12 Step Recovery: Mindfulness

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

Steps 10-12 are the so-called maintenance steps because they have to be practiced everyday. The previous nine steps are revisited from time to time, as the addict matures into ever-deepening levels of sobriety. The last three steps, however, are the way of life that sustains our connection to the source of our recovery, our Higher Power.


The old tendencies covered in Steps 4 and 5 remain, but, now exposed, they lose their absolute power. Going forward, they are being watched and in Step 10, we are doing the watching. The recently popular term for this form of self-monitoring is mindfulness. In the 12-Step language it is called taking personal inventory. We watch ourselves, either “live,” or in a mental instant replay, but no later than a daily review.

What was my intention in that behavior? Does it remind me of anything in my Step 4 inventory? Was I overly responsible or not responsible enough? Was I too selfish or selfless? Did I adequate respect the dignity of the other? These questions have to be asked seriously but also kindly. The purpose is not to beat myself up but only to promptly admit what was discovered. Pulling anything from the darkness into the light is more than half of the solution.

You can afford to admit dubious intentions only because of the first nine steps. With an adequate Higher Power, no number of wrongs are too many! Just catch them and admit them. No shame, grudge or lasting judgment is needed.

Another term for Higher Power might be Absolute Ground. The root meaning of humility is “ground.” Now you can see why it is possible to be humble (noting and admitting our wrongs) day in and day out. There is nowhere to fall from the Absolute Ground.

12 Step Recovery: Shadow Boxing

  1. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  2. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

The shadow is the underbelly of the psyche, the vulnerable and messy side, the part that we would rather not see, let alone own. It is not bad yet our first inclination would be to reject it. We are sure that it does not fit into our persona, our “best” side. It shows up in consciousness as “defects of character,” which are easy to excuse or deny.


Shadow Boxing – Steve Huston

In terms of emotional addiction, the shadow covers our programs for happiness, those insatiable appetites for security, esteem, pleasure or control. Moreover, it conceals all of the maladaptive thoughts and behaviors we will deploy to get those appetites fed. When our programs are thwarted, our shadow is revealed in irritation, anger and what I term thrashing/flailing – things we say or do but do not really mean.

“You cannot heal what you do not first acknowledge.” Owning the problem is two-thirds of the solution (three-quarters?). As soon as you expose the insidious device it loses much of its power; it comes out of the shadows and into the light where it can be gradually transformed, integrated and forgiven. Christian scripture presents the image of demons, which I think are an apt representation of addiction. Jesus heals them by merely calling them out. “I see you!”

“Moral inventory” sounds a bit like an exercise in flagellation. Don’t let it be. You will not be judged or condemned by a Higher Power. Anybody who cares about your inventory does not matter and everybody who matters will not care. Instead they will have compassion for the True Self that is deeper than both shadow and persona. Therefore, let your inventory be “fearless” of shame and blame.

The fifth step allows you to experience the promise of acceptance and compassion and know that you are still good! The demons can only suffocate you from the inside. Once let out, they flee; you do not disintegrate. At the same time, this step makes ownership real and eviscerates any lingering denial. It holds your feet to the fire and begins to make you accountable – a conscious act of coming out of one self.

These steps are a movement of rigorous honesty. Only with honesty can a person relate to and be supported by a Spirit-filled community.