Step Eight

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


When I was a child, my mother used to leave change in a certain place. There were many uses for it, from paying the paperboy to buying a loaf of bread at the mom and pop just down the street. She never really kept up with it, it was just there, and there was often a good bit of it. At some point I came to realize that I had found the mother lode for supporting what was already a developed COE disorder. Here was an extra piece of this or scoop of that. And no accounting. My mother had even told me to use the change if there was a need -- she was not thinking of supporting an addiction, I'm sure.

Alas, a pattern was forming. Not only was I irresponsible with my money, I was learning to be irresponsible with other people's money. Of course, this is but a symptom of most other addictions, and so it is of the food addict. I just didn't know there was such a thing.

But it would make doing this step the hardest thing I ever did in my life.

My wife had a line of credit with an account that she never used. She didn't need it, and she saw no reason to run up frivolous debts. But late in my COE career, I was spending incredible sums of money on food and drink. Often I charged things on credit cards, and sometimes I didn't have enough money to pay them when the time came. You can juggle things for a while, but eventually you have to pay the piper. That day came. Then I realized that I could access this line of credit. I could "borrow" a few hundred and get through this jam. I felt certain that I could pay it back eventually and no one the wiser. Unfortunately, that is not the way of an addict. The borrowing continued until the account was depleted.

The problem wasn't even the money. The problem was me -- I had taken this, which wasn't really mine, and had used deceit in doing so. These character defects had come to my attention earlier. But now I needed to become willing to make amends. The hand of terror closed tightly around my bowels. I was in early recovery -- well under a year. Recovery had come at a strange time for me. I had no job. We were at this point dependent upon my wife's earnings, and were living very frugally. It was much easier to live frugally, because food and drink costs were way down! I lived in some fear that my wife might decide she wanted to use her credit, but that was not her way. She would not borrow when repayment might be uncertain. But I knew I was going to have to tell her about the money and try to make what amends I could.

Of course, I was afraid that she would throw me out. This would have been the end of me. The next best scenario was that she wouldn't do that, because she wouldn't put me on the street, but our marriage would be ruined, and possibly when I did get work she would file for divorce. And I loved her deeply in my way.

Now HP is not sleeping. One reason I wound up in OA is that my wife had already faced some of her stuff, including her role as a codependent. It's like when the family goes to Alanon, and the alcoholic finds the system changing. I, of course, at this point in time had no idea of what all this meant for her, for me, and for us. She was already at a place of serenity that I obviously had not reached. Though abstinent, I was still governed by fear much too much.

Getting willing for this amend was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It was, in fact, harder than the making of it was. And we all know that more often than not in the making of amends people tend to forgive most of the time, especially if they see us recovering. Such would prove true here. But that was in the future. In the moment, I was powerless, and my relationship with my HP still unripe and shallow, despite the miracles I had already seen. To be willing requires overcoming the fear, and that is another miracle.

In Step Seven we had humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. I already knew that I would never take money again, even my own, and go binge with it. Such insanity could be removed, had been removed, I felt certain. Now I had to face the fact that I had to go back to Six and Seven. There was something that I had not asked to have removed -- the fear. Step Eight was being so difficult because I had tried to evade some things. I was reminded of something my sponsor said early on, to the effect that you haven't finished Step Three until you are working on Step Four. What he had meant by this was that you have to keep on going with the Steps. No laurels are handed out. It's like the slogan some of you may know. Wilson-Smith University has no alumni, only perpetual students. (Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, founders.)

So at this point I had to go back, because I hadn't done my work well the first time. No matter. Everything, despite my ignorance, was going forward in God's time, and things were going on that I wasn't tuned into yet. One day I became willing, and with a flood of tears made my amend to my wife. And she was fine with it. But that's getting into next week.

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