Step Eight: How to Make Amends

by Kathy L.

When I entered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous for the first time, all I knew was that there were “steps.” As a matter of fact, I am not sure I even knew how many there were.

At the first meeting I attended at the place I would call “home,” I was asked to read “How It Works.” It was printed on an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper and enclosed in a clear plastic jacket.

I read what was in front of me and stopped when I reached the bottom. I put the paper down, quite proud of my “presentation” and was met with “There’s more … the other side.” Clearly on the other side were Steps 6-12 and I continued to read.

The purpose of my telling you this is that until we work all 12 steps we have not worked the steps. Many people in recovery procrastinate or take too much time when Steps 4 & 5 and Steps 8 & 9 loom in front of them. And “loom” is what they will do if they are not addressed.

We are about to embark on Step 8, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” If you do not have a sponsor, please stop now, find a sponsor, go back to Step 1 and work each step with her. Most of us are so focused on Step 9 that we forget that a thorough Step 8 is the key to making amends with dignity and, certainly, less fear. So then, since making proper amends is the result of our Step 8, let’s not jump the gun and visualize making amends. Keep in mind that the steps are in order for a reason.

There is no doubt there are many ways to work Step 8. I only know one way and that is what my sponsor taught me. I have to say that I give my sponsees no option on how to do this step. This method had been handed down from sponsor to sponsee for a very long time and it works. This may look like a rather clinical approach but it is the best way for me to offer the suggestions I had been given.

1. Meet with your sponsor and review the resentments you listed in Step 4. Talk to her about why you believe you should or should not make amends to any particular person. Your sponsor probably will ask you questions to help clarify both who and when. As usual, honesty is the best policy here. In some cases making an amend could be harmful, so it is important that you and your sponsor discuss the situation.

2. Now that you have the people, put them on a priority list. Recovery literature almost always tells us that we will have three lists: the immediate amends; the group that we will make amends to but not today; and the probably never. For the purpose of this article, I am only addressing those immediate, probably face-to-face amends. Most of us include family and close friends in this priority list and many include themselves.

3. Take person number one and write down all of the things you want to make amends for. This is kind of brainstorming and is something you can do by yourself. At this time you can be specific to a situation. For example you might write to your friend about the time you spread a very vicious rumour about her; or to your child about how you showed up to his/her concert drunk.

4. Now we look at all of the specifics we have written to one person and generalize. Chances are there is a pattern as to how we treated people, so what may look like a number of specific incidences can be placed into one generality. Example: I know I ruined many a family outing when I was drinking and I could be very specific as to where and when. That is not important. The important thing is to make amends for being selfish and ruining many family outings because of drinking behaviour.

5. Get index cards and use one (or more) for each person. At the top, write: “I was wrong for…” and then list the amends you want to make in the exact words you want to use. Are you sorry for what you have done? Of course you are, but don’t you think folks are a bit tired of hearing that word? Sorry means nothing. Amend means to make a change and that is what you do when you admit you were wrong. Your amends absolutely MUST be reviewed with your sponsor even before writing them on the index cards. When the time comes you will actually read word for word from these cards. I will be writing more about this when I cover Step 9.

Step 8 is now complete and we should be ready and willing (as the Step suggests) to make amends at least to those who we feel the most immediate need. You don’t have to write out every person you have listed all at one time. The important thing is that when you begin the process you will enter into a new phase of recovery. The Promises await!

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Copyright © Kathy L. Reprinted by permission of the author. Kathy L. is the editor of Bella Online 12 Step Recovery, where more of her writings on recovery can be found. She also hosts the Grateful Recovery page on Facebook.

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