Step 10: Maintenance
Nobody likes to admit to being wrong.
But it is absolutely necessary to maintain spiritual progress in recovery.
- The process of maintaining or preserving someone or something, or the state of being maintained: “the maintenance of democratic government”.
- The process of keeping something in good condition: “car maintenance”; “essential maintenance work”.
They call Step 10 the “maintenance” step. Steps 1-9 have led you up a path that begins with realizing something is wrong, offers some hope that it can be corrected, digs deep to find the root cause, cleans out unneeded garbage, and cleans up the mess. But, like a wrecked car, once it’s fixed, that’s not the end of the road. It is used on a daily basis, runs out of gas, gets clogged up and dirty and may get wrecked. So, you have to have a maintenance plan. And, it’s always better to keep up with it than to wait until it gets all junked up again.
A friend of mine hated to go to the dentist. She feared dentists, so she didn’t go for about 10 years. As part of her recovery from alcoholism, she decided to start taking better care of her body, and, in particular, her teeth. She knew it would be bad. But, she was committed to doing it. She went to the dentist, and, sure enough, the work required was going to be painful, expensive and time-consuming to complete. But, she made the time, saved the money and faced her fears. Once it was done, though, she still had to go back on a regular basis to keep her oral health. She now knows that it is much harder to ignore ongoing wear and tear and be faced with a massive overhaul than it is to prevent problems from happening. That is the plan for Step 10.
It is suggested that at night, we look at our day, do a quick Step 4 and see if there was anything we need to clean up. Check to see if we harmed anyone, didn’t follow our program or didn’t take care of ourselves. If there was, we are to set about immediately to process it, or , if we have to make an amends, go ahead and do it. It feels good to stay clean like that. I now have such a low tolerance for guilt and shame that I can’t wait to clean up my messes. And, I still make them frequently. I’m human. I can be messy at times.
On the flip side, it’s a great time to consider what we did well. I know that I called my sponsor today and went to a meeting when I got in enough pain. That took care of it quite nicely. I have tools now that I can use to make my life better, and, when I use them, that’s progress. It’s so much easier to bury my head in the sand and just go with the flow. But, then I have to clean it up, and that’s not so easy. Often, my biggest messes are with myself. I don’t take care of my health, I don’t stand up for myself and my needs or I procrastinate on something important. I’ve been in a friendship lately where I’ve really backslid on my program. I let myself get involved with someone who is unavailable for even a friendship, and I tried to be needless to avoid stepping on their toes. That’s a familiar pattern with me. I find people who are in so much chaos and crisis that they have no energy for me, and I try to transform into some kind of needless, spineless jellyfish, thinking that will keep them in my life. Then, one day, I can’t take it anymore, and I get mad because my needs aren’t being met. I’m the problem. I was in denial about what I was doing. That’s the current mess I need to clean up. It may take me a day or two to get back on my feet from this one, but at least I caught it before I got in too deep.
That’s the beauty of maintenance. You catch it before it becomes an insurmountable problem. It gets caught and a spiritual solution is applied before people get badly hurt. Instead of having to do major dental work, we can get a cleaning and be done with it. This program is simple. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Who wants to say, “I was wrong”? I don’t. But, I do it anyway. And, that’s the beauty of this program. We know how hard it is to clean up a major mess, so we do things we don’t want to do because it’s the right thing to do. It’s called building character.