by Conrod F. (Punanai 2012)
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
By the time I reached the doors of AA, my alcoholism coupled with my addiction was full-blown. My lies, manipulations, resentments and inner anger had left a trail of broken friendships, broken promises, heartbreak, tears and debts that were not going to go away just because I had decided to get sober.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way 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.
I had heard these words read a thousand times at meetings and I wanted them for myself. I had seen others who in my mind had achieved this state of being and if AA and the steps gave it to them, then bring it on. After all, freedom and happiness was what I had always been chasing – in fact, that’s what alcohol had promised way back in the early days of my drinking.
And to think that there could be a day when I would not regret my past after years of trying to use booze and drugs to stuff it away in a faraway room and shut the door – well, this was worth the effort. The earlier steps had already given me faith in the program and in my sponsor and had, better yet, introduced me to a faith in God that proved over and over to me that fear was of no use and that faith was the way of my journey.
So, fearlessly, with the guidance of my sponsor, I set out on Step 8.
The first thing I had to learn was that amends were entirely different from apologies. An amends has to do with restoring justice as much as possible, to restore that which we have broken or damaged or to make restoration with some form of symbolic gesture, directly or indirectly.
I must admit that this was a foreign concept to me. For a very long time, my routine had been to try to avoid as much as possible those I had wronged – and especially those I had owed. And if I could not avoid them, then I had responded with anger or complete denial that a wrong had ever been committed. In a few extreme cases when it was to my benefit, an apology coupled with a sob story was sometimes mustered up to temporarily save face or to ensure that my drinking or drugging was not impeded, but almost never had I made right a wrong.
I found that making the list was fairly easy, since I had already made a good start during and after the completion of my personal housekeeping in Step 4. After a few additions that came from further clarity and from the continued lifting of the fog that had clouded my memory in early sobriety, I was now armed with what I needed for my Step 9.
I set off imagining how and when and where these great amends would happen, the beautiful outcome of most and the disastrous outcome of others. I shared my great imagination with my sponsor, who abruptly reminded me that I was on Step 8, not Step 9, and that my job at this stage was to become willing.
So off to the dictionary I was sent to refocus on the meaning of willingness. The first definition I came across was this: “the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.” After talking again to my sponsor, I knew that to get myself to a state of readiness I needed to be okay with each and every amends I would make. I could not set out on an amends with any residue of resentment or fear, and I could not have any expectations of outcomes.
This would prove more difficult than anticipated, because there were still some people and institutions on that list that I truly did not feel ready to confront. Again, the lessons of my program came to my aid. I choose the names I would start with, those most important to my day to day living and that were essential for me to move forward. “First things first.”
Then I began to pray on each one, asking for strength and courage, and often praying for the person – asking for them all that I would have for myself. Slowly the fear and any remaining hesitation subsided and I reached a state of readiness – almost confidence – in what was about to come in my Step 9.
If I move along my spiritual journey in sobriety without making an attempt to stand and rectify the wrongs of my past, I will have left areas where I will certainly meet resistance and therefore may ultimately seek to avoid them. The Promises suggest freedom – and true freedom means I must be rid of these barriers. Step 8 is when I set out to list those barriers and reach a state of readiness and willingness to restore justice to the best of my ability.
I am truly amazed and blessed to have been given an opportunity to ready myself for the glorious freedom that the preparation of Step 8 led me to in the remaining steps.