By the time I had completed my step 8 I was ready to do Step 9 with every fibre of my being. I knew that the accumulated shame from years of overeating, controlling and being dishonest had built up like an infection within a sore. I was ready to be healed and the process of writing out my Step 8 and sharing it with my sponsor helped me to come to awareness around this step.
When I started the 12 steps I was of two minds: Either this step was going to kill me or I wasn't going to do it. As it says in the 12 and 12 the miracle of this step was the complete opposite. The love and acceptance I received from most of those in my 9th Step Amends list was nothing short of incredible.
When working with my sponsor I determine few categories of amends to make based on the person, harm I had caused and if it was right to make amends. : Direct In-person, Direct Written, Indirect – Change in Behaviour, Indirect – Donation, Indirect – Letter.
Each person on my 9th Step needed to be considered under the light of the second part of this step. Would doing this amends injure them or others? It was imperative that I didn't make an amends without consulting someone else as my self will and control could cause me to make an amends to someone to get something for myself. Sometimes my co-dependency or self seeking got in the way of the spirit of the step.
It was important that I discussed what I was going to do, who I was going to do it with and why I was going to do it. The last bit was the tricky part.
So off in my head I went for months thinking I could get this perfect. That there would be a perfect time and a place to do each and every amends. I procrastinated thinking I needed to get it perfect and got stuck in my steps again. So my sponsor in her gentle wisdom sat me down and we started with the simple ones. I started with a food based amends with my uncle.
What had I done wrong? I had stolen food from him when he was living with us.
How had I changed? I no longer steal food and am honest about my food plan.
What was I intended on doing? Calling him on the phone and explaining my behaviour and apologising.
Would it harm anyone? No.
So I went off and did that one. His response: He laughed and said thank you for my honesty. He had wondered where the food had been going. My feelings: shame in the beginning and after; relief.
I went back to my sponsor and told her what happened. I was buoyed by the experience and it gave me the strength to do a few more. Over the next few months I found a time and a place to do almost all my amends. I have a few left which are “if” amends. So if I ever meet the people I harm I will make amends to them. If not it is an indirect amends to change who I am so I do not cause harm again.
The hardest amends to make were those that were not received with love. I had harmed my ex husband in ways that I was so ashamed of but I finally got the strength to leave a message for him and tell him I was sorry for causing him pain and treating him with disrespect. He never did call me back and acknowledge my amends and thus I will never know anything else. But I know that I did the amends to own my part of what I did.
Step 9 was not about abusing people and telling them off for what they did to me. It was about me clearing up the wreckage of my past. What others did to me I had let go of by praying for them in Step 8 and if I struggled with anything I went back to praying for them until the ill will lifted.
The miracle of this step was that when I completed it I was free of all the shameful humiliating things I had done that kept me eating. I felt as if I had lost all my excess weight and felt so grateful to the program. I was alive. I had made it and it was all ok. Higher Power had guided me through the “Action Steps” and I had survived to carry on. I knew I could go back and do them again with any area of my life but I was alive and could hold my head up.
That was the largest gift of Step 9. I had so much less shame that now I walk down streets with my head up. I no longer stare at the pavement (sidewalk) in shame. I am one with God and the Universe and I am enough.
Made direct amends to such people
“What's a direct amends?” I asked my sponsor. It is a change in behaviour. It's done face to face or to the person we have harmed. SHOCK HORROR! You mean I have to face these people and humiliate myself by repeating what I had done in detail. Ahh the drama queen that is Dawn strikes again. The slogan keep it simple was really good for me at this point. For each of the people on my Step 8 we talked about what would be an appropriate direct amends. For some it was a phone call, it was a visit in person, it was a financial contribution or it was a letter. It was done to own my part entirely. It was about my behaviours not about them.
There was an amends or two that I could not make due to geographical separation. I lived 5000 miles away from one man I hurt as a child. My mother was dead and I could not make the amends to her. It was then I learned about the miracle of Indirect Amends. These took the form of letters and emails and the intuition that if I ever run into those I have hurt I will make amends to them. There are cases where the amends were possible but I didn't want to do them. That is different. Those required prayer and patience with myself and my process. I was working an imperfect program and needed to do what I could in any one day. The blessing of burning a no-send letter to my mother really released the pain around her.
except when to do so would injure them or others.
Now this is interesting...nowhere does it say in this step. Where to do so would injure me. It's them or others. Again an ego deflation. I had to face the consequences of my pain and move through it.
There were several amends that I could not make due to the harm that it would cause to loved ones. So the living amends I make to others was to change who I was as a person so that I would never harm another person. Examples are: The job that I had stolen from no longer existed so I needed to think about a donation to a charity instead. The ex in-laws of my brother were no longer available so I needed to write a no send letter for them.
The real gift of this step was to figure out who I DIDN'T owe amends to. I found my Aunt who had verbally abused me didn't deserve an amends but she did deserve forgiveness and the freedom from the resentment around her was the amends to myself.
The 12 and 12 says it so much better than I ever could, “To the best of our ability we had cleaned up the wreckage of the past. We were at peace with the world.” This peace and serenity was my Higher Power's gift from this step.
Once again a gentle set of reminders of how I worked this step that may help you:
- 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.
- Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 75-81
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
- What is a direct amends? What is an indirect one?
- What are the guidelines to completing this step?
- Why is it important to keep the amends simple, and direct?
- Why is it important to work with a sponsor for completing this step?
- Why is it important not to have a hidden agenda or expect a certain reaction from others?
- Are you willing to accept any consequence of this step?
- What are examples of where an direct amend of mine would cause injury to the person or others?
- What can I do if I can't find someone on my amends list?
- What's the difference between making amends for our actions rather than our feelings?
- What are the promises of this step?
- What have others found help them with procrastination around this step? (ask some people in recovery what they have done to help them with this)
Working the Step
Ok grab your 8th Step amends list and have a look at the last column with your sponsor.
Now the types of amends that I used were:
- Direct In-person
- Direct Written
- Indirect – Change in Behaviour,
- Indirect – Donation/Financial,
- Indirect – Letter
Feel free to use these and add to these and for each person in your Step 9 work with your sponsor to address the amends to make.
||Description of Harm
||Am I willing to Forgive?
||Type of Amends
|Examples: My brother
||Stole things from his room. Went into his room without permission.
||Enabled him to continue using
||Used expense account for my own gain
Ok now the great bit... take the list and choose the ones you feel comfortable doing. And go out and just do one.
I found it useful to do the following:
- Choose person for amends
- Pray for them - serenity prayer and 8th Step prayers for all they could ever want
- Check out what I was going to say with my sponsor
- Pray for strength, courage and love
- Pick up phone and make an appointment to see them.
- Pray for the write words
- Make a back to back phone call with my sponsor
- Make Amends
- Pray in thanks for whatever happened.
This step is not about abusing ourselves but it is also not about procrastinating to get it perfect. You will do it right and in God's time but do it. The freedom you feel will be nothing short of miraculous.
Questions Part 2
- What does it feel like to be free of the pain of the amends?
- What was the reaction of others to your amends?
- How did the forgiveness make you feel?
- How did your Higher Power help you in this step?
- Are you satisfied that you have worked this step honestly and completely?
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.
- How can I make amends to people who have died?
- Are there amends I didn't make because I am afraid of legal financial or embarrassment to myself?
- How does not doing this step threaten my recovery?
- How can I make it up to myself or others for the hurt of my past?
Walking with you,
The Twelve Steps
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