this is Isabella, compulsive overeater, food addict. Abstinent one day at a time thanks to this program and all of you who are reading this.
Iíd like to start of this week's share by telling you about two things that you, through this step study, have done for my recovery.
One is that Iíve received the willingness to experiment with not eating sugar. I was still having a bit in coffee and tea, with the occasional bit of jam thrown in. (I havenít eaten desserts since July, with one planned exception). Iíve done no sugar for almost two weeks now and canít believe the difference this is making. I have a new feeling of clarity and best of all, havenít had any cravings. I am gratefully enjoying this one day at a time.
Also, at a retreat I did a very small and very short ≠ and VERY intense step 5. I got in touch with some deep core issues; one of them the insight that my hidden worry about what people think of me is actually about what *I* think of myself! I am now entirely ready to ask my HP to relieve me of the shortcoming of having a low opinion of myself, and have asked HP to remove this character defect. I also ask for the willingness to repeat step 6 and 7 prayers around this for as long as it takes.
Anyway, thought Iíd throw this in ...
Letís move on!
Today weíll talk about step 8:
*** "Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all."***
We see two parts here.
A) Made a list of all persons we had harmed; and B) Became willing to make amends to them all.
Letís take it one step at a time.
Thatís particularly important in this step ≠ more perhaps than in all others.
I know what Iím talking about ≠ I took one whole year to do my first step 8. Fortunately, once I really heeded this quote in the OA 12x12, I was able to move on:
"At this stage of the program more than at any other, we will not want to try to go it alone. (p. 70)"
As happens so often, I had misunderstood this step to read, "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, already knowing what amends I was going to made, and when and how, and being entirely ready to make all these amends right away."
No wonder I didnít want to do step 8. Once I got a new sponsor ≠ I had been without one for quite a while, and hadnít made any movements with my old one ≠ I was able to hear the experience, strength and hope of other OAers in regard to this step, e.g.:
1. It starts with a LIST! A list doesnít obligate me to do anything. That list is just a working document. Heck, If I have the remote feeling that I might have harmed her, I can put the Queen on there! Just as in the earlier steps, we take it one little step at a time and we trust that our Higher Power will help us.
2. We donít have to have a clue when, where and how weíll do the amends. Thatís step 9 and we can trust our Higher Power to help us with the details.
3. As weíve discussed last week, willingness has many shades. For some people, the chain of willingness can be pretty long. Thatís alright. For these people ≠ and theyíre often people who have harmed us, either in reality or in our minds ≠ the TIME until we do the amends can be very long, too. An old-timer once told a meeting I attended that it took him 26 years to make an amends.
Having said that ≠ why donít you sit down right now, here on the computer or with a piece of paper, and make 5 columns, headed:
Person What I owe an amends for Willing to make amends ASAP Willing to make amends some time in the future Not willing to make amends right now
Just for the purpose of exercise, list a person who you MIGHT have to make amends to. That goes in the first column. Besides that you write what it is that you would make amends for. Then place a mark in one of the three columns in the right. Are you willing to make amends ASAP, some time in the future or not yet?
Itís alright if youíre not willing yet. Maybe right now it even looks like youíll never be willing. If you can, try placing a mark in the "not yet" column, otherwise just let it sit there. The most important thing is to have that list.
Donít know where to get the names from? Itís quite easy. Go back to your step 4, and take all the names from there.
Not a lot of names on your step 4? Look at each of your character defects there and think about who was involved with the situations in which you act out your character defects.
Of course you can also look at the questions in the OA 12x12 for inspiration.
Now on to the second part of step 8. At this point, maybe we can look at these two quotes:
"As long as we have not forgiven people for harms they have done us, we will find it impossible to make sincere amends to them for our side of the conflicts. (p. 71)"
"Our first step toward forgiving someone, oddly enough, might be to write down in black and white the reasons why we are angry with this person. (p. 71)"
I have to tell you that I have a real problem with forced forgiveness. If I find forgiveness for someone, it is because my Higher Power has placed it there. I guess my job is to look, and when I donít find it (yet), to be patient.
But I do know for sure that when I find myself unable to say Iím willing (or even having major difficulties) with making amends, that I need to look into forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not equal approval. For example, many of us have experienced childhood abuse ≠ emotional, sexual, physical. Obviously, we cannot and should not approve of that. Any which way you look at it, child abuse is wrong.
What we can do, though, is set ourselves free. We can say ≠ with much difficulty, often: "That happened in the past. Itís over. Now you go your way and I go mine." Doing this with an open heart can be similar to what we did in steps 6 and 7 ≠ we hand it over to our Higher Power. Memories of being beaten, neglected or molested, rather than letting them fester on and on in our soul, can be handed over to our Higher Power.
As the quote above suggests, this might take a while ≠ writing, reflecting, talking to your sponsor and other COEs. Sometimes a therapist or clergy is helpful. But step 8 is the beginning of this, the willingness to "begin to make AMENDS ≠ that is to make CHANGES ≠ in the way we deal with the people who share our lives (p. 68)."
(Note the "begin"!)
Again, step 8 is not about being contrite. It is the beginning of mending difficult or even broken relationships. One of the most important reasons for this is that these difficult and broken relationships bear heavy on our minds and souls. Such heaviness leads to staying with ≠ or going back to ≠ the disease. On the other side of the coin, a liberation from this burden leads to a much, much better life (weíll talk more about that in Step 9).
Iím still very much trying to learn this. (One of the things I love about program is that I can spend the rest of my life learning about it! My brain loves this kind of food!) For example, one of the most difficult relationships in my life is that with my abusive ex husband (who I havenít seen in many years but we still email occasionally). He certainly harmed my children and me. Every time I do a step 8 heís on the list. Every time Iím hemming and hawing whether I should put him on the list. Itís only been this round that itís crystal clear to me that he belongs on it, simply because I still have that unfinished-business feeling around him. Will I ever NOT have him on my step 8? Will I ever find a way of making amends that works? Who knows ≠ I certainly donít. But as long as I have this feeling about him, he needs to be on that list. That in itself brings me a lot of calm.
Another person I had on a step 8 list for a long time was someone I had been owing money to since 1980. I just kept putting him on that list.
Last year I finally made the amends. When it was done, I had a wonderful feeling of freedom and calm. I can now start to build a new relationship with this wonderful person and his family.
One question that often comes up in step 8 is, "what constitutes harm?"
Great question. If youíre writing a paper on ethics, that is, or are applying for a job as a philosophy instructor. But thatís not what step 8 is about. I can tell you that reading books on restorative justice and other fascinating topics ≠ the type of thing I did trying to do step 8 in that long year of suffering through it ≠ was intellectually satisfying but it didnít get me anywhere.
Now I donít care whether itís "hurt" or "harm" or "injustice" or whatever term you want to use. I believe that sorting all of this out is our job in step 9. If it feels like somethingís not right in my relationship with a person, they go on the list, period.
Oh, and one more thing.
Have any of your character defects harmed you?
Well, of course! Thatís why you came to program in the first place!
So what about amends to yourself?
There are varying philosophies about that. Many AA elders say that the only amends we owe to ourselves are doing the steps, staying abstinent and staying in program. I understand the thinking behind that but have to say that I needed to do a lot amends to myself (and still do).
Weíll talk more about that next week. For now, I just want to share with you that I have put myself on every step 8 list.
One thing I do know for sure is that we need to FORGIVE ourselves. Indeed, difficulty forgiving yourself may already be on your step 4 list. However, if I canít forgive myself, if I canít say, ok, thatís over now, letís start afresh, then I live in the past.
I hope you have a HP who forgives you. If your Higher Power ≠ the highest authority in your life ≠ can forgive you, then not forgiving yourself is a form of self will.
If you find it difficult to forgive (or to contemplate any amends) then please take it to your Higher Power. Give it the step 6 and 7 treatment:
"Higher Power, I have a hard time forgiving _____. I am now willing (or willing to be willing, as the case may be) to let go of anything that stands in the way of forgiving _____ . I humbly ask you to help me forgive ____."
In my home group, we discuss a step two a three times a month. So step 8 has come around quite a bit. Every time it did, I used to tell the group that steps 8 and 9 were my least favourite steps.
After doing the amends to the person whom I owed the money from so long ago, I donít feel this way anymore.
However, I have to confess that I still feel a bit raw in regard to step 8. A bit tentative. This has been the most difficult step for me to write so far. Iím afraid ≠ have I forgotten to say something? Have I conveyed whatís important?
Hmmm - that sounds like self will - so I guess Iíll just give it up to you and to my Higher Power. If a glaring problem arises, Iím sure we can deal with it, right?
So here it is.
Questions to ponder:
OK, never mind questions. Letís start with an action. Go back to your step 4 and find three people who you MAY (got that? MAY) have to make amends to. Now get your favourite writing implements, and make 5 columns (or rows ≠ donít get hung up on the details here!), headed:
2 What I owe an amends for
3 Willing to make amends ASAP
4 Willing to make amends some time in the future
5 Not willing to make amends right now
Fill in columns one and two and then see where you want to place your mark in columns 3-5.
Now hereís the question: How was that?
Here are a few more questions:
Who can help you with that list and step 9 in case things get dicey?
Can you allow yourself to take things one step at a time and simply start off with a list of POSSIBLE step 9 "suspects" ≠ without worrying about when, where and how to do amends? If you find that difficult, please share about it.
Can you allow yourself to put people on your step 8 list even though you feel youíll NEVER be able to make amends to them?
Who do you need to forgive? If you wish, you can also share an example of what you need to forgive them for.
What about forgiving yourself and making amends to yourself?
What passages in the OA 12x12 stand out to you?
What footwork can you commit to doing in the next 24 hours?