Taking Step Eight

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Suggested Reading for Step Eight:

Big Book:  Chapter 6 – Into Action
from page 76, line 15 through page 82

12 & 12:
Step Eight


As we take Step 8, we separate it into its first and second halves:

STEP 8a. Made a list of all persons we had harmed…

In other words, who have you harmed? You will recall from our discussion of Steps 4 and 5 that a preliminary list of persons we had harmed is generated there. The list will now be refined into a personal amendment plan, which is the product of Step 8.

Although this step requires plenty of work, there is nothing frightening in it. Amends are not actually made in Step 8. Instead, we plan for the making of amends in Step 9, which follows.
Listing the persons (and institutions) we have harmed is simplified if we break the list into three sections:

  1. People you have harmed since you sobered up, and whom you might still be harming today.
  2. People who tell you that you have harmed them, and they want restitution.
  3. All other persons you think you have harmed, especially those you feel bad about.

On the nature of harms. Our Webster’s dictionary tells us that harm is: injury, hurt, damage, misfortune, grief, pain, sorrow, evil, wrong or wickedness. Have we brought about any of these in the lives of others? The Big Book and the 12&12 also are quite specific about harm. Specific varieties are quoted in figure (1).

Amending harms done to others since you sobered up, and whom you might still be harming today. Step 8 is concerned with harms of the past. Step 10 corrects harms of the present. But it is a good idea to make a few points about the nature of harm that we might bring upon others. If we stole while we were practicing the drink profession, it’s time we stopped stealing. Right now! If we were insolent, demanding, sarcastic and critical, especially to those who tried to love us, we must learn to stop hurting them – even when we think they deserve it. If we are careless, and we smoke in A.A. meetings, we should look at the fact that second-hand smoke kills over 50,000 people in the USA every year. Where does the Big Book say we have acquired a right to kill or maim our fellow alcoholics while we continue addictive gratification in public?

People who tell you that you have harmed them, and they want restitution. Sometimes others – notably the IRS, law enforcement agencies, the phone company and recipients of alimony or child support – are sure we have committed harm, and they want “justice.” We might not agree with them. In any event, once we have made adequate use of mediation or the legal system, any residual claims against us should be cleared up. We cannot live in peace when we are being hounded by creditors. Usually they will accept a reasonable, but steady, plan for payment over time.

All other persons you think you have harmed, especially those you feel bad about. Now we are ready to get down to business with the important list of past harms we have done which might be the source of guilt within ourselves.

Amending harms you have done to yourself? We did not put yourself at the top of the list, even though we hear all the time at A.A. meetings that you should be at the top of your amends list. The correct side of such a belief is the absolute truth that we have been very cruel to ourselves. We certainly didn’t deserve all the self-punishment we inflicted. And, assuredly, the sober you does not deserve to continue being punished. Clearly, a major benefit of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is the fact that our lives – once we change our drinking matter, attitudes and ways – do get better, the world is no longer battering down our doors, and we are free of guilt. So, the amend we make to ourselves is that we are in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous enjoying the rewards of a brand new way of living.

The alcoholic mind, however, is expert at twisting A.A.’s program of recovery into an opportunity for being self-serving. Suppose that you had smashed up your favorite car in a blackout while drinking. You were a person. Losing your car was a harm. You did it. Therefore, you owe yourself a new car! And – if you listen to the bleeding hearts – getting a new car for yourself is right at the top of your amends list, too! Right? We don’t need any more clever gimmicks to get things our own way.

We dare not take the path of rewriting the Big Book and the 12 & 12 to mention doormats or to include ourselves in Step 8. Our founders designed this step to correct our actions upon others, not ourselves.


List the person harmed, the harm done, the nature of the amend to be made (including the dollar amount, if any) and the amendment priority or projected date. Leave two columns for the date completed and comments about their reaction to our amendment.

STEP 8b. …and became willing to make amends to them all.

Now that you have your list of persons you have harmed, become ready to make amends to them all. How will you know when you are ready? The only true measure is to begin Step 9. You don’t have to be ready to make all your amends before you make the first one. Keep up the getting-ready and the amend-making until you are done. It helps, however, if you order your amends list from the easiest amend to the most difficult. In this manner you can be half way through Step 9 in a short period of time, and the price paid, other than some wounded pride, will be insignificant. You will feel very pleased that you are really taking the steps.

A word of caution, again. Please do not commence Step 9 without some guidance. You can possibly bring further harm to others or needless inconvenience to yourself through premature or ill considered amends.

PROMISES OF STEP 8 (from page 78):

If our manner is calm, frank, and open,

  1. we will be gratified with the result. In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens. Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits his own faults,
  2. so feuds of years’ standing melt away in an hour.
  3. Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress. Our
  4. former enemies sometimes praise what we are doing and wish us well.
  5. Occasionally, they will offer assistance.
Excerpted from “Taking Step Eight” by the Big Book Bunch.


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