There are always some questions about how to do this step. Let's look at some of them.
The first thing to notice is that the step says, "direct amends." This means to make as close a personal contact with the person as we possibly can. Admittedly, such a contact may not always be face to face -- we may have some instances where we willl have to use the phone or mail. But whenever possible, we need to sit face to face with the person involved.
We may tell them that we are doing this as a result of working the Twelve Steps of recovery, and that our purpose is not to create a situation, but to clear the air. Sometimes this will be painful to us. But it can never be as painful as the poison that will remain when we have not been honest about clearing the slate. We are, in effect, starting over with our lives, and we have to clean up the past in order to move forward into a recovering future.
Often there are people we want to make amends to who are not available to us. They may be deceased, or they may live we know not where. There are ways of dealing with this. Sometimes people will write a letter to the person, and offer it to their Higher Power, and then destroy the letter. Then, too, we can simply tell someone else who will keep our confidence. This may be a priest or minister, or a therapist, a sponsor, or a good friend. Sometimes it will seem better to make a contribution to some charity in the person's name, not our own. This is especially true when some kind of restitution seems called for and we don't know where the person lives, or they are dead. Restitution is something that has to be considered whenever we have taken something that was not ours, to the detriment of another, even if it has to be done in installments. Sometimes, we might make the restitution to a person's heirs, if it seems appropriate.
Among addictions, compulsive eating does not seem to lead people into crime as much as some others. But if we have done something criminal, we need to face up to it. This is hard, but necessary.
Often, too, we may sincerely believe that the other person is more at fault for the situation than we are. But to the extent that we were wrong, we will want to own up to it. Of course, if things are in the middle of litigation, we may need to wait a while, perhaps use the letter method for now, or tell someone else who will keep our confidence.
The three things to remember are:
1. We are doing this for ourselves. We cannot determine the responses of others, and we are not responsible for them, either. How they choose to react is not our business.
2. In the vast majority of cases, people are very forgiving, and sometimes do not even remember the episode that may have troubled us for years.
3. When we have completed this step, we will find ourselves in a new place, where the things that have bothered us in the past are no longer in our baggage train, and we are free to remake our lives in the spirituality of the Twelve Steps.
1. Have you done Step Nine, or are you planning to do so right away?
2. Share something of your experience with doing this Step. You need not reveal all the gory details.
1. Yes. I have finished it.
2. The hardest amend I had to do was to my wife. This was a little over twelve years ago now. She had a line of credit that I spent up in the last year of my addiction. Later, when the bill came due, although I was in recovery (and therapy), I had lost my job and could not replace the funds. I was at the point of Step Nine, and found this one hard to do. When I finally did it, I broke down and cried with shame. I did not know what she would do -- she could decide to walk. She had a job, I didn't. Instead, she promptly forgave me and praised me for telling her the truth, and for the recovery she could see me making. The future for us held more hope for her than anything from the past could sully.
Not always will one meet with such love, I know. But I think more often than not, we do. And since then, I have not had nearly so many problems with amends, either.