Step Eight

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


Step Eight Contents:

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

 


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Step Eight ~ Part 1

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

Hi, my name is Diane and I'm supposed to lead the 8th step questions this month. I'm a compulsive eater, just like y'all.

I guess I'll share a little bit about myself first.

I've been doing 12 step stuff for about 2.5 years. I started in Al-Anon, so I don't really know how to separate what I learned there from what I've learned in OA. In my opinion, especially when it comes to steps 8 and 9, the steps are the same steps for everybody. But I've come to see the very special place that OA has had for me specifically with the 8th step. In Al-Anon they made a big deal out of trying to get me to put myself at the top of my 8th step list. I honestly had no idea how to do that. How do I put myself on the list of people I had harmed? I didn't even know what on earth I might have done. OA has been for me almost exculsively about putting myself on my 8th step list, at the top, and making amends to myself. In that way, OA has been the biggest gift and has done for me what nothing else could have done. It has awakened me to a new life, a rich life, a life lived to the absolute fullest to a level I used to only vaguely dream about. I thought my life was so rich and full working the steps in Al-Anon, but OA showed me there was much much more.

I grew up in a family with alcoholism and eating disorders. My mom is a compulsive overeater and overdrinker, but not in recovery. My sister had bulimia when we were teens, and for all I know she might still do it. She's always been very thin and very obsessed with her weight. My mom has always been fat and obsessed with her weight. I've always gone up and down, never very far up and never very far down. My range has been between 110 and 170, the top weight I was when I arrived at OA. My dad also had an eating disorder. He had been tied up and force-fed onions and garlic by his mother in a bizarre method to make my dad (and his brother) not turn out like their father who couldn't eat onions and garlic. They were force-fed until they gagged and vomitted. Growing up in my own home there was a constant, simmering battle between my mom and dad over the fact that my dad was unable to eat onions and garlic. My dad has been also fat, then thin, then fat, then thin, and has always gravitated to wierd fad eating. I remember bags of apricot kernals and glasses of apple cider vinegar and there was the box of prunes and run six minute miles diet. That was what it was like in my family.

Food was a site of constant war in my family. Silent, cold, simmering, seething below the surface war. My mom hated my dad for what he couldn't eat. My mom hated herself for being fat. My mom believed I was fat and put me on a diet when I was 4 years old. Part of that diet was because of allergies. I couldn't eat bread or cheese or foods that had micro-organisms in it. So she made me eat Rye crisp with butter for my meals. I absolutely hated rye crisp with butter. Still do. But that was all I was allowed. One day she made bisquick biscuits with peanut butter and I was in heaven. It was the best tasting food ever, but I couldn't eat anymore of it because it was fattening. Back to Rye crisp. My whole life all I ever heard was "no, you can't have that because it is fattening." From my mom and my grandma. They constantly seemed to be scrutinizing my appearance. My grandma told me I was ugly and ate too much, and that I should wear make-up (I was 10) and make faces in the mirror until I found one that looked good, then wear it all the time. Kids at school somehow sensed that I was ugly, too, and picked on me unmercifully. I accepted all of this fat and ugly stuff as the truth. When I look at old pictures it isn't true. I looked sad, but not fat or ugly. When I discovered starving myself when I was 15, I discovered that I had power to make people love and accept me. Unfortunately, being hungry all the time was more than I could handle and I ate all my weight and ugliness back on.

That was what it was like. A sense of deprivation imposed from the outside. So I snuck candy, cookies and ice cream. I spent allowance and milk money on it. My dad would let me have ice cream and candy, but I later learned that he was getting me out of the house to get himself away from the reminder that my mom was having an affair as we happily ate our ice cream. Then he would tell me how my mom is an alcoholic and try to get me to not like her. Food and abuse and betrayal were all mixed together. It's no wonder that food has always been my enemy.

No feelings were expressed in my family at all, except anger, which was only my mom's department and nobody else's. I expressed my anger to her once. Once. By the time I got to Al-Anon I was unable to feel anything, but my body was falling apart with all kinds of digestive and lung trouble. I was totally depressed and unable to get a job or do much of anything even though I had just gotten my college degree at the age of 30. I felt stupid, worthless, an imposter. I kept having relationships with alcoholics and addicts and the only way I knew how to cope with them was to practice avoidance behaviors--TV, insulting them, and now that I see it, eating. If we were going out to eat then we were distracted from the relationship for a while, the relationship I didn't want to be in but didn't know how to get out of. I felt like a prisoner with no coping skills. I needed those relationships because I couldn't financially support myself. Then I worked the steps and found relief and happiness and freedom and self-sufficiency like I never thought possible.

The 8th step (and the 9th) were the steps I feared the most. But the first time I ever read the steps I knew that going through with all of it was the only way I could be unlocked from whatever it was that was paralyzing me. I knew that if I had the guts to do steps 8 and 9, I could get better. Fortunately, the steps are designed to give you the guts to do it.

Step 8 says "Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." The first thing to do is to make a list. That is all this step is. Only a list and nothing more. How hard could that be? Making it even easier was the fact that the list has already been made when we did our 4th step inventories. But I've found that this step is not easy. It is very very deep.


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Step Eight ~ Part 1: Questions

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

 
  1. So far the journey of the steps has been mostly an inner journey. It has been described to me that the 12 steps take people who are incapable of living in society and making them able to go out into the world and be contributing members of their communities. The 8th step is the first step into going out into the world. Am I ready to turn my sight outward, into the world and the people around me?
  2. What kinds of fears come up when I think about making a list of people I had harmed? Can I make the list without giving any thought yet to the amends that I will make?
  3. Making a list is for OUR recovery, not to make people like us better. Can I keep the focus on myself while I make this list? What does that mean?
  4. The literature says (Big Book) that our list has already been made when we made out our list of resentments, our grudge list. How do I feel about taking every single name on my grudge list and putting them now on a list of people I have harmed?
  5. Can I put my own name on the list? Can I do it not just because someone said I have to, but can I do it and mean it?
Thank you all for letting me do this. It is quite an honor.

love,
Diane


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Step Eight ~ Part 2

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

Well, one week went quickly. Thanks to all who wrote in, no matter what step you are on. I appreciate all of it. These lists help me very much.

I'm Diane, a compulsive eater.

The thing I struggled with harder than anything in this program was in determining who I actually did do harm to. What constitutes harm anyway? Some people it was really obvious to me that I caused harm, because I did it on purpose. But other people it was more difficult.

I had a lover that I lived with for a few years. The relationship was very unhealthy for many reasons. I was so angry in that relationship. I went to a therapist at the university I was attending at the time complaining that I had all this rage inside and didn't understand why. It was all for the relationship. What I ended up doing, because the counselling went nowhere, was acting out on my rage. I planned a secret, stealth attack on her. She knew how to do carpentry. I decided that I wanted to break up with her, but lacking any money and being financially dependent on her, the only place I could move out to was my dad's garage. In order to fit my personal stuff in his garage, I'd need a loft bed, so I found a suitable pretext to get my girlfriend to make me a loft bed. Then I waited until she went to go take care of her mother who had had open heart surgery and I moved all of my stuff out. I did it this way specifically because it was the most hurtful thing I could think of doing. I did other things, too. This ended up being the first amends I made. It was the easiest amends for me to make, too, because it was so obvious to me my part.

What was harder, and continues to be a place to work on, were the names on my list that I didn't feel I caused any harm. For example, my mother was one of those names. My mother was an alcoholic and compulsive eater. Still is, I guess. Things happened growing up that caused great pain in my family, and I saw it as her fault. My mother was very angry. My sister and I feared her wrath, and it came daily. She would hit us. She wouldn't let us eat treats. She would promise us money and then fail to deliver. She spent child-support money on herself for shoes. She was deeply disapproving and controlling in a moralistic way. I grew up without the capacity to actually feel anger, or to express it. Anger was my mother's department.

When I did my 4th step my mom's name came up over and over again. When I got to the 8th step, the idea of putting her name on there made me very angry. My sponsor insisted and I fought her every step of the way. I heard, and someone else last week said, that we can make three lists--yes, maybe and no way will I ever make amends. My mom went on the no way list.

But she went on my list. On the no way list is still on the list. It took a year, but I did eventually become willing. I had to talk to her. And in talking to her, in a sort of more organically flowing way, I was able to do more inventory work on myself and my own part in my poor relationship with my mother. When I could see the wrong that I had done I was willing and able to make my amends. Although I was not at fault in the events of my childhood, I discovered that I carried around a lot of guilt I didn't know I had for the way I refused to go to her second wedding. And I discovered that carrying around all that blame stuff was hurting me. I could let go. Another little piece of the promise of freedom from the past was granted to me.

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Step Eight ~ Part 2: Questions

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

 
  1. How do you determine what "harm" is? Are there any situations with the people you have been close to where the other person was completely at fault and you had no part in it at all? What might god's will for you working this step be in those cases?
  2. Does simply not liking somebody, being angry at them, disapointing them, or displeasing them constitute harm? Are there any situations where you were/are unable to live up to someone else's expectations that you carry guilt around for?
  3. What role does guilt play in your life? In your over/undereating? In your relationships with people close to you? In your friendships? At work? With your own relationship with yourself?
  4. I found that I was the type of person who believed that I caused harm to everyone I ever came in contact with, that I could poison the room just by being in it. I also swung the other way and believed many many people were completely to blame, that they were the abusers and I was the blameless victim. If you've worked this step before and felt this way, what did you do to gain understanding? If you haven't gotten this far yet, what kinds of things do you think you can do to gain perspective and humility and lose this kind of over/under responsibility?
  5. Is there any literature you have found particularly helpful in working this step? Or any words of wisdom your sponsor gave you or anything else of that nature you'd like to share?
Thanks for letting me make up these questions. During the process, I got a phone call which put me in a situation of perhaps displeasing another person, or at the very least, risking creating or contributing to an uncomfortable situation. I feel pretty uncomfortable and confused right now. It is so easy for me to jump right into thinking I've caused harm. To start analyzing my actions and finding fault with myself and berating myself. Berating myself like this, I will tend toward wanting to starve myself to become someone else, anybody but me. Others probably would binge. Life always seems to come down to more inventory, more self-examination, more prayer, more gratitude for all the lessons learned, more wonder at the developing, unfolding of events, even as they unfold in ways not so pleasing to me. It's so much work. Step 8 isn't about putting somebody's name on a list and rushing out to say I'm sorry. It's about really getting to know yourself inside and out, the nitty gritty. It's another inventory in a lot of ways. hugs, Diane


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Step Eight ~ Part 3

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

Hi, I'm Diane a compulsive eater.

I will be leaving for a two week vacation starting Saturday. So I will hopefully leave the fourth part of step 8 with someone else who can forward it to you when I'm gone. I'm very excited and distracted by my vacation. I've never taken a paid two week vacation before. It's thanks to the 12 steps that I've been able to have a good job with benefits, because before I was too scared to get a good job.

Anyway, about the 8th step. A major part of being able to move on to the actual amends is the getting ready part. The 8th step says to make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. We have to become willing.

Most of these people on our lists are people for whom we have resentments. By resentments I mean by the definition of reliving feelings over again, not necessarily by the definition of having old anger for. We need to forgive. We need to forgive them for what they did, and forgive ourselves for what we did. We need to accept and let go. If we make amends too soon we risk somehow showing our spirit of unforgiveness and our resentments to the other person. If we still carry resentments they will come out somehow.

I had a girlfriend that I had treated badly and I needed to make amends to her. But I hadn't forgiven myself for what I had done. I wasn't ready when I tried to make amends to her. I wrote her a letter asking for forgiveness. I read it to my sponsor and she said it sounded like it was dripping with remorse and that I was begging for her forgiveness. She said I am not to ask the other person for anything. They do not owe me forgiveness or anything else when I make my amends. I have to be able to make my amends and through them find freedom and happiness, and I will not find it if I'm filled with remorse hoping and waiting for the other person to forgive me. So I didn't send her the letter. Instead, I struggled for a while longer in our relationship until I finally could see that the part I was playing in making it an abusive relationship was hurting me too much to continue. I became no longer willing to hurt another person to gain a measure of safety for myself, which was what I had been doing. In this relationship my partner had stronger feelings for me than I did for her and she didn't hesitate to smother me with them. To survive, lacking the assertiveness to break up once and for all, and fearing the consequences of facing my own life without a partner to latch on to myself, I developed this pattern of saying or doing hurtful things to my partner so that I could create a little distance between us. When she was angry with me she backed off and I could like her again because she then seemed to take on a different persona of a more independent person. This kind of manipulation hurt her obviously, but I started to really understand that it was hurting me terribly to hurt another person. I came to a place of acceptance, I dont' know if it was forgiveness for myself, but it was acceptance of my part and I became completely unwilling to continue, so I made my amends by ending the relationship and leaving no opening for it to continue at all. It was the only way I could think of to treat either one of us with love.

And I really felt good. I felt like I took another step into wholeness. It was scary for me, but it was in the right direction. I was beginning to build in me a whole person who could stand on her own two feet. I was building self-respect. I was building the foundation on which I could eventually come to love myself enough not to abuse my body and spirit with excess food and weight.


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Step Eight ~ Part 3: Questions

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

 
  1. How do you know when you have reached a state of forgiveness for another person? What program principles and tools help you reach forgiveness?
  1. Some people work on forgiveness by praying for the other person to have all the good we want for ourselves. Others write out exactly why we are angry and share that with a sponsor or other person. I was told I should talk to the person I still resent and learn where they were coming from. Have you found step 8 to also be another inventory step? If so, in what ways?
  2. If you have been the victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, how does forgiveness fit in here? Do you think you should forgive? What does forgiveness mean to you in relation to abuse?
Thanks for sharing.
Diane

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