Step Eight

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


Hi everyone my name is rose, COE. Sorry I'm so late w/ this step, we were away on vacation last week and then had some computer problems. I'll try not to let it happen again!

In step eight, we go back over our 4th step list, and treat it just as we did w/ the sixth and seventh when we pulled out our character defects and got to work on them. Now what we are working on are our personal relationships. So we make a separate list of all the people in the 4th step, b/c if they're in there, we almost certainly have harmed them in some way.

This can be pretty difficult for a COE to accept. Some might say, how could we harm people, when we were busy avoiding them? Others might say they've never done anything to hurt anybody b/c they were the ones being hurt, as everyone used them for a doormat. This can be a very hard step for us to understand, b/c we tend to feel very persecuted and discriminated against; and of course we really are. But the purpose of the 12 steps is to learn how to keep the focus on ourselves and our part in the situations we get into. Here's what the AA 12X12 has to say about harm;

"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 contemptous 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 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 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." (pp.80-81)

And especially for COEs, we do quite a lot of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm to ourselves. The self-hate and cruelty I've inflicted upon myself, and observed among my fellow sufferers over the years is overwhelming and very, very sad. For me, and for many people I've sponsored, and among all my long-term OA friends, the number one person on the amends list has always been the person who wrote it.

It can also be very difficult to wrap one's mind around the idea that some of the people that hurt us are also people *we hurt. But it very often goes together, even if it's not immediately apparent. In my case, it was very hard for me to understand that I owed certain family members amends, when in my view they were the ones who had most injured me. But I came to understand that the way I responded to the injury perpetrated, even if I was only a child and/or didn't have any resources to do things differently, led me to do things that hurt that person. What I came to understand was that the purpose of this step is not to find who I need to punish, but to forgive those I *want to punish-both myself and others. So part of trying to heal those broken relationships has been forgiving myself for the wrongs I did when I didn't know what else to do, and this led in time to my understanding what I did to my perpetrators that made a horrible situation even worse. And that, in time, *lots of time, led to forgiveness for things that were done to me. And the ability to forgive is one of the biggest gifts in the program, in my experience. It lightens my life in immeasurable ways, when I don't have to carry the pain of grievances against others.


Is there anyone that you feel you just can't forgive? Without going into too much detail, talk about why you feel this way, and what you think it would take to help you move to a different point of view.

Think about some of the very subtle ways that we COEs do harm to others when we're using. In what ways have you seen these behaviors change in your recovery? What ways would you like to see change even more?

Step Seven

Step Nine

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