Finally it was here.... the dreaded step 8 and 9. After all the months and years of dreading it I was at the door of the work that I had been told would help me to find freedom. And you know... I wasn't that scared anymore. I was in a place of acceptance around my Steps and knew with all my heart that I wanted it over and done with.
Step 8 is about repairing relationships. I had been repairing my relationship with myself and my higher power in the first 7 steps. Now it was time for me to work on those relationships that I had caused the most chaos in my life.
When I began the steps I thought the whole world had harmed me and there was no way that I had to apologise to anyone. I was really good at self will and ego at the time. So when I reached Step 8 my questions were simple: Why did I have to make amends to people that had harmed me even if I did have SOME part in it? The answer as always was in the Step in the 12 and 12. Willingness and Humility would come if I work the Step and did the work.
So it began my Step 4-7 in hand I was able to sit and ask my sponsor what I needed to do. Who did I need to make amends to? The list seemed so vast but the answers themselves were quite simple.
Made a list
Thank HP for the work I had done in Steps 4-7. I had that list right in front of me. I had the names of the people I was resentful, dishonest, lustful, prideful, angry and fearful. I had a list of all the coping behaviours(defects) I had been using and how they had blocked those relationships. I had page after page of powerlessness. Now it was time to put them in context and ask for help in the amends making process.
Of all the people we had harmed
It read like a list of all the people I had ever met. I used my step 4-7 and then listed those people that didn't appear on the list it suggests on page 68 in the 12 and 12. A few new people had come up in working through my steps that weren't on my Step 4. Teachers who had educated me in school that I had cheated on their tests, jobs I had worked at where I had stolen money etc. The list was as exhaustive as I could make it and writing it was a cathartic experience. It was like all the shame was coming out of the pen and onto the paper.
At the top of the list there is one name that I never thought would be there and it was me. I had caused myself the greatest amount of harm by my compulsive overeating. I had physically injured myself, prevented loving relationships in my life, emotionally abused myself and treated myself with such hatred.
And became willing to make amends to them all.
Now here was the tricky part. I'd done the writing but the becoming willing was really tough for me. Hadn't most of the people on this list harmed me in some way? Why did I need to make amends to a brother who had been physically abusive? Hadn't the bosses who had fired me just been jerks? Why did I need to shame myself again? Wasn't this the stuff that caused me to eat in the first place?
My sponsor got an earful of total control and self will at this point. Months went by with no willingness around some of the amends. She was gentle as always and said which ones will be easiest in that list? So I chose a simple one to my uncle. And when I was home in the US I would do that one. But what about the rest of them? I didn't think I could do it there was too much resentment there. So I looked at the OA 12 and 12 and took suggestions once again. I sat and wrote out my feelings for weeks around my father and my brother. I prayed for the girl at work who I could not stand asking higher power to give her everything I wanted for myself. I put the prayers for these people in my God Box. I handed it over and waited for the willingness to come. I asked my sponsor how long would I have to sit in this place of unwillingness. She said that she often prays for the willingness to be willing. I could do that. And I did.
Slowly as the resentments melted in God's time I became willing. I was humble and I began to prepare for the 9th Step.
Once again a gentle set of reminders of how I worked this step that may help you:
l Select a home group (this can be on-line, on email, in person etc.) and attend meetings regularly and share about your step work and your feelings.
l Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
l Get a journal and write down your feelings around this step. I am a great procrastinator and tend to put things off. Journaling helps me.
l Think about asking someone to be your sponsor if you don't have one. A sponsor is like a kind older brother or sister. They are a bit further down the road and they have what you want.
l Work with that sponsor on what comes of this step work. They are a great source of inspiration, clarification and support.
Read Step 4 in the OA 12 and 12 page 67-73
Share your feelings around this what you have read with your OA home group (whether on line or in real life), this step group and a trusted friend or sponsor.
Questions Part 1
l Why do you think it's important that we work on our relationships after years of compulsive overeating?
l How have my relationships with others been effected by my character defects?
l How has my eating harmed those I love?
l How has my eating harmed my relationship with my Higher Power?
l How has my eating harmed my relationship with myself?
l Why is being rid of guilt and shame so important to staying abstinent?
l What is an amends? (top page 68)
l What are some of the ways I have been hurt myself and in turn have hurt others? (examples: name calling(as either victim or persecutor), lies, controlling, pride, stolen food)
l Why is it important to focus on my own behaviour rather than the behaviour of those I owe amends?
l Free write a few sentences or paragraphs and share about your fear around these 2 steps.
Working the Step
Ok working this Step will take the format we are used to from Step 4-7 and add a bit to it.
Similar to Step 4 you don't need to share this with the group if you do not wish to but you will find it helpful to work with a trusted friend or sponsor on the Step
Using your Step 4 list and identify each relationship where you may have caused harm.
These people may take the form of :loved ones, friends, co-workers, institutions (didn't pay a parking ticket) etc. The people can be living or dead, in your life or out of it.
The key is to identify people which you have harmed: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially or spiritually.
Now taking your list fill out the following columns:
You will notice they take the form of your step 4-7 and add 2 new columns.
Please review each person and situation and determine if you are willing to forgive that person for the harm they caused you so that you are free to make the amends without resentment or malice.
Once you have finished reviewing your Step 4 then also you may wish to add any additional names you may not have listed there but have remembered since. If you can't remember any more that's fine.
Now put your name at the top of the list and review your step 1.
It may take time for the willingness to come. A lovely guide for an amends is to pray for each and every thing you could ever want in life for the person you resent. If you do this for 21 days the resentment can and often does lift. Positive actions are wonderful for bringing about inner change.
This is a 12 week step study but you are not a failure if you don't do all your amends next week. This is very important as in my experience perfectionism can prevent me from doing it at all! My sponsor's words may comfort you. "Progress not perfection Dawn! God will give you willingness if you pray for it and he will give you an opportunity for the amends when it's time."
Now going through your list with a sponsor to guide you will help you to determine if you owe amends or not. Page 69 of the 12 and 12 describes it best. There are those who may have been rude or hurt us and though we may do our selves the good of forgiveness we don't owe them amends unless we have done them actual harm.
I had a very controlling and shaming Aunt who appeared on my amends list and I was questioned as to why she was on there. In the end she was taken off as I had done her no harm.
The job of Step 8 is not to make the world like us more it's to clear the harm we have caused. I am chronically co-dependent and will apologise for breathing most days. It was useful to take this suggestion on board.
Ok fantastic... we are done with the Step writing... next week we will look at how and if we need to to make amends.
Questions Part 2
l Why can't we skip the amends process?
l Why is forgiveness so important in this step? P71
l What can you do if you don't want to forgive someone? What are some ways of letting go of resentment?
l Ask some people you know who have worked this step if they were able to do all their amends right away?
l Why do you think that you belong at the top of your Step 8?
Ok now we've done this.... let's do a Step 3 prayer, our Step 7 prayer, the serenity prayer and move onto extra credit.
l Why am I angry at the people who I need to make amends to?
l Am I willing to make amends even if I don't want to?
l Why does the AA Big Book say at this point in the Steps "Remember we said we were willing to go to any length to give up alcohol (compulsive overeating)?
l Why must we be willing to make amends to all the people we have harmed without exception?
Walking with you,