The following is my eighth entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
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. However, I will focus on Step 8 in this blog entry, which is, like Step 6 is to Step 7, a preparatory (willingness) step for Step 9. “We have a list of all people we have harmed from Step 4. Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over our alcoholism (addiction).”
Referring to our fourth step, we create a list of the people we have harmed and how we have harmed them. It may be that they did more harm to us than us to them but that is not our business here. We are to make amends for our part in creating harm in the relationship. We are removing the shame, anger, and fear from our lives that drives our addiction and keeps us from growing and changing into the Child of God that is our commitment. Have we lied to people and caused them harm? Have we cheated people or stolen from them? What about our family members, current or ex-spouses or romantic relationships? Have we caused harm by our behavior or words? Have we stolen from retail stores (shoplifting) or our places of employment? We scour our inventory from Step 4 putting all persons or institutions we have harmed on our amends list. If indecisive about a situation think whether you would feel shame, fear, anger, or guilt if you accidentally bumped into that person. If so, this will indicate that you need to take action around the situation and persons involved.
We probably have a lot of fear about returning to a person we have done wrong. Also, our anger might focus on the harm they did us and make us recalcitrant to approach them with humility and a spirit of reconciliation. So, we ask for willingness and the correct attitude. We remember our commitment to change and to freedom. We remember that we are willing to go to any length to change from a child of fear to a Child of God. Most of all, we remember that our purpose is to be of maximum service to God and others.
How do I know if I did step 8?
You are willing to make amends to all those you have harmed. Even if you can’t find the willingness for some go onto Step 9 and keep asking for willingness for those where you are resistant.
How should I feel after doing step 8?
You may be truly eager to get moving on freeing yourself from your past. It is also normal to be nervous about facing the wrongs of our past. The key is that you have found the strength and willingness to move onto Step 9 and actually begin taking action.
Next we will do Step 9.
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.