Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Eight Essay
In this step we are being asked to consider all the other victims of our disease. We are being asked to continue the shame-reduction begun in steps four and five. We most probably owe some amends to many of the people mentioned in the two inventories.
When we were living our lives in the disease most of us were probably isolating, hiding from a 'cruel and judgemental world.' Whilst we were isolating we were probably not dealing with relationships in the best possible way, for many of us, when we had finally got our food under control, we found that our defective ways of dealing with people caused us so much pain and anger that we simply turned back to the one comfort in our lives... the food.
Not only should we consider making amends to those in our past, but also those in our future, including family members, especially children who have perhaps been "impacted by our addictions and compulsions." We need to consider everyone who has been a victim of the toxic behaviour we have inflicted upon them due to our disease, including those who have passed away, those who have abused us and those who we have abused in some way, shape or form.
Making amends does not mean that we ignore, excuse, or condone the abuse, but that we take back any negativity we may have fed into such a relationship.
It is assumed that we carry with us a venomous residue of guilt from every situation where we have ignored, hurt or rejected others. Steps eight and nine provide us with an opportunity to reduce the guilt, set things right and clean the slate so that we may continue to where we were heading in peace.
The tendency is that having made our lists we rush out to make amends, allowing the "get it over and done with attitude" to raise its ugly head once more! However we must be sure to lament over our anger, resentment and pain before we make amends else we will find no release from it. Instead it will be like putting a plaster (band-aid) on a festering cancerous sore, the corollary will be negligible and the poison will remain to weaken us further.
Step eight requires two things of us, the first part asks us to make a list of all those we have harmed. The lists we made in step four and five will help us, and we may find that our name is at the top since we have damaged ourselves with our self-destructive behaviour more often than not in the past. It should be pointed out that in making our lists we are not portioning blame or judging the quantity or quality of the treatment we have received by others, we are being asked to look honestly at our side of the relationships.
Some people may have harmed us, but we may decide that they do not belong on the list, since the remedy is simple forgiveness on our part. We may not have harmed them, but simply felt badly towards them for their behaviour towards us. In these cases we need to do ourselves a favour of showing mercy and forgiveness.
We need to remember we are not doing this step in order to gain favour, acceptance or approval from these people - after making amends they may not forgive us - we are helping ourselves to recover from compulsive eating.
The tool of writing will come in useful for working this step since then we have in black and white the exact nature of our amends to others, with the clarification of our emotions, which have perhaps confused us over the years.
This step may take us weeks and months to complete but also by the end we should have not only a list of those we have harmed but also a comprehensive breakdown of the feelings surrounding the people we need to make amends to. If after writing we still find ourselves still with bad feelings surrounding a particular person, we may find it useful to pray for them, pray for forgiveness. Often this starts as an "act as if" exercise but eventually we will experience true release from the pain we are feeling.
Once again this step should be approached with willingness, honesty and humility, even though it appears to proffer humiliation and embarrassment. It is a good idea once the step is complete to hand our findings to another person whom we trust, like our sponsor. The temptation is to give up and give in, feeling the pain of an abusive relationship over again, or remembering the torments of bullies, or the sounds of footsteps behind you. You may feel that you are the victim; why should you forgive, why should you make amends? After all you were only protecting yourself the best way you knew how.
One simple answer is that as long as there are resentments and pent up emotions of events in our past festering away beneath the surface, our future is tainted with this sourness. I would say to all who have reached this step: Don't let your past destroy your future - give yourself an opportunity to heal, give yourself the option of freedom, just give yourself a chance.