Step Nine

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others.



Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Promises~Part 1
Promises~Part 2
Promises~Part 3
Promises~Part 4




Step Nine - Part One of Four

Hello, again!

When I heard the steps read at my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting, I clearly remember thinking, "Well, that won't be hard. I don't owe anyone any amends." I can hear the voice in my head even today, 14 years later. "I'M not too afraid to say I'm sorry. *I* know how to apologize." That was before I understood what it says in the AABB about alcoholics being some of the sorriest folk around!!

Besides...what did my overeating have to do with anybody else's life, anyhow.

Well, I sure am glad the Ninth Step is where it is. How anyone can do Step Nine before steps 1-8 is a mystery to me. How else would I have uncovered the people I owed amends to, if not for step 4? How would I have had the fear removed without steps 2 & 3? Shilly-shallying, tricky little rule-bender that I am (terminal uniqueness), if a real-life human being hadn't been there to raise an eyebrow from time to time during step 5, would I have told all?? Had I not turned over the old garbage I had been carrying around for decades in steps 6 & 7, experiencing some small taste of humility (not my cup of tea), could I have made a step 8 list?

By the time I came to the Ninth step, all my doubts had been removed. The question became not to whom I needed to make amends, but rather how was I gonna fit all those amends into one lifetime? How could I talk to A about my errors? What was I going to do about X, the s.o.b. who ruined my life? I resented him all right--he showed up on the step 4 list, but surely I wasn't expected to make an amend to him! What about the people whose names I couldn't even remember? My father died when I was 19 years old; my mother, several years before I found the program. How could I make amends to them? And why? What difference did it make?

This is where my sponsor came in. (Personally, I don't see how anyone works this program without a real live sponsor). She helped me sort it out. Together with guidance from the AABB and the AA 12 & 12, I could begin to see what this step was all about. She sent me off to read P 76 of the AA Big Book where it says, "Now we go out to our fellows & repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will & run the show ourselves."

But why, I wanted to know? Why is it important to sweep away the debris of the past? (I'm what's called 'a hard case.') Well, for the first week's WTS assignment, I suggest you do what my sponsor told me to do: Read PP. 76-84 in the AA Big Book, and then answer the following questions:

1. Why can't we just go on from here?
2. What is the meaning of the phrase "Faith Without Works is Dead"?
3. For whom are we doing this step?
4. What do we hope to accomplish in Step 9?
5. Where does your Higher Power enter into this process?
6. What is the connection between Steps 9 & 3?
7. What is the connection between Steps 9 & 12?
8. What is the real purpose of Step 9?

You might want to share your responses with your sponsors & the WTS loop.

Keep coming Back,

Sylvia

STEP NINE PRAYER
Higher Power,  I pray for the right attitude to make my amends, being ever mindful not to harm others
in the process.  I ask for Your guidance in making indirect amends. Most important, I will continue to
make amends by staying abstinent, helping others & growing in spiritual progress. Amen



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Step Nine - Part Two of Four

Hi, Everyone,

When I asked myself why I was doing Step 9 & for whom, part of me really believed that was making these amends for others. If you believe that this is the purpose of Step 9, call your sponsor & get to a meeting immediately!

Having done the 4th & 8th stepsI had a list of people I felt I owed amends. Some of the amends I was anxious to make. It was clear in my mind that I was toting around a lot of old trash. It wasn't hard to identify who those people were. Mostly they were the people closest to me. The ones I lied to, the ones I lashed out at in misdirected anger, the ones whose weaknesses I may have exploited. Then there were the amends I owed but was not quite ready to make. The people or institutions I stole from the friends I betrayed. I knew they were necessary but wasn't sure how to go about it. Fear of their reactions held me back. I couldn't figure out the best method. I was pretty sure I was gonna make these amends .. just didn't know exactly when or how. Still another group of people to whom I owed amends were those I felt *really* uncomfortable about. I wasn't sure I was going to make these amends at all but with my sponsor's help became at least willing to put them on the list. Maybe I'd be lucky. Maybe they'd all die before I got around to them! Maybe I'd experience some spiritual experience that would make it all possible.

I had to share my feelings with my sponsor who suggested that I read what is written on p. 77 of the AA Big Book: "The question of how to approach the person we hated will arise. It may be he/she has done us more harm than we have done him/her and though we may have acquired a better attitude toward this person, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults." Even after sharing & reading we find that we remain unwilling to make an amend to the b#St*rd who we believe ruined our life.

With the loving (and firm) guidance of my sponsorI became willing & able to see how my self-centeredness had affected my marriage and my ability to parent. I could figure out how my father telling me how he had cheated on my mother fueled the anger that affected my relationships with all men. I could let go of my mother's contempt for women in general and accept and love an essential part of myself. I could understand what the family therapist had meant when he said my kids didn't have any problems -- *I* was the problem! (Talk about pissed off!!)

These became the first people I was willing to make amends to: my family, past & present, and since I was willing it wasn't too hard. But what about the sunuvabitch who stalked me for 3 years? Do you mean to say I have to make amends to him too? Not on your life, babycakes!

Smiling sweetly, my sponsor suggested that I make up a chart similar to the 4th step chart in the AA BB. It looked something like this:

NOW
LATER
MAYBE
NEVER
1. Mom - for refusing to tell her where I was going when I'd be back, just to show her how independent I was. Caused her to worry.

1. Cousin Judy - hated her all these years cut off contact with her family because our mothers played power games we were the pawns. 1. Nora - fired me. It's gonna be hard to talk to her w/o getting defensive. 1. Mike - S.O.B. kept me tied up in court 3 years. I'll never make amends to him!
2. Kid brother: hated him/jealous/wrote him off when Dad died. Hate his guts. 2. Husband #2 - alcoholic? crazy? 2. Husband #1 - adulterous b*st#rd. sued me for custody won.
    --

By starting with the people in column one, she explained, I may be surprised to find that by the time I have finished making amends to them, the folks in column 2 have moved over to 1, and the ones in 3 may have slid over to column 2, etc. Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, but much to my amazement, "later" becomes "now" and I began to make my amends as necessary.

Eventually we come to those in column 4 - the Nevers, although, having made amends to all those who came before, we may have discovered that they too have moved up a column or so.

This assignment is to make your chart & discuss it with your sponsor. Next - The Nevers + How To Do It.

Sylvia

STEP NINE PRAYER
Higher Power,  I pray for the right attitude to make my amends, being ever mindful not to harm others
in the process.  I ask for Your guidance in making indirect amends. Most important, I will continue to
make amends by staying abstinent, helping others & growing in spiritual progress. Amen



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Step Nine - Part Three of Four

This is the day you've been waiting for! Today we come to those people in Column 4 of our amends list: The Nevers (although, having made amends to all those who came before...with the help of our sponsors..we may have discovered that they, too, have moved up a column or so.)

We turn to p. 77 in the AA Big Book and read, "The question of how to approach the man (or woman) we hated will arise. It may be he has done us more harm than we have done him and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward him, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults."

Right.

This is about admitting OUR faults, not about listing HIS.

"Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy than to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial TO US. We go to him in a helpful & forgiving spirit, confessing OUR former ill feeling and expressing OUR regret."

At this point, it might help to go back & remember the real purpose of Step 9: 'OUR REAL PURPOSE IS TO FIT OURSELVES TO BE OF MAXIMUM SERVICE TO GOD AND THE PEOPLE ABOUT US." (p. 77, AABB).

Taking a deep breath we continue to read, 'UNDER NO CONDITIONS DO WE CRITICIZE SUCH A PERSON OR ARGUE. Simply tell him that we will never get over (compulsive overeating) until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off OUR side of the street...HIS FAULTS ARE NOT DISCUSSED."

For the unexpected results, read para. 2 on p. 78.

***** Now that we know why we are going through this process, to whom it is that we owe amends, and when to make them, the next step in the process is to determine what form these amends might take.

Well, the step does say "direct amends...whenever possible...except when to do so would injure them or others," so the preferred method is "direct."

In the AA 12 & 12 it states, "Most of us begin making certain kinds of direct amends from the day we join AA. The moment we tell our families that we are really going to try the program, the process has begun...at the first sitting it is necessary only that we make a general admission of our defects. It may be unwise at this stage to rehash certain harrowing episodes."

Whew! Don't have to do it all at once.

"Good judgment ," the passage continues, "will suggest that we ought to take our time." (Please note: This does not say that good judgment suggests we should wait forever!) But what's this about sit down with them...Face to Face? Yep. That's what it says. "...we may need to use a little more discretion (with employers) than we did with the family. We may not want to say anything for several weeks, or longer. First we will wish to be reasonably certain that we are on the beam." Good idea. All those broken promises and trampled resolutions from the past rise up to haunt us... Maybe we'd best wait a bit to determine if we are walking the walk, and not just talking the talk...

Okay...the time has come. Why not make an amend by phone or letter (or e-mail?) Well, simply said, it's a whole lot easier to weasel out on paper or computer or over the phone that it is f2f. And it does say direct, doesn't it? Well, okay, face to face whenever possible. But what's it all about? What goes into the amend? "...we can freely admit the damage we have done and make our apologies. We can pay, or promise to pay, whatever obligations, financial or otherwise, we owe." The amends are about restitution, Financial or Otherwise.

"Most alcoholics owe money," the BB says. Well, guess what? So do a lot of compulsive overeaters. There's the money I spent trying to keep up with the "Joneses," the restaurant meals I charged to my credit card so that I could "play with the big kids," the debts I accumulated rescuing others, trying to buy their love, the monster bill I owe for giving in to immediate gratification (self-will run riot.)

Joe & Charley - those two wonderful alcoholics who have taped Big Book seminars in clear, understandable language from their own experiences remind us that the "physical" aspect of our disease & recovery is not limited to our bodies and substances. It includes everything that is not within the concept of "spiritual" or "emotional." So "physical" describes our families, friends,jobs, homes, pets, automobiles---anything in the material world. Financial restitution will make a big dent in the amends required in our "physical world." But what about the "otherwise"? How do we make amends for years of self-centeredness and neglect of our loved ones? How do we pay back our employers and friends for the lack of attention to our responsibilities because of our obsession with food and eating? "Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won't fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the family (there it is again...f2f) and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very careful NOT TO CRITICIZE THEM...So we clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness & love." There it is, right on p. 83. We make spiritual and emotional restitution with patience, tolerance, kindliness and love replacing impatience, intolerance, unkindness and unloving acts and attitudes.

What if the direct f2f method of making amends just isn't possible? Perhaps the person or institution which we have harmed is at an extreme distance. What do we do if the person has died, the company gone out of business, the school closed its doors? The indirect amend is sometimes the best solution for a situation that cannot be managed any other way. Charlie visited his father's grave & made a commitment to look after his mother thru her old age. This was his amend to both his parents. The shoplifter who stole food from the supermarket would be met with stares of unbelief if he came forward to try to pay for the items he had taken years before. The stores have already written those costs off. Their accountants wouldn't know what to do with the money! But an anonymous donation to Meals Without Wheels in the amount "owing" would serve the right purpose.

With the guidance of my sponsor, I wrote a letter to my ex-husband taking responsibility for *my* 50% or more of what went wrong in our marriage. (This was one big miracle.) It would have been useless to call. He would have hung up on me. I stopped badmouthing Mike, my partner of 7 years, and found compassion for this terribly sick, still suffering compulsive overeater. I signed the necessary legal papers as soon as he asked me to (and gave up a chance to 'get even'--another miracle.) I did a public 5th step concerning The Stalker, admitting to myself, my h.p. and a room full of other people the exact nature of MY wrongs (seduced him, exploited his vulnerability, ridiculed him behind his back) and became willing to make amends (see The Stalker later...). I wrote to my kid brother and told him how sorry I was that we didn't have a stronger relationship and how much I admired him for his gentle & generous nature; I told my sons I loved them, each and every time I had contact with them; I forgave my (deceased) parents for being human and concentrated on the wonderful lessons for life each had tried to pass on to me; I called my big brother and just thanked him for being who he was. The *sins* of omission are sometimes greater than the ones I actually sign my name to. I became willing to call my ex-boss & invite her for coffee. If I ever see her again, I will thank her for the important lessons that resulted from her letting me go. I took my credit cards out of my wallet & made a commitment to send a certain amount of $ monthly to my creditors. I committed to paying cash. Although I still have a long way to go and I haven't kept that commitment perfectly, I am about a year ahead of my mental schedule of payments, and with any luck at all will have the VISA bill that ate San Francisco paid off before I retire.

As someone on this loop remarked, as we become willing to make amends and start the process, it is not unusual to discover others we may have overlooked. Later on, in Step 10, we will surely learn how taking inventory daily can contribute to this process.

*** Today's Assignment***
Imagine forgiving the person who has harmed you the most.
You don't have to do it, just imagine doing it.
What would it look like?
How does it feel?
If you have a mind to, share this with your sponsor.

Make a Restitution Chart.

 

NAME

FINANCIAL

"OTHERWISE"

3 yr old son

- - - - - - - - -

Read a bedtime story nightly

Mom

Buy a new refrigerator. Wore out the old one!

- - - - - - - - -

Boss

- - - - - - - - -

Work 1 hr a week unpaid overtime to make up for all goof-off time.

Spouse

- - - - - - - - -

Spend one half of every evening just listening.

 

Tomorrow we'll talk about the Stalker and other things.

Keep Coming Back,

Sylvia

STEP NINE PRAYER
Higher Power,  I pray for the right attitude to make my amends, being ever mindful not to harm others
in the process.  I ask for Your guidance in making indirect amends. Most important, I will continue to
make amends by staying abstinent, helping others & growing in spiritual progress. Amen



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Step Nine - Part Four of Four

Today I would like to share about the "loose ends," the people to whom we may never make direct amends or to whom "living amends" are the way to go.

The AA 12 & 12 states: "There can be only one consideration which should qualify our desire for a complete disclosure of the damage we have done. That will arise in the occasional situation where to make a full revelation would seriously harm the one to whom we are making amends. Or--quite as important--other people. We cannot, for example, unload a detailed account of extramarital adventuring upon the shoulders of our unsuspecting wife or husband. And even in those cases where such a mater must be discussed, let's try to avoid harming 3rd parties, whoever they may be. It does not lighten our burden when we recklessly make the crosses of others heavier."

I am unceasingly grateful that this was not an amend I needed to make. I take no credit for this. It is simply evidence that my HP had an eye out for me much earlier than I ever knew. That doesn't mean I was 100% faithful in all my relationships. I was living with David when I started seeing Larry. I packed up my stuff & moved out of the apartment while he was away on a fishing trip with a buddy. I didn't even leave a note. Larry insisted. I did go back eventually and apologize. David was a good friend to me and certainly didn't deserve to be treated that way. I know today that my behavior was symptomatic of my love addiction, but that was long before I had a program of any sort. But for the most part, I was "serially monogamous" and closed one door before I opened another. But what was I going to do about The Stalker?

Here again, my sponsor's guidance proved invaluable. Just because I had reached a level of spirituality where I could take responsibility for my own actions didn't mean that he had changed. (And indeed, today -- 15 years later -- he still sends me birthday roses via a friend because he doesn't know where to find me.) When I proudly announced to my sponsor that I was ready to sit down with him and make direct amends, she grabbed me by the lapels and said, "Oh, no you don't!"

I was astonished and confused!

"Well, what do you think would happen if you called him and met him," she asked.

"Oh." And the light went on. The fact is he would have taken that as encouragement and it might have thrown him back into his obsession, and I would have unwittingly hurt him and myself in the process. So she explained to me that my willingness to make direct amends at any time that it appeared I could do so without hurting either of us was sufficient for the ninth step. And I remain willing. If that opportunity ever presents itself, I will be right there.

She helped me sort out another tricky situation as well. What to do about the young man who came into my office when I was working as an employment counselor and who went off on an interview I had arranged, but by way of several bars? Had I hurt him by not telling his father (a friend of mine) that his son might be an alcoholic? Should I have made some excuse to the prospective employer and continued to send the kid out? He had a wife & child. Had I hurt them? Reminding me of the similarity in our diseases, she helped me see that to cover for him would be the hurtful action, that of enabling. I did not owe him an amend; his pain was not of my doing.

It was my sponsor who reminded me that the first person who should be on my list of those whom I had harmed was myself. *I'm* the one whose relationships/body/spirit had suffered the most as a result of the things I had done and left undone. She was the one who introduced me to the concept of "living amends." She explained that true amends meant changing how I interacted with myself and others. She pointed out how, by overeating compulsively, I had perpetuated the damage started by others by denying my own worth, my own feelings. She helped me see how living in "victim mode" kept me in chains of my own devising. She explained how turning the world back over to a Power greater than myself might give me a chance to rest & recuperate from an over-developed sense of responsibility.

The AA Big Book reminds us that this is a program of action, not analysis, and that "faith without works is dead" or as Chinese peasant wisdom says, "Talking doesn't cook rice." No absolution here. To make an amend and immediately turn around and continue old behavior doesn't cut it. After all, to amend means, "to change."

"After taking this preliminary trial at making amends, we may enjoy such a sense of relief that we conclude our task is finished. We will want to rest on our laurels. The temptation to skip the more humiliating and dreaded meetings that still remain may be great. We will often manufacture plausible excuses for dodging these issues entirely. Or we may just procrastinate, telling ourselves the time is not yet, when in reality we have already passed up many a fine chance to right a serious wrong. Let's not talk prudence while practicing evasion." (p. 85 AA 12 & 12).

What about the really tough stuff? "Perhaps we have committed a criminal offense which might land us in jail if it were known to the authorities. We may be short in our accounts and unable to make good. We have already admitted this in confidence to another person (step 5), but we are sure we would be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known" ...padding the expense account...behind in alimony or child support, etc. Well the BB says (p. 79), "Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go TO ANY LENGTHS TO FIND A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE, we ask (our Higher Power) that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be.

"THE ONLY EXCEPTIONS WE WILL MAKE WILL BE CASES WHERE OUR DISCLOSURES WOULD CAUSE ACTUAL HARM." (p. 85 AA 12 & 12.) How do we know if an amend falls into that category? We can ask ourselves the following questions: "Are we going to be so rigidly righteous about making amends that we don't care what happens to family & home? Or do we first consult those who are to be gravely affected? Do we lay the matter before our sponsor or spiritual advisor, earnestly asking God's help and guidance--meanwhile resolving to do the right thing when it becomes clear, cost what may?" (p.86 AA 12 & 12)

The examples given in the Big Book involve adultery, embezzlement, character assassination and default in alimony. (Boy! Those alcoholics are troublemakers, aren't they! We COE's wouldn't be caught dead doing stuff like that, would we?). The founders of AA made a sensible calculation that if a drunk's family would suffer by his admission, he'd best find another way to make amends. The man guilty of destroying someone else's reputation was guided, with the help of his loving family and his business partner, into making public amends, risking his own reputation to clear that of a business rival.

There's quite a bit of talk about "sex relations" and the amends engendered by "domestic troubles." Drinking does complicate sex relations in the home, say the writers of the Big Book. Well, so does overeating. Those of us who have used our overweight as a means of creating a barrier between ourselves and our lovers know how true this is. Those of us who have used food as a defense against intimacy with our spouses or S.O.'s know what this means. And those of us who have exploited others more vulnerable than ourselves also understand. ("Thirteenth Stepping" may fall under this category.)

So, in summation, we have two methods of making amends: Direct or indirect. The direct method is recommended whenever possible. The indirect method may include telephone, letters, or in cases where restitution (financial or otherwise) cannot be made because of death, distance, or risk to others, by an appropriate act. All of these must be accompanied by a change in our behaviors so that our futures will not look like our pasts.

ASSIGNMENT

Write your eulogy.
What would you like people to say about you after you're gone?
What can you do today to walk toward that goal?

Share this with your sponsor if you wish.

Keep coming back,
Sylvia

STEP NINE PRAYER
Higher Power,  I pray for the right attitude to make my amends, being ever mindful not to harm others
in the process.  I ask for Your guidance in making indirect amends. Most important, I will continue to
make amends by staying abstinent, helping others & growing in spiritual progress. Amen



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The Ninth Step Promises ~ Part One

Dear WTS Members,

This week will be a time of reflection on the Steps you have already worked. It will be a time for those of you who need just a few more days to finish up what you've been doing and be ready to begin Step 10 one week from today. This week will be a time to read and see what this is all about . . . the Promises.

There are no words in 12 Step literature that inspire me more than those on page 83 of The Big Book. Before we begin dissecting the Promises, I want you to just read them .. and then we will talk about the Bedevilments because to really appreciate the Promises, we need to think about those.

Read these beautiful words slowly . . .

The Promises

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
. . . . The Big Book, Pg. 83-84



Could I suggest that you print those words out and go to that quiet place that only you know about and read the Promises several times. Substitute the word "I" a couple of times instead of "we." Think about your bedevilments ... your past life ... and your hopes and dreams for the future. Stay with me this week. Feel free to send your step work on any step to the list and those of you who have finished Step Nine begin looking for some promises in the Big Book that aren't listed above. There have been many.

Tomorrow ~ the bedevilments and a stunning comparison to what can happen when we work the program. "Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us ... sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them." BB, pg. 84.

They will always materialize if we work for them.

They will ALWAYS materialize if we work for them.

It's a promise.

Love in recovery,
Mari

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The Ninth Step Promises ~ Part Two

Hi All,

Most of the time I have been answering questions privately but several people have written and asked if they have to finish Step Nine before they work Step Ten. The answer is no. There are going to be situations when you are going to have to spend some time with your sponsor about how to approach certain people you are contemplating making amends to. Steps 10, 11 and 12 are "maintenance steps" and your amends can take place during these steps or even later. I think timing is important in making amends and they shouldn't be rushed. Nor should you converge upon a person in order to "get it over with." Your heart needs to be in your amends. Step Nine is one of intent and you should make an effort to do this as soon as possible. There is only one way you can do this step wrong ... and that is not to do it at all.

Between page 52 and 83 of the Big Book lies a miracle. It takes only 31 pages for the Bedevilments to be replaced by the Promises.

Here is a chart I think you will find interesting. Please look it over.

Billie W. is your Step Leader this week and will be writing you tomorrow on The Promises. Billie is a very special person.

Love in recovery,
Mari

 
 
THE BEDEVILMENTS (p. 52)
THE PROMISES (p. 83)
We were having trouble with personal relationships.
We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.
We couldn't control our emotional natures.
We will comprehend the word serenity and we know peace.
We were a prey to misery and depression. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
We couldn't make a living. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
We had a feeling of uselessness. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
We were full of fear. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
We were unhappy. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
We couldn't seem to be of real help to other people. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how your experience can benefit others. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
And, most of all, We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
 
 


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The Ninth Step Promises ~ Part Three

Good morning!!

Thanks to to all of you who have joined in through sharing or through simply supporting this loop by being here. We can all look forward to a great Step Ten study next week with {{{Bob}}} sharing his experience, strength, and hope as our Leader for that Step.

Sylvia asked me if I'd help her wrap up the Step Nine study by sharing on one of the most important benefits of working the first nine Steps -- amazing promises come true for us, "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly," as a result of this Step work.

So here's Part 1 of two parts:

On pages 83-84 of the Big Book is some very beautiful text which has over the years become known as The Promises. (Let me throw in a quick pitch here for a very fun exercise: that is to read the book cover to cover looking for all of the *other* promises besides the ones on 83-84. There are lots more!)

The text on the promises that we're focusing on today is that which follows the discussion on how to do Steps 8 & 9 -- the amends Steps. First we are reminded that "The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it." Making a "living amends" from here on out is one of our chief assignments -- and we can begin to do that even if we are on Step One right now.

We're also reminded that this process isn't about "crawling before anyone" -- it's about courage and taking responsibility for our lives. That is a *very* empowering place to live from -- not a place of fear or shame or guilt at all -- but a place of deep self-esteem.

And, now, drum roll and trumpets, here is that treasured text about The Promises:

* (Promise 1) "If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through."

     "This phase of our development" is, of course, referring to actually working the amends Steps. Here we are told that we will begin to experience the healing benefits "before we are halfway through" our list of people we have harmed. Listening to stories around recovery tables, it seems that most of us are "amazed" from the very start.

* (Promise 2) "We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness."

     When I was lost in my disease, with a body more than twice the size it started out to be, there was absolutely no freedom and I was certain I would never be happy. Food was my higher power and the more I ate, the more fearful and depressed I became. For me, recovery wasn't about finding "new" freedom -- it was about becoming truly free for the first time in 39 years. It was a "new happiness," though -- as I began to experience a depth of joy I never imagined possible.

* (Promise 3) "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it."

     I never dreamed the day could come when I would view my past as my gift, but now I do. I realize now that everything that happened to me needed to happen precisely the way it did in order for me to be the whole and truly happy person I am today. All of those tragedies were the patchwork quilt of my unique history, leading me inevitably to the only force powerful enough to heal my life -- the God-inspired, God-filled Twelve Steps of Overeaters Anonymous. Nothing short of those tragedies would have made me desperate enough to try the Steps after all else failed. Anything less would have surely led me to a life where "okay" was good enough. And, in truth, in the beginning "okay" was a marked improvement over what had been before. But we don't have to settle for "okay" in recovery. We can have it all!!

* (Promise 4) "We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace."

     One of the things I realized some years ago was that, even though I'm a poet, before I found recovery, I had never used the word "serenity" in any of my work. It was not a word that had ever occurred to me -- just as I had never used the word "joy." When those emotions are experienced, we begin to understand that there is no substance, no chemical, no food, no *anything* that can ever measure up to the experience of true serenity, and deep inner peace. I had become so addicted to chaos -- the adrenaline rush of anger, the inner turmoil ever driving me to find *someone* or *something* that would fix me -- the idea of serenity and inner peace was as foreign as the idea that I might actually lose the more than 120 extra pounds that seemed cemented to my five-foot-high body. To "comprehend the word serenity" and to "know peace"-- these are daily gifts today for someone absolutely convinced this promise was hogwash.

* (Promise 5) "No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others."

     This is another promise that guarantees we will be released from the pain of our past, showing us once again that our past can be our gift. I once thought my tragedies were far darker than anyone else's could be. Today I sponsor women whose stories make my past look like a birthday party. But they ask me to sponsor them because I've "been there" -- and because I'm not there anymore. Those who go before us on this healing pathway have that credibility -- they are speaking from a place that tells us they will understand. But they are also speaking from a place of such hope -- and one of those hopes is that we will indeed find that "life of sane and happy usefulness", passing on our own recovery to others.

* (Promise 6) "That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear."

     I didn't know that much of what I brought with me was reeking self-pity until I had worked the Steps with a compassionate, caring, wise sponsor who helped me change my perceptions about each and every sad tale I told -- and in the telling hoping for pity -- never dreaming I'd find something far more healing and helpful. There was good reason for "that feeling of uselessness" -- I had failed my children by becoming an unfit mother and their lives were in danger when they were with me -- from my passing out with cigarettes in my hand to my bringing home strange men out of such a hopeless depth of loneliness I began to think one could die from loneliness alone. In spite of all my creative gifts, I hadn't written anything but self-pitying garbage for over six years, and I was about to lose yet another job. I knew I would as soon as my boss learned I was technically unemployable. They had hidden me as far from the public eye as they could get me -- I'm sure they could smell my unwashed obese body clear across the room. That these feelings would be replaced entirely seemed more a fantasy than a promise. But years later, I find I am more creative than I ever dreamed I could be. And the quickest way you can get me into action is to suggest I might be feeling self-pity. That makes me gag today.

Love,
Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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The Ninth Step Promises ~ Part Four

Hi again!!

* (Promise 7) "We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows."

     I had no idea how selfish I was until I began working the Steps, uncovering all those defects of character that had blocked me from "the sunlight of the Spirit" for most of my life. I really did think I was the center of the universe and that the world owed me a living -- it was somebody's *job* to make me happy and to fix me. Gaining interest in others took some time -- first of all I didn't feel I had anything to offer anyone. When my first sponsor said, "If you've been abstinent for 24 hours, you have something to give the person who does not know how to do that." -- she showed me a very simple truth about the 12-Step pathway. Being here for each other is why it works so well. This is one of the reasons the Big Book suggests that, when all else fails, we work with others. Thinking about someone else, instead of myself, for even five minutes was a very new experience!! :)

* (Promise 8) "Self-seeking will slip away."

     Yeah, "slip away" is good. :) It's a process and we can totally trust the process. If I try to be a little bit better human being today than I was yesterday, slowly but surely, I will be less interested in self-seeking matters and be less ego-driven in my decisions.

* (Promise 9) "Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change."

     This is one of my favorite promises. When my first sponsor met me, she said I was the most negative human being she had ever met in her 18 years of solid recovery. My whole attitude and outlook on life sucked. Every thought, every word, was tinged with negativity. I was cynical about everything -- or so arrogant, I was sure I was wasting my time with "these people and their hokey little program." I think I can safely say that there is almost *nothing* that I see the same way I did then. My perceptions of people's behavior and events -- even tragic events -- has been altered by a spiritual "filter" that has me looking at everything from a totally different place. Again, no one could have convinced me this was possible -- let alone so readily available to anyone willing to do the work to get it.

* (Promise 10) "Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us."

     The Big Book says, on page 68, that we "outgrow fear" (another promise). My whole life was permeated with fear in the beginning -- ranging from low-level anxiety all day every day to frequent panic attacks to sheer terror at nighttime. One of the chief fears was "economic insecurity" -- as I juggled the bills from month to month to cover the deficit resulting from buying binge foods and all of the other irresponsibility around money that came from impaired judgment. Fear of being judged by others, fear of rejection, fear of failure -- so many fears -- including totally psychotic fears like being afraid to drive over a bridge because I thought it would collapse when my car got in the middle. I was so "used to" these fears, I never could have imagined what my life would be like without them. Today I cannot imagine any food tempting enough to convince me I should give up this life of freedom from fear, this life of knowing that I will be taken care of and that all is well, this deep sense of well-being in all my affairs. This is a very good promise!!

* (Promise 11) "We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us."

     Ah, I love this one too!! On page 87, it talks about how when we are new at this seeking spiritual solutions for all our decisions, we might take some "absurd actions" thinking that's God's Will for us -- but that, if we persevere, "our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely on it." (another promise!) I was *always* baffled in the past -- everything seemed overwhelming or, at best, confusing. Today, I know "There Is A Solution" is another promise of recovery, and that all true and lasting solutions are spiritual in nature. I love the clarity that comes from abstinence. I didn't know I lacked that clarity until I experienced that clarity.

* (Promise 12) "We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves."

     I was one of those who really struggled with the "God stuff" -- I'm glad I had nowhere else to go and just stuck around long enough for the miracles to begin to happen. In the beginning, I chalked them up to coincidence. After countless "coincidences," I began to consider that maybe there was something else going on here. I got willing to call that Something Else HP -- and then God -- although my concept is perhaps not exactly what someone else's might be. When I seek to align my life with the principles of rigorous honesty, personal integrity, kindness, thoughtfulness, and unselfishness -- life just works better. And things unfold in ways that ego-drivenness could never bring about.

And here's the really cool deal that tells us these promises aren't just for the select few -- or that they *might* come true randomly -- like winning the Readers Digest Sweepstakes. Here's the promise of all promises: the assurance that they are gifts for each and every one of us -- like a beautifully-wrapped and ribboned gift that has our name on the gift tag:

"Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them."

* They will *always* materialize if we work for them.

Go for it!! If I can find this to be absolute truth in my life -- anyone can. I'll ask that key question my first sponsor asked me: "What have you got to lose to give this program 100 percent?"

We have so much to gain -- and it's far far easier to take this pathway to healing than to stay lost in the disease. None of us are lost anymore. The promises are our guiding stars out of the darkness and into the light.

Love, Love, Love,
Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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