Perspective: Opening My Heart

by Tim D. (Madison Avenue 2006)

By the time I got to Step Eight, I was seeing positive results from working the Steps in my personal and work life. I had begun to rely more on spiritual principles instead of trying to fix every problem with my thinking. This was working for me so I kept doing it.

I had already experienced the importance of willingness in Steps Three, Four, Five and Six. I often prayed for willingness and I believe it always came when I needed it. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that these prayers would work, but I felt desperate for change and that’s what I asked for.

As I made a list of people and institutions I thought I had harmed, I began to look at things in a more balanced way. Sometimes people had harmed me and I acknowledged that hurt people hurt people. This made it easier to put aside what they had done and look at what I had done, or even sometimes just look at my distorted thinking.

My ex-wife was on the list as “maybe someday.” I was on the list because I was told by my sponsor that I should put myself there. I didn’t really understand how I had hurt myself. This Step did me a lot of good as practice in seeing things realistically and developing compassion for myself and others.

Making the list was the easy part, once I applied the honesty, courage and integrity that I had developed in the previous Steps. But becoming willing to make amends to everyone on that list took some time, and in some cases required considerable effort. In the more difficult cases, I felt justified for whatever I did because of what I thought they did to me.

But when I clung to such resentments over old injuries, I just continued to hurt myself. I was locked in a vicious cycle of reliving old indignities and disappointments, holding myself hostage and inflicting pain on everyone around me, especially those I loved most. The result was feelings of guilt and shame, and attempts to cover up with denial, rationalization and blame.

Forgiving myself for my own wrongs was equally critical, for as long as my heart was hard toward myself, it was easy to withhold forgiveness for others. When I began to forgive myself, it got much easier to open my heart and become willing to forgive others.

Time has passed – many AA meetings, a sponsor and sponsees. Much service in the program, in the group and above the group. My list today is different. Some people are gone, some I remember but have no idea how to get in touch with them. I have asked my Higher Power to show me who I am and in doing so He has shown me who to put on my list from all those years so long ago.

These years have been years of growth and understanding of myself and my part in my life. Thanks to AA they have been wonderful years, with some pain but much joy in the life I have and never thought would be possible. I understand that I am where I am because of who I am and what I’ve done. I think that is my amends to myself, part of my Step Nine.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email