The following is my ninth entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Step 8 and 9 are combined in the literature and are found in Chapter 6 (Into Action), page 76, third paragraph through page 84, second paragraph of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This time we will focus on Step 9 which is the step where we actually clean up our past so we can go forward into freedom.
Looking over our list from Step 8, we are concerned that our actions in this endeavor not cause harm to others. We ask ourselves if this action will affect other people and how it may affect them. For instance, if I might face legal action how will my family members be affected? If we find that others may be affected by our action we seek objective counsel. We may need to consult those persons that may be affected, honestly explaining why we are considering our course of action. Ultimately we seek God’s guidance as to what is best for all concerned. If you honestly seek the right solution, it will be provided.
Now we go out and make amends for our behavior and actions that have caused harm. It is important to keep with God to stay centered no matter what response you encounter. We explain to the other person what we are doing and why. We desire to right the wrongs we committed in the situation because we want to change. Most people will react compassionately and supportively to one who sincerely means business. However, some may still be angry or hurt and respond accordingly. If you have been humble, honest, and forthright then you can walk away having done what you set out to do. No matter what, we do not criticize the other person or point out their part in creating the situation.
Do everything possible to make the amends in person. If that is not possible then a voice call is second best. Letter or email is the least preferred but sometimes is the only alternative. Do not let fear cause you to avoid meeting in person. We are a Child of God and hold our head up and meet our responsibilities with courage. We do not grovel or beg but are humble, honest, and sincere. “There may be some wrongs that we cannot fully right. We do not worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would right them if we could”.
The Promises found on pages 83 - 84
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situation that used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us that which we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
Next we will do Step 10.
David Saffold is a Professional Life Coach and student at the Estuary. He has been helping people use the 12 step spiritual program to recover from alcohol and drug addiction for over 25 years.