I made my first amends as an adult at the age of 52. It took me that long to be able to simply say, "I am sorry I have caused you pain," to someone. For the longest time, I could not or would not say I am sorry to anyone, no matter what I did wrong or said wrong. It simply would not come out of my mouth. Why? Because I did not want to admit that I had done something inappropriate, that I had caused another person anguish. I did not want to face the fact that I was capable of doing such things. So, instead, I hid my wrongdoings deep down, piling food on top of them so they would go away. Did they go away? Nooooooooooo!
I have come to learn that all those things I kept pushing down, deep within, simply kept growing and growing and growing. The more I hid my feelings, my actions, my thoughts from myself and others, the more emotionally and spiritually ill I became. The Twelve Step programs have a saying, "You are only as sick as your secrets." I have found that to be true. The moment I began to expose those secrets, in the form of sharing them with my sponsor, was the moment I began to heal. It was the process of Steps Four through Nine that relieved me of my emotional and spiritual illness.
Step Eight is a two parter. First I had to make a list of people I had harmed and then I became willing to make those amends. Since this is the third time I have done Step Eight, my list is shorter than it was before. I was taught that the first person on my list should be me. Who had I harmed more than anyone else? Me. For 35 years of my adult life, while compulsively overeating, I had berated, accused, browbeat and steadily demoralized myself. I showed no restraint in doing this. Self hatred, self pity and self destructive thinking and behaviors left me feeling like I was the worse person on the face of the earth. It was time for me to forgive myself for being human.
Step Eight was terrifying to me. How was I to face anyone and say I am sorry? I had never been able to do that before. I turned to my Higher Power to pray for the willingness and I turned to my sponsor for her ESH (experience, strength and hope). Because I have a real problem talking with people, I sat down and wrote out what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it and then I read it to my sponsor. Writing has a way of getting to the truth of any situation. My sponsor was able to give me guidance on whether I truly owed amends or not and how to give it. I was never to blame the other person for my actions. It had been my choice to respond in such a way. I was and am doing Step Eight for MY benefit, no one elses.
There were people on my list who had caused me much harm and I had retaliated. How could I make amends to people I was not able to forgive? The BB of AA is specific on how to handle resentments. Pages 66 & 67 (Fourth Edition) explain how we can look at a person who has caused us much harm and see them as emotionally and spiritually ill as we were prior to recovery in program. It helps to write down the harm they have caused us and share that with our sponsor. Writing clarifies our emotions and also puts boundaries on our anger. Once I shared my hurt with my sponsor, I started to pray for that person on a daily basis. It didn't matter that I did not want to do this, only that I was and am willing to do this. Again, this is for MY benefit, no one elses. The more I pray for someone, the less hurt I am. My feelings begin to change and I am free of my resentment and unforgiveness. Here is a favorite definition of forgiveness: being willing to let go of the hurt that others have caused us.
I also love the definition of willingness: doing what needs to be done whether I want to do it or not. I use it quite often and find my life alot simpler. As long as I am willing to do whatever it takes to stay abstinent, I will have and keep the good recovery I have been blessed in receiving. Step Eight is an essential part in the Twelve Step program of healing and forgiveness.
Today, my life is much saner, more healthy and much more positive than it ever has been before. It is only through the process of working the Twelve Steps that my life has become complete.
Love in recovery,
The Eighth Step Prayer:
Higher Power, I ask Your help in making my list of all those I have harmed. I will take responsibility for my mistakes and be forgiving to others as You are forgiving to me. Grant me the willingness to begin my restitution. This I pray.
Principle of Step Eight:
In Step Eight we looked at the damage we had done others and set about repairing it. Now we apply the principle of self discipline to all of our action. Self discipline makes us less likely to hurt other people and quicker to make amends when we do.
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
of Overeaters Anonymous: Page 105
To help comprehend the questions, please read The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA. Read the chapter on Step Eight, answer the questions, go back and reread the chapter and add onto your answers if needed.
You might also like to read in the BB of AA, pages 76 & 77. (Fourth Edition)
List of people: (If you give us your list, please use first names only. Thank you.)
Here is a suggestion to making your list of people you have harmed and what worked for me. Make three separate lists, beginning with a list of people you believe you might be able to make amends to without too much trouble. The second list should include those people that would be difficult to make amends to but as you progress in recovery, you believe the willingness will come. The third list will have people on it that you will make amends to when hell freezes over. The important thing is that you simply sit down and make the lists which will allow you to begin to become accountable for your actions.
The very first person on the very first list will be yourself. For we have harmed ourselves MORE than we have ever harmed anyone else.
Another suggestion is that this is simply the list of people we have harmed. Please do not make amends until you have talked the list over with your sponsor or another OA member. Sometimes we make an amends when none is needed and/or we make amends causing further harm than we have all ready done. This is where the guidance of a sponsor or therapist or clergyman will come in handy.
1. In looking at my relationships, what patterns have I discovered that have done harm to me and to others?
2. How do I identify what actually is harm to another person?
3. What is the purpose of Step Eight?
4. How do I become willing to make amends to the people on my list?
5. Am I willing to make amends even if I don't want to?
6. Is there anyone on my lists that I need to forgive the harms they have done to me? Why am I angry at these people? Am I willing to pray daily for these people who have wronged me so that I can be freed of my resentments and unforgiveness?