Step Nine

1997

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.
"

Step Nine Contents:

Part 1 and Questions for journaling
Part 2 and Questions for journaling
Part 3
Part 4 and Questions for journaling

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Step Nine ~ Part 1

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.
"

Step Nine and Amends to Myself

Dear Members of WTS,

I apologize that this is late. The list of reasons is long and probably tedious. So, I will spare you (and myself) and begin writing on Step Nine.

My experience with Step Nine was not immediately obvious to me. Only after consulting others and thinking for several months about it did it become clear to me that much of my life changed - and continues to change - with this step. On one hand, I viewed Step Nine as a discrete set of actions; over time, I made my amends to the people on my list. Importantly for me, I did all of this process with my sponsor. Writing my list (step eight), deciding how to do the amends, what kinds of amends, when etc. required a sponsor's input. The same mind that got me into the trouble that necessitated amends in the first place was not my best tool for conducting them. So, in this sense, there was a beginning and an end to Step Nine. Making the list, checking it twice, looking at how I was naughty and nice (sorry, wrong season and serious plagerism on my part).

On the other hand, after much thought I am more convinced that Step Nine is an ongoing process, often called a "living amends." If I make an amends and then go on repeating the same behavior, I haven't helped myself or anyone else. I hope to discuss the idea of "living amends" in a later share. At this point, my emphasis is on the selfish part of Step Nine - the part where I look at how doing this step with myself on a daily basis - helps me transform my self-loathing and selfishness into healthier, kinder treatment of myself.

Some may question the importance of self-amends in Step Nine. After all, aren't we COEs already a tad self-obsessed? Selfishness seems to be a trademark of addicts generally. Yet, we are told that OA is a "selfish program." We come here to recover, with the help of our HPs and on a daily basis, from the life-threatening disease of compulsive illness. What a dilemma, or so it seems at first glance. Quite simply, I am my most selfish, angry, defiant and hateful to others when I loathe myself. And, in my disease, the person I most consistently damaged was myself. Learning to forgive myself is fundamental to Step Nine and, I would maintain, it is part of the reason that the founders wrote the Promises immediately after Step Nine.

Talking about a self-amends and doing one, however, are not the same things to me. I am so much harder on myself than anyone else on the planet. I am so hard on myself that it is difficult to express in words. If I buy a dress, for example, and I later see it on sale, I blame myself for spending extra money. Unfortunately, I am neither a mindreader nor a fortune teller so these small moments of self-blame happen a lot. Such small events build, though, until I am filled with self-loathing. And, yes, I blame myself for larger things as well. "If only I had waited until I was older to have married; if only I had fewer pets; if only I was thinner..." The list of "if only's" is both long and painful in my psyche. And, it keeps me planted squarely in my disease of compulsive overeating.

With my HP's help, however, I have learned to forgive myself for many serious issues and for this I am eternally grateful. I no longer beat myself up for being a COE, alcoholic and codependent. The opposite is true. At times like now when my life seems most unmanageable, I find myself thanking God repeatedly for my addictions. I don't know where people outside of 12-Step Programs gain their connections to other people and to their HP. For me, these critical links take place when I work my program. Simply the act of recognizing that I have an incurable disease of compulsive eating and that my HP will take care of me has transformed my life. I no longer feel alone. No matter where I am, I know that I share a disease with others, that the 12 steps will change my life and that a power higher than myself will love, protect and care for me.

So, while I used to hate myself for being a bulimic/anorexic/COE, I made an amends to myself for my behavior. When I was practicing my disease, I did the best I could do to function within a completely unmanageable and painful life. My living amends to myself is that I remain abstinent - one day at a time. A later part of my self-amends was thoroughly understanding that I have but a daily reprieve from my compulsive eating. The same is true with my character defects. My behavior is so very, very far from perfect - no matter how hard I try. But, the program promises me that instead of striving for perfection, I need to aim for progress. When I don't feel like I have to be perfect, I am able to forgive myself and move into a more loving space. I would not have gained any of this inner peace without my addictions and life in OA. Diets come and go. Self-love is a much harder task and I thank God that my food was so unmanageable that I finally came to OA.

Here are questions that I am working on for myself. They may or may not help you respond to Step Nine and the issue of making amends to myself. I hope so much to hear from you. One of the greatest paradoxes in my life is that while the journey of recovery often seems like a solitary one, isolation is a cornerstone of my disease. Try as hard as I want, I cannot recover on my own (Thank God - can you imagine if I tried?) For today, I am dealing with the following issues:


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Step Nine ~ Part 1: Questions

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others."

  1. What do I gain from holding onto grudges against myself? What is self-loathing on a daily, albeit smaller, level giving me?

  2. What would my life look like if I made both daily and long-term amends to myself? Said another way, what would I feel like if accepted that I am human and average?

  3. What are some practical ways that I can make amends to myself - long term and on a day-to-day basis?

  4. How would making self-amends transform my relations with others?

Thank you for reading this.

With OA love,

Vicki


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Step Nine ~ Part 2

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others."

Thank you all for being so very patient with me! I could give you a run-down of things, but once again, I think - why waste your time.

I have spent hours thinking about my ninth steps. Wow, were they filled with adventure. And, I have been reading my literature. It seems to me that there is a reason Step Nine is the last of the "action" steps. I practice 10 through 12, 1 through 3 everyday. I don't do 4-9 as often (for obvious reasons).

FEAR. Step Nine for me was filled with FEAR. I was so scared of what people would think of me. By the time I got into recovery, I had made such a mess of my life. Bulimic since the age of 10 and anorexic shortly later, my entire life was full of addiction and its attendant character defects. What is so weird is that I lied even when I didn't have to lie - I didn't even really know what "telling the truth" meant. In all facets of my life, I did what I thought I needed to do to manipulate things and people so I got my way. FEAR doesn't even begin to explain how I felt about even talking to some of the people I had to talk to for my ninth step. Terror, and in retrospect, ego.

For years, I had "managed" my outside appearance as much as possible. FOR MYSELF, I have always thought of my bulimia as the greatest of dishonesties. I ate like a compulsive overeater but didn't have the guts to show anyone. So, my body looked thin while I ate, ate, ate. Now, I had to start telling the truth, the truth about the woman inside my body. I was so scared.

My sponsors were absolutely critical during my ninth steps. CRUCIAL. My best thinking had gotten me into the positions of having to do the "nines." I needed help in extricating myself from the lifestyle I had created, not just with food but with my mind, values, heart and soul. It was my sponsors who could promise me that I would live through the ninth steps, that my fear would not kill me. And, they guided me as to how to do my amends in honest, fair and loving ways. Importantly, if I had known how to lead my life on my own, I wouldn't be in OA to begin with - as Step Nine is part of moving to a more healthy, spiritual life, I knew I could not do it alone. And, I wanted to get better - spiritually, emotionally and physically. Thank God for my sponsors.

Here are some general questions that I have been thinking of regarding the fear and guidance that went with my ninth steps. PLEASE add your own ideas or questions. For those of you who have done a ninth step, please offer your experience, strength and hope. For those of you who are moving toward doing your ninth step, offer your e/s/h and thoughts/hopes/fears regarding this step.

In closing, I can honestly say that the ninth step was what most changed my life with others and with myself. Thanks to my HP I survived not only one but two. I thank God I stuck with the steps and am continuing to do so.


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Step Nine ~ Part 2: Questions

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others."

  1. Why is it so important to work with a sponsor in making amends to others?

  2. What are your greatest fears about making amends?

  3. How can you lessen these fears?

  4. How is your HP central to making amends?

  5. Why is the amends process to central to living in abstinence?

Thank you so much all of you for your responses to my last posting. AND, thanks for being so patient with me. You all mean the very world to me. As I go through some painful, but exciting, changes in my life, I think about how I could not do any of this alone. And, I never could have dreamed living through all of this before this program. I would not be abstinent today if it were not for you all out there. Thank you so much for helping me to recover and to find my HP on a daily basis.

With OA love,

Vicki


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Step Nine ~ Part 3

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others."

Step Nine and Grieving

I have liked doing the questions for step nine as I don't have to answer or to think about the answers to them. I have been posting the questions and letting them go by. Tonight, I need to share on making amends.

About a month ago, I was at a f2f meeting on step 8 and 9. One of the women shared that for her, part of step nine was forgiving those who had seriously hurt her as a child. It hit home to me as I had just that day heard from my father that my grandmother was ill - seriously but not immediately dying. I put the idea of forgiveness as an amends on hold. But, as time went by, the thought kept coming up in my mind. I would not let go of my bitterness and rage at my grandmother.

An abuser whose actions were those of omission rather than commission, my grandmother knew that my mother was extraordinarily violent but she did nothing. She didn't want her daughter-in-law (my mother) to send her back to Michigan during the winters. After all, freezing Lansing doesn't compare with sunny San Diego in January. She tried to compensate for the violence by giving my brother and I candy. My mother had forbidden her from giving me sweets as she worried I would become fat. But, my grandmother would sneak candy to me every time my mother wasn't looking. Somehow, though, candy just didn't make up for the bruises and fits of rage.

I hated my grandmother for years for doing nothing about my mother and for being so mean to me about my body image. Yes, my grandmother - like my mother - liked me best in my anorexic years. I held onto that hate and it festered. I never did anything mean to my grandmother so there was nothing specific to make an amends for, but I would not forgive her. And, I never let her forget.

Two weeks ago, I sent my grandmother a letter telling her all of the positive things that she had given me. A strong farm woman, herself from an insane mother, my grandmother was a survivor. She taught me how to travel, how to be strong in the face of adversity and how to become educated. My grandmother also taught me how to believe in a higher power. Agreed, we did not share the same God, but I saw her hold onto her faith during some very painful experiences. Most of all, she taught me that God - however defined - loves me, unconditionally.

My father told me that my letter meant a great deal to my grandmother. Regardless of how it made her feel, though, it freed me. Letting go of bitterness and resentment, no matter how justifiable, allows me to live the promises of this program. And, even though my grandmother failed to protect me in ways I wish she would have done, I feel in my heart that she did the very best she could. God only knows the horrors she suffered in her life.

My stepmother called me about an hour ago. My grandmother died much more quickly than anyone expected. While I am grieving, I know she knew that I loved her and, more importantly, that I forgave her and she forgave me. Very truly, this program has changed my life.

vicki


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Step Nine ~ Part 4

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others."

Step Nine: Motives and Practice

Step Nine offered me this great chance to "let go" of shame, resentment etc. I had the chance to own up to my stuff. And, on the surface, that seems so very straightforward. I go to the person, tell them what I did to hurt them, make my amends and then leave the outcome to my HP. Keep it simple.

In practice, Step Nine is much more messy and I thank God I haven't tried to work it without the aid of sponsors. But, even with the help of sponsors, I have managed to make a mess out of making amends. In some cases, I have held expectations that the person in question will then own up to their part. Wrong. Intellectually, I knew that once I offered my amends it was in God's hands. In my head (as sick as it is), I held expectations that quickly turned to resentments. After my amends in two cases, people told me that yes I was a horrible person and that they would forgive me. Eee gads. This was not what I had wanted. Worse, this little voice in my head kept saying, "hey - that's not fair. You were just as bad as me." My motives for the amends were NOT to clean up my side of the street but to straightjacket/manipulate them into doing the same.

In other cases, I have had to look at whether the amends would cause greater harm to that person. At a meeting, a woman shared that her "ex" had given her his amends and in it had told her in graphic detail about an extra-marital affair he had conducted while they were married. She would never have known about it otherwise. As she noted, he felt much better after having done his amends. She was devastated. Again, I return to motives. When I do an amends to make myself feel better, regardless of how it might affect the other person, I continue the selfish behavior that landed me in OA in the first place.

My first introduction to the amends process was an odd one. This guy who had dumped me called at 12:00 at night about three weeks later. He lied to my roommate about his name and then told me he was calling to apologize so he would not drink again. Then, he hung up. God works in mysterious ways. The pain from that breakup and various other things helped me get into OA so, fortunately, I knew that I had just received an amends call. Rather than being angry, I still admire his bravery and dedication to staying sober. While tact was not his strength, he clearly understood that we clean up our messes to protect our recovery. The problem was, once again, motive. He had not stopped to consider the kind of affect that such a late night phone call would have on my household or me.

Without question, motives become a touchy and tricky issue in my still very sick mind. There are times where I feel a real need to have an amends "fix" a situation. When I made my amends to my sister, I wanted her to forgive me, to let the past die and to trust that this time I was, indeed, recovering. That, however, was not what she needed. She did not trust me and watched me with well-deserved suspicion until about my third birthday in abstinence. Also, just because I said I was sorry did not end the pain I had caused her. She needed to talk about it for several years. There were times when I wanted to scream, "look - those days are done. I gave you my amends. Now drop it." More selfishness on my part. Importantly, she wasn't being abusive to me but she did need to talk to me about how my behavior had affected her. And, I wasn't in charge of when her pain stopped. Once I made my amends, I put the issue in God's hands. In this case, my amends opened the door for necessary communication - it did not close it as I had wished.

Finally, part of my amends to my sister and family have been a living amends. I made a commitment to my sister that I would not lie to her anymore. To this date, I have kept that commitment. When she asks me something that I cannot handle talking about, I ask her if we can wait to discuss it.

vicki


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Step Nine ~ Part 4: Questions

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others."

  1. How do we know when is the "right" time and way to do an amends?

  2. How do we examine our motives in making an amends?

  3. How do we know the proper content in an amends?

  4. Have any of you seen yourself in "motive" problems with amends?

  5. Have any of you made amends and later found that you had unspoken expectations for the outcome of that amends?

  6. How do we deal with issues of motives and expectations from amends?

Thanks for reading this and thanks for being out there.

vicki


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