STEP EIGHT, PART 1
My name is Shlomo and I am a food addict and compulsive overeater.
Before we begin with step 8 let me emphasize a few points.
In the Big Book the prayers imply action, sometimes explicit and
sometimes more implicit. Let us see a few examples.
Fear prayer: "We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention
to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear." page 68.
Here the implied action is to be what God would have us be. This is
somewhat implicit, so let us quote what God generally wants for us.
"We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous and free." BB page 133.
Free means free of the bondage of self, which in this case is fear.
So the implied action is to face the fear as we did in step 4, and then walk
through the fear, which means practicing courage.
Courage does not mean that I don't have fears. Courage means that I
do what I am supposed to do even when I am afraid, and thus with my faith
in God and God's help, overcome fear. When we act in this way we usually find that fear is a paper tiger and walking through it was much simpler and easier than we thought.
Seventh Step Prayer: "My Creator, I am now willing that you should
have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me
every single defect of character which stands in the way of my
usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out
from here, to do your bidding. Amen." BB page 76.
Here the implied action is to do God's bidding. We have seen that this
means the action we have to take to become free from the bondage of self,
which in this case are all our character defects. I do this by surrendering my defects to God and trying to live according to my assets. I accomplish this by working the steps, and by consciously practicing our code of behavior: "Love and tolerance of others is our code." BB page 84.
In order to facilitate using this code as a way of life I suggested
using two daily practice methods. A Step Seven daily practice method of choosing one asset to practice daily, complemented by meditating on this asset (meditating only on the
asset and not on the defect). Consider these methods as my personal interpretation and suggestions expressing my ESH.
2. Our disease is a disease of relations.
Relations with God, with ourselves and with others. Till now we did the following:
In steps 1-3 we began a new relationship with God.
In steps 4-7 we began a new relationship with ourselves thus further
strengthening and deepening our relation with God.
Now we are going to begin a new relationship with the world around us and especially the people in it, by taking steps 8-9. Those are crucial steps since they are the transition steps that lead our journey to recovery into the recovery stage, where we are free of
our obsession with food.
Now let us turn to Step 8: "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."
Let us clarify a few points.
To make amends means to make restitution, to rectify. The Big Book
explains it in these words: to "...repair the damage done in the past..."
page 76. This is much more than just saying I am sorry or asking for
forgiveness. We don't go out and make amends in this step. It is a preparatory
step, in which we become willing to make amends and as we shall see,
this may be done in stages.
The first thing we do here is make a list of ALL the people we have
harmed. Let us see what the Big Book has to say about it.
"Now we need more action, without which we find that 'Faith without
works is dead.' Let's look at STEPS EIGHT AND NINE. We have a list of all
persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends.
We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self-appraisal." page 76.
We are told here that true faith results in action. The action keeps
the faith alive. We must reestablish our life upon a spiritual basis if
we are to live.
Next we see that the Big Book lumps steps 8 and 9 together. To me
this means that even if I am now willing to make amends only to a few
people on my list, I can begin working step nine on them and not wait
till I am willing to make amends to them all.
Next we are told that we already have a list of people we have harmed.
Those are the tables of harm done to others by our sexual conduct and
general conduct that we filled when taking step 4. Do those tables contain a list of ALL the people we have harmed? Maybe we missed a few, so let us check again and see if we can remember some more.
Some of the persons appearing in our harm done to others tables also
appear in our resentment and fear tables. So we can go over them
and see if we missed someone who should have been added to the
harm to others tables.
Next let us try to remember if we had harmed more people after writing step
4. Then let us consider that we may have harmed people who do not appear
in the resentment and fear tables, and even people we don't know.
Here are some examples. I have stolen money by not returning incorrect change, and I have stolen food in supermarkets, from people I didn't know. Those people should appear on my list even if I don't know their names or who they are. I have harmed people emotionally by shouting at them and by behaving obnoxiously. I have harmed people I don't even know, physically and emotionally. Let me give an example. I used to drive my car on rainy days and deliberately drove into puddles and sprayed dirty water on people on the sidewalk. I got some kind of perverse pleasure out of it. Those people should appear on my list too. I can add them as "people on sidewalks."
But how do I make amends to people I don't know, you may ask?
This is a step 9 question. We are now at step 8. We just have to
complete our list to the best of our ability and become willing to make
amends. The actual amend making does not concern us now.
Let us now see what the 12 & 12 has to say about harm done to others.
It could help us with our list.
"We might next ask ourselves what we mean when we say that we
have 'harmed' other people. What kinds of 'harm' do people do
one another, anyway? To define the word 'harm' in a practical
way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision,
which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people.
If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others.
If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly
goods, but of their emotional security and peace of mind.
We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful.
If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery,
and a strong desire to retaliate in kind.
"Such gross misbehavior is not by any means a full catalogue
of the harms we do. Let us think of some of the subtler ones which can sometimes be
quite as damaging. Suppose that in our family lives we happen to be miserly,
irresponsible, callous, or cold. Suppose that we are irritable, critical, impatient, and humorless. Suppose we lavish attention upon one member of the family and neglect the
others. What happens when we try to dominate the whole family, either by a rule
of iron or by a constant outpouring of minute directions for just how
their lives should be lived from hour to hour? What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us? Such a roster of harms done others -- the kind that make daily living with us as practicing alcoholics [compulsive eaters] difficult and often unbearable -- could be extended almost indefinitely. When we take such personality traits as these into shop, office, and the
society of our fellows, they can do damage almost as extensive as
that we have caused at home.
"Having carefully surveyed this whole area of human relations, and having decided exactly what personality traits in us injured and disturbed others, we can now commence to ransack memory for the people to whom we have given offense. To put a finger on the
nearby and most deeply damaged ones shouldn't be hard to do.
Then, as year by year we walk back through our lives as far
as memory will reach, we shall be bound to construct a
long list of people who have, to some extent or other, been
affected. We should, of course, ponder and weigh each instance carefully.
We shall want to hold ourselves to the course of admitting the
things we have done, meanwhile forgiving the wrongs done us,
real or fancied. We should avoid extreme judgments, both of
ourselves and of others involved. We must not exaggerate our
defects or theirs. A quiet, objective view will be our steadfast aim.
"Whenever our pencil falters, we can fortify and cheer ourselves by
remembering what A.A. [OA] experience in this Step has meant to others.
It is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows
and from God." pages 80-82.
When we remember additional people who should be on our harm done to others
list, we add them to the step 4 tables, and follow these additions with a step 5
on the new additions. If by adding these people we find some more of our character defects that did not appear before, we add them to our liabilities and assets table
and ask God to remove those defects by saying the seventh step prayer.
When we try to remember all the people we have harmed we have to try
to avoid the following pitfalls mentioned in the A.A. 12 & 12, though
we probably overcame these pitfalls when we did steps 4 and 5.
"These obstacles, however, are very real. The first, and one of the
most difficult, has to do with forgiveness. The moment we ponder a twisted or broken relationship with another person, our emotions go on the defensive.
To escape looking at the wrongs we have done another, we
resentfully focus on the wrong they have done us.
This is especially true if they have, in fact, behaved
badly at all. Triumphantly we seize upon their misbehavior
as the perfect excuse for minimizing or forgetting our own.
"Right here we need to fetch ourselves up sharply. It doesn't
make much sense when a real tosspot calls a kettle black.
Let's remember that alcoholics [compulsive eaters] are not the only
ones bedeviled by sick emotions. Moreover, it is usually a fact that
our behavior when drinking [eating compulsively] has aggravated
the defects of others. We've repeatedly strained the patience of our best friends to a
snapping point, and have brought out the very worst in those who
didn't think much of us to begin with. In many instances we are
really dealing with fellow sufferers, people whose woes we have increased.
If we are now about to ask forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn't
we start out by forgiving them, one and all?
"When listing the people we have harmed, most of us hit another solid
obstacle. We got a pretty severe shock when we realized that we were preparing
to make a face-to-face admission of our wretched conduct to those we had
hurt. It had been embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted these
things to God, to ourselves, and to another human being.
But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the people
concerned now overwhelmed us, especially when we remembered in
what poor favor we stood with most of them. There were cases, too,
where we had damaged others who were still happily unaware of being hurt.
Why, we cried, shouldn't bygones be bygones? Why do we have to think of these people at all? These were some of the ways in which fear conspired with pride
to hinder our making a list of all the people we had harmed.
"Some of us, though, tripped over a very different snag.
We clung to the claim that when drinking [eating compulsively]
we never hurt anybody but ourselves. Our families didn't
suffer, because we always paid the bills and seldom drank at home.
Our business associates didn't suffer, because we were usually on the job.
Our reputations hadn't suffered, because we were certain few knew of our
drinking. Those who did would sometimes assure us that, after all, a lively
bender was only the minor flaw of a good natured person.
What real harm, therefore, had we done? No more, surely, than
we could easily mend with a few casual apologies.
"This attitude, of course, is the end result of purposeful forgetting.
It is an attitude which can only be changed by a deep and honest
search of our motives and actions." A.A. 12 & 12, pages 78-79.
INTO ACTION AND SHARING SUBJECTS:
1. Take your step 4 lists of harm done to others by sexual and general
conduct and add to them all the people and institutions that you
remember harming and that are not on the lists.
2. Follow the new additions to your step 4 tables with a step 5 with your sponsor on the new additions.
3. If by adding these new people you find some more of your character defects that
did not appear before, than add them to your liabilities and assets table
and ask God to remove those defects by saying the seventh step prayer
aloud to your sponsor.
4. Share how these additional actions affected you (if you had anything to add to the step 4 tables).
Have a nice day.