Dear WTS Friends,
Hi, I'm Tami and I am a COE, gratefully recovering one day at a time, one step a time. I am your Step Study Leader for this quarter. We are ready to study Step Nine in order to make amends to clear up our past and reconstruct our future.
Step Nine requires we take an action and become humble enough to verbalize our regrets, if appropriate to the people we have harmed. Identifying those we have harmed in Step Eight took courage and prayer. We cannot undo the past, or can we expect all those we approach to respond positively. But, we admit our part and do what is possible to clear the past with ourselves and those we have harmed.
In making amends, it is important to understand that we are not necessarily making an apology, although an amend may contain one. In making an apology, we usually expect a response of acceptance, forgiveness or pardon. In an amend, we may or may not seek forgiveness, and the response may or may not be positive. In making a verbal amend, we state our errors, our role in the incident and that we will correct our behavior for the future. The intention of a healing amend is to clean our slate from the past, to let go of our guilt and to live without shame. Care must be taken that we do not cause further harm to the other when making a direct amend and to not attempt one until we have undergone the healing of our attitudes and defects in the previous steps.
As we face our defects and live with the truth, seeking the will of our Higher Power to live honestly, with courage and to let go of fear, resentment and self seeking, we will be empowered in time to make an amend that will bring closure to past hurt and pain in ways that best suit the giver and receiver of the amend.
The word amends speaks of an action to change a behavior, attitude or habit. In my own recovery, I have had to let go of much resentment to even begin to have a clear enough mind to seek the will of my Higher Power, and to do the amends in ways that will bring the highest good to all. I truly believe an amend can be undertaken too soon, and I have witnessed a bad amend done while the person was still angry, resentful and arrogant. This person left a wake of bitterness and tears in the attempt to make an amend too soon. The untimely apology rang hollow, for the attitude had not changed, nor had there been a corresponding transformation of behavior to validate the talk. It was empty words and hurt both parties further, and lead to a relapse in their recovery.
Working through easier amends are a good way to build our confidence and courage to consider the more difficult ones at a later time. I find my willingness to work the easier ones gives me courage with the more difficult ones. For instance, I made an amend for the Halloween candy I stole from my son J this year. Because we still have a relationship, I gave him a few bags of his favorite Halloween candy, and a note explaining it was to replace what the Candy Monster had stolen when he was a kid. We both laughed at the humor of it, and I felt a new openness in my son toward me.
There are dozens of methods to make an amends in person, as many ways as there are people, perhaps. A letter written and sent to those who live far away can be sent, financial amends can be started, and attempts made for repayment. In this case, an amends is probably best begun as soon as possible, and changing behavior helps to prevent a need for further financial amends. If a person is perpetually late for work, a change in behavior is important, for we need to arrive on time. If the behavior has not changed, then the amend has not taken place.
Neglect of family is also important to change behavior and to demonstrate by positive action, and not by words, only. Neglect of a partner, or marriage is also important to change. We must not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. In the case of marital infidelity, if healing has taken place, bringing it up again, to clear our conscience may only open old wounds within the other. And giving details may endanger another person. We do not clear our conscience by muddying another's repuation or safety. An indirect amend may be the kindest, loving amend to do by quietly living out your recovery everyday.
We approach this with prayer, common sense, and support from other members. We do not avoid an amend to spare ourselves discomfort. This would increase our guilt and prevent our healing. We pray for guidance for each task. It helps to talk with our sponsor to check our intentions and to talk about what we have in mind. A sponsor can help us to look at our motives and to plan our approach.
For those who are no longer living, writing a letter and going to a favorite place that reminds us of that person to read it can be very healing. Sometimes, burning the letter can be very theraperutic. In my own recovery, I wrote a letter to my dad and went to the cemetery and read it out loud to him. Writing the letter helped me to pour out all my guilt and grief. But, reading it aloud helped me to let go of the guilt and to feel forgiven. It was as if I had turned a corner and found peace.
For those who are living, I have written letters to my mom telling her how much I have taken her for granted and not appreciated how much she has done for me. It aided me to finally let go of my deep resentment I had held onto and kept me distant from her. Telling her how much I did appreciate what she had done right in our relationship helped me to find the good and to affirm that. It was very healing for her, and we have grown so much closer in the past year. And I have let go of a ton of bitterness and resentment. The isolation I knew as an active COE deep in the disease, is disappearing, as working the first Eight Steps has transformed me, and given me courage to attempt the amends work of Step Nine.
Earlier in my recovery, I began to pray for guidance on an amend I thought I needed to make to a family member. By consultation with my sponsor, and being patient and willing to be directed, I was able to sort out that my intention would have harmed the person I at first thought I should tell. Some secrets are best left untold, and to talk to a therapist or someone not involved. The change in my thinking began when I thought of the Golden Rule,how devastated that information would have made me feel. Patience and listening intuitively to my HP helped me to avoid making the mistake of an amend that would have harmed an innocent one. It made a believer of me how important working steps 4-8 are before making amends. My way became clear as I sought to become clear about my intentions to unburden myself would not have helped another person. The answer was to unburden myself to a safe person who was not involved and would not be harmed. I am so grateful that I have learned to become patient and to not act upon impulse, but thru thoughtful, prayerful guidance with my HP.
Step Nine is an action step, and with good common sense, appropriate timing, our sponsor, courage and spiritual faith, we can complete the task of clearing our past. By using all the tools we have learned in the previous Steps, we know that by cleaning our side of the street that we are now free to continue our journey to Step Ten.
Blessings in your recovery,
WTS Step Study Leader
STEP NINE ~ QUESTIONS
1. Which people on my list do I need to make direct amends to first?
2. How can I plan what I am going to say in my direct amends to be clear and concise and to avoid blaming any other person?
3. What doubts do I have about my amends injuring someone? Can I discuss these doubts with my sponsor? Pray to be guided? Write about these?
4. What are my motives for making amends? Am I willing to accept the outcome, whatever it may be?
5. What is the difference between an apology and an amends? Which amends will be best done by changes in my behavior?
6. Do I have any amends to make that could result in serious consequences for my family, like loss of income, employment, or a prison term?
7. Are there any who will never be available for a direct amends? Can I make amends in another way? Can I do something for another person?
8. What harm have I done to my children or immediate family? Can I make an amends by respecting them now as adults?
9. Am I willing to pray to become willing to make amends in the future?
10. Can I forgive myself for all the difficulties I've caused myself? What can I do to make an amends to myself?
11. Could I write an amends letter to myself?
12. When I have finished this action Step, what can I do to celebrate? Have I remembered to appreciate and reward my good deeds? The good deeds of others?
WTS Step Study Leader