STEP EIGHT: Changing behaviors.
I'm Penny, a compulsive eater and food addict and 2nd Quarter WTS Leader.
Because Step 8 is so tied into Step 9, it's important to remember that in
Step 8 we are not actually going out to the world and acknowledging our
wrongs ... that's going to happen in Step 9. Step 8 is "simply" the
preparatory work. So if you are feeling nervous or afraid about Step 9,
please know that that's not going to come until you've finished Step 8.
The point of Step 8 is to learn better ways of dealing with others, to look
at our relationships to discover the behaviors that hurt other people, and to
become willing to change the ways we deal with people.
We are going to make yet another list. First the names of the people we have
Making the list is relatively easy - we have most of the names from our
inventory list. Then we list the harm (we also have our wrongs we did to
these people on our inventory list). What we want to do, however, is make
sure that our lists are specific ... i.e., not: I held a grudge; but rather:
I gossiped about you. We will want to use our sponsors to help add to (or
whittle down) the list because we may not have actually harmed someone on our
inventory list (again, I don't think it's appropriate to tell someone, "I
hated you for all these years") and there may be names we need to add. We
must always remember to focus only on *our* part in the relationship. Yes,
s/he may have done things to hurt us, but this is *our* recovery, not the
What is a "harm?" I believe it's a behavior towards someone that caused a
hurt (by omission or commission, intentionally or not). Holding a grudge is
not something that hurts someone else, unless we act on that grudge - or
unless we did something to cause the grudge in the first place. I'll give you an
example. I had a teacher on my amend list. This was a grudge of the first
order: I nursed it, babied it, damn near diapered it ... and I loved holding
on to it. What was the harm? Well, when this person was my teacher, I had
been completely and stubbornly closed to being taught ... I knew best, she
was a jerk, and I blamed her entirely for a disastrous teacher/student
relationship. I had been a nightmare student (even as she was a poor
An aside: as I made my list, I found that an awful lot of the hatred I felt
towards people that I thought had wronged me was disappearing and that I was
actually *forgiving* most of them because for the first time I realized that
they weren't entirely at fault. That's what happened with this and another
teacher. More about forgiveness in Step 9.
Again, let your sponsor help here.
What is an amend? It's more than - and different from - an apology because it
comes with a willingness to change our behavior. It might be financial
restitution or making a donation in the harmed person's honor (if we stole
something, perhaps). An apology is simply acknowledging that we did something
wrong. In order to recover from compulsive eating, we need to do much more
than that. We need to be really clear how we are going to change our behavior
should a similar situation arise in the future.
What is a direct amend? Just what it says: going directly to the person we
harmed and acknowledging our wrong (and making clear for ourselves that we
are going to do something different in the future should a similar situation
arise). There may be people we cannot get to directly because of geographic
changes or death; many of the people on our list may have disappeared from
our lives. In those cases, we write a letter laying out what we would say if
we could speak directly. We can mail the letter (if we have an address) or -
should the person be completely unavailable (i.e., death) - we can speak to a
counselor or clergyperson (in my case I made the decision to go to those
persons' gravesites and read the letter). The point is that we do whatever we
can to be direct and up front.
How do we get willing to make these direct amends? I think that most of us
will be willing to make most of the amends. If there are situations where we
are completely unwilling because we are still hanging on to a grudge or a
fear, we pray to our Higher Power to make us willing.
Steps 4 - 9 are when we become part of this world again. Step 8 helps us get
ready to really rejoin society and hold our heads up high again.
Thoughts for journaling/sharing:
1. Make the list of persons you have harmed (from your inventory list) and
the exact wrong you committed. Please share this list with your sponsor.
2. What is the amend that you are going to make? Add that to the list. Again,
share this with your sponsor and get feedback.
3. What are you thinking and feeling about making your list?
4. Are you willing to make direct amends to the people on your list? Why? Why
5. How do you see Higher Power's guidance in making your list?
See you in Step 9.
Yours in recovery,