35:15 Angela: Yeah. Nope, I understand. So yeah, that would be a cool podcast to do. 

35:20 John: Oh God, that’ll be too depressing. 

[laughter] 

35:23 Angela: No. I think it would be good. 

35:25 John: Some people would think it’d be really negative. Well, it needs to be said. 

35:26 Angela: Yeah. 

35:27 John: I mean, it still happens to this day. My doctor even told me that she hears… She gets patients who’ve gone to AA and who tell them that, who tells her that they were told not to go to a doctor for their depression. 

35:39 Angela: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Well, we should talk about it and share some ideas because I think it’s a necessary topic and that there is some hope that we can bring to it. So I think what you experienced would be really good for people who are experiencing that to hear that they’re not alone and that you made it out of those feelings and were able to stay sober and stay in recovery and do good work and service work for people. 

36:08 John: As I was sincerely taking their advice, I would go home and get on my knees and pray and I would do all this other stuff that didn’t… Nothing helped until I actually saw a doctor. [chuckle] 

36:19 Angela: Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, that is a true and serious criticism of AA and it’s a necessary one that needs to be looked at. 

36:30 John: And so it kind of goes… That does go with Step 10 though because if you’re going through your life and oh my God, if it’s just depression that you’re dealing with, then maybe Step 10 and Step 11 and all the other steps aren’t really going to do anything and you need something else. We need that outside help. 

36:51 Angela: The outside help. Yeah, with the outside issue of your life and what contributes to your drinking. Yeah. Anyways. So another thing that I liked in the alternative 12 steps. So if people are looking at that is, they break down on monitoring thoughts, and again they have questions and I find this helpful to read through these and journal on them because they can help me understand my feelings or what’s going on with me better. And so they say there are all kinds of thoughts that get us into trouble. So we’re looking to monitor obsessive thought. Is there something we just can’t seem to stop thinking about? No matter what we tell ourselves, we go back to thinking about it. Do we think about it during the day and when we wake from the night? There’s recycling a thought, which they consider is differently, which is just mentally recycling the past. So it’s kind of the, what is it, rumination? Does it seem to run in circles like a hamster in a cage? Denial. Do we get into patterns of rationalization and self-justification?

 38:07 Angela: That’s usually what happens immediately to me if somebody asks me a question that I feel is accusatory in some way is that immediately it’s denial. No, that didn’t happen and no or whatever, and then the anger that they would even think that whatever it is that I think they think. Do we persist in beliefs even though they don’t match objective reality? See? That’s one for the medication issue is, do we persist in thinking that praying or doing these steps over and over again is going to fix us when we actually have a chemical imbalance that needs to be addressed? 

38:52 Angela: So, let’s see, do we hang on to old ways of behaving just because it’s more comfortable to do that than change? And so this is, I think, part of where integrity comes in is, admitting you’re wrong and going and taking responsibility is a new habit for a lot of us, because of fear and such. So anyway, negative thought. And do we leap to a negative conclusion instead of looking at the positive possibilities in a situation? Do we ask ourselves and really mean it? What can I learn from this? Do we forget that there is power in a peaceful frame of mind? And that peace is, or that peace is impossible. 

39:34 Angela: Let’s see, overinvolvement, that’s another one that I think could be talked about in AA service work. So do our thoughts revolve around a particular person? Do we plan and think and ruminate about how we are going to make things better for him or her or it or them? Do we know we have the answers that will help them? So those are some of the things that they suggest when you’re doing step 10, if you’re looking for things to monitor or how to actually be active in the Step, that’s a pretty good list of things to ask yourself. And then they go into the different areas of our life that we can look at, so like our personal relationships, do we regularly get upset at a certain person over a certain thing? That’s something we should probably take a look at. Our work, do we actually do our best at our work? And you’ve talked about that a little bit and I’ve done the same and I’ve heard people share in meetings that one of the things when they were going through the Steps that they first realized, was that they’re kind of a lousy employee and that they weren’t giving their employer their full money’s worth, I guess and so they started showing up to work on time and not stealing office supplies, little things like that.

 41:02 John: Do what your boss wants. [chuckle] 

41:05 Angela: Right. Let’s see, monitoring finances. So that’s another one. Relationships, romance, and finance, that’ll take you out of AA. 

41:17 John: That’s what they say. 

41:18 Angela: Yeah, it’s what they say, yeah. But for me that was again, has been one of the most difficult things for me to do because I didn’t have a lot of examples of how to manage finances and I didn’t know how that really affected those around me. Did I live within my means? Or was I going paycheck to paycheck? Sometimes when you’re in recovery, and particularly early recovery, you don’t exactly have jobs that give you enough to live beyond paycheck to paycheck. But once you do or when you get into recovery you’re already at a place where you make a reasonable amount, can you live within your means or is spending and doing stuff part of your addiction in a way that you cope with things? So looking at that and I thought that was really good because I don’t hear that a lot in the rooms that many stuff can often be a way that we’re avoiding our feelings. 

42:25 John: It was difficult for me. I think I told you that my early sobriety, I’d say my first five years, my income level was awful. I just had a really poor paying job actually for a long time, actually 10 years I was just not making very much money. But actually for sure the very first, the five years there were times I couldn’t even put gas in my tank to go do something and I was at that time, I was blaming myself to a certain extent that I wasn’t managing my money right but honestly after I started making more money those problems went away so it was like I think the problem was I just wasn’t making enough money. It sucks but… 

43:08 Angela: Right. Well, and then learning just how to manage it better, whatever you have, learning to again, live within your means and monitor that. I know for me a lot of times I’d get my paycheck or some money and there’d be some fun thing I wanted to do and I knew that I needed to do that right away because the money would be gone for other things and so it was partly an impulse control thing that I needed to work on, but also the way I was raised is that how we did things in order to experience fun stuff is, we did that and then we have to worry about if the power was going to be turned off or something like that. So learning how to manage money appropriately was something that actually I didn’t get until probably like the last eight years. I’ve learned to monitor that and I have good credit and all that kind of stuff but when people would talk to me about that, when my partner wanted to plan for retirement, in my family the plan was to win the lottery, that’s how you retire. And so I told him I can’t, I have to do this one day at a time and threw a bunch of slogans at him which is funny because he’s not in recovery and so he has no clue what I’m talking about. But yeah, it’s just beyond my control, I’m powerless over finances and yeah. 

44:40 John: I can sure be impulsive sometimes and it makes it so easy now on Amazon, just buying something just like a click of a button. 

44:49 Angela: Yeah, and so managing that is another thing, and I know that there are some people that are even with how we’re talking about this stuff they say that well, it’s not on Target and all of these things are outside, but I think that it affects whether or not I start to slide into a place where I’m feeling out of control and that taking a drink, who cares? I’ve already made this big mess, that kind of a thing. And so, I do think it’s important to work on and I’m not just trying to not drink. Part of this is an improvement. I want a better life that’s why I came to AA because I thought maybe there would be people there that could help me live a better life, that I could not drink and also not be as crazy and that is what I’ve got. So yes. 

45:45 John: All this stuff is pertinent. That’s what this is all about, this maintenance of our sobriety is, it’s more than just about not drinking but it’s about taking care of ourselves in every way possible to make it easier to not drink and to make your life more enjoyable and more manageable and all of that. 

46:08 Angela: Yeah, so they also go into orderliness, which some people are more okay with messy things and some people are a little OCD. But yeah, considering that is another thing because I know for me that it also can contribute to depression. If I see a big mess and it stays there, then I start to feel out of control and weighed down by it, and I’m never going to be able to clean that shelf or do whatever it is that is bothering me. 

46:40 John: Well, my wife is very OCD about having everything in order and having everything cleaned. Her work at the museum is very detail-oriented so she just… I don’t know, she just has this way of seeing things that I can’t see. So now that she’s been living with her mom for the last month, I’m looking around the house, I’m thinking, “Oh, my god, this is a mess.” 

[laughter] 

47:04 Angela: Yeah. 

47:04 John: This is horrible. I got to get it straightened out. 

47:08 Angela: Yeah, I think different people have different levels that they’re okay with. I’m trying to think of the… 

47:15 John: Well, what happens with me is I guess it piles up. After a while, it’s like, “Oh, my god. What happened to the floor?” 

47:22 Angela: Well, yeah. And so some people it’s like having six glasses of water lying around the house is no big deal, but for some people having one is a big deal. So figuring out, I guess, where you’re at in the orderliness thing, and if you want to improve, you may not do, but it’s another category to be aware of our physical condition. That’s something that a lot of us ignored and didn’t pay attention to. So, actually going to the doctor and the dentist and that kind of thing is something that I think you can consider. Hopefully, you’re able to consider it earlier in the Steps, but I don’t know what I did until later on that okay. Because oftentimes with the jobs that I had, dental insurance was not part of it and so being able to pay for that or need to pay for that was not a priority for me. So starting to monitor that and pay attention to that is, I think, something that’s important to my sobriety. 

48:26 Angela: It mentions boundaries. I think we’ve talked about that a lot in the eight and ninth Step as well as four, but monitoring boundaries. Are we doing the things that we need to do to make sure that we’re not putting ourselves in places for people to disappoint us? Having expectations of that co-worker or family member to act in a way that we think they should and when they don’t, we’re mad or have we set up something, a boundary that we don’t let them cross? And if they do, then we work on that. So boundaries are a big thing. And then, I think that that helps balance your life. So in this, they talk about different ways of monitoring. So they do, like you said, quick spot check at any time. Are my feelings correct with what is happening in the afternoon? Am I feeling impatient or angry? They mentioned traffic. That’s an issue for, I think, most of us. If I’m in traffic and somebody cuts me off and I call him a not-nice name, and then another person cuts me off and I call him a not-nice name. The third person I might want to look at who’s actually the not nice thing because it’s probably my impatience. I either didn’t plan to leave the house in time to get to where I’m going and so everybody’s a jerk because they’re getting in my way because I’m going to be late. 

50:03 Angela: That’s one of the things that I had to look at. And I find, yeah, people are a lot nicer when I give myself that space cushion to be able to get to where I need to go. We do the HALT thing. The hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Is that what’s going on with me? A lot of times it is. And now, I know what the issue is and I can fix it, and then I don’t have to lash out at somebody else and then go through the process of making amends because I’d really rather avoid it if I can. Then there’s more of the daily review, a leisurely type of monitoring, usually in the evening. Did I do the things that I wanted to do? They do talk about a daily “Will do” checklist. And so on theirs, they have things like, “Today, I will do something for someone else, or do something for myself, or do something I don’t want to do but needs to be doing, or do some physical exercise, do something that takes real thinking, or take time for reflection and gratitude. They also talk about the technique of writing or journaling your day and what you liked. What happened that was good? What you would like to improve on or do differently? And sometimes that doesn’t mean that you need to make amends or that when you’re wrong you have to, the next day, go to somebody. Sometimes it’s just looking at it that I feel weird about how this situation went down and maybe I need to look at that a little bit more to see what’s happening there. 

51:53 Angela: And then the other is to work with a trusted friend, advisor, counselor, sponsor, whatever it is that you’re doing that helps you with staying on track and monitoring your emotions and all of that. Yeah, so I found that chapter particularly helpful to look at ways to actually do Step 10. because as you can tell from the other steps I talked about, I really like being able to have something to do so that I can think about it in a way that’s constructive rather than if I’m just letting my brain think about stuff, oftentimes it’ll go off in a different direction and that’s not helpful to me. So having specific things that I can work on to improve and to learn to have better intuition and better self-esteem. When I’m able to see that I’ve responded in a different way to a certain situation that frequently happens, that feels really good. And that’s kind of nice [chuckle] because when you get into recovery you’re usually not feeling super good. And so figuring out a way that, yeah, I can feel that more often is pretty nice. 

53:13 John: You know that Alternative 12 Step book really goes into a lot of details with the step far more than the big book, for sure, and far more than the 12 and 12. 

53:21 Angela: Yeah, yeah. 

53:22 John: And you really get some good information from that. 

53:24 Angela: Yeah, in a good way. So, yeah, I really liked that. 

53:29 John: Yeah, it doesn’t mention big-shotism. 

[chuckle] 

53:34 Angela: Yeah, no big shot in there. 

53:35 John: I’ve never had a problem with big-shotism, I swear to God. I don’t think so. [chuckle] Maybe someone might disagree. 

53:41 Angela: Well, again, when all of this stuff was made… 

[chuckle] 

53:44 John: Yeah, right. 

53:44 Angela: There were people who were primarily going to the meetings who definitely had a problem with big-shotism. 

53:50 John: They did. 

53:51 Angela: Yeah, and so that’s why it was there. That’s why all the right-sizing and stuff, and I think that… 

53:58 John: Right. Get yourself right-sized. [chuckle] 

54:00 Angela: Particularly for women, it’s not that oftentimes that we need to right-size us and the big shot stuff, it’s that we need to… What would be the correct term? Not necessarily up-size because a lot of us would not appreciate that, but yeah, right-size in a positive way and get to where… 

54:24 John: Get self-esteem, healthy self-esteem. 

54:25 Angela: Yeah, healthy, appropriate self-esteem. Yeah. 

54:27 John: So it’ll be interesting going into Step 11 because we talked about meditation. I’m not a meditator, I have some past experience with it, I can talk about how I used to do it, but I almost feel like a schmuck doing that. But I think that… I think there’s a lot of… There are other things that you can do with Step 11 besides just meditation that I incorporate like, oh, I don’t know, [chuckle] being grateful, or whatever. We’ll think about it. We’ll talk about it on our next podcast. Yeah, I know, I do something. 

55:00 Angela: Yeah. Well, for Step 11, the way I do it is totally different as well. So meditation can be a part of it but, no, I think of it in a totally different way. So it’ll be cool to chat about that. 

55:14 John: All right, Angela. Well, I did enjoy this. So, yeah, well, our next discussion will be on Step 11. 

55:20 Angela: All right, I’m excited. We’re in the home run. 

55:23 John: We’re getting there, aren’t we? 

55:25 Angela: Yeah. 

55:25 John: I hope this has been somewhat helpful to people, it’s been helpful to me anyway. 

55:29 Angela: I do too. Yeah, I think it’s been great. It’s helped me look at all the different literature that I have and incorporate it better. And my experience and then hearing yours has been great. So, yeah, so if nothing else we got stuff out of it so hopefully, other people do too. 

[music] 

55:47 John: Yeah, all right. Thank you. 

55:50 Angela: Yeah. 

55:51 John: Well, that’s it for another episode of AA Beyond Belief the Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. I always enjoy these episodes with Angela as we go through the 12 Steps. Soon enough we’ll be covering Steps 11 and then 12, where I guess we’ll have a spiritual experience. I don’t know. Anyway, before I leave, let me thank you for your support and let you know that you can help us out financially by making donations through our Patreon page at patreon.com/aabeyondbelief. You can do this through PayPal at PayPal.me/aabeyondbelief or just head on over to our website, aabeyondbelief.org, and click on the donate button. Anything you can do is appreciated and needed. Thank you so much. We’ll be back again real soon for another episode of AA Beyond Belief the Podcast.


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