My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
I imagine that all of your arduous work on these Steps is beginning to bear fruit and that there is a crack into which the light of joy, happiness and freedom are beginning to seep. I pray this is so for each of you.
Steps 8 and 9 will widen and deepen that crack and begin to break your recovery wide open. Let's open our arms wide and embrace the gifts yet to come!
Please remember that you can review any of the shares thus far presented at: www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2010/
Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
The Eighth Step has 3 objectives. The first is to review where we have done harm to others. The second is to become willing to make amends to all of them. The third is to develop positive relationships in order to relate harmoniously to God and others. The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that “Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood [sisterhood] with all men and women of whatever description is a moving and fascinating experience.”
The easiest task in working Step 8 is to make a list of all those we have harmed. We have the data indicating all those who have been hurt by us delineated in our 4th Step inventory. We simply need to organize it into a working list. Most of us have done considerable harm to others. I have read that each addict has adversely affected at least 6 other people. The estimate is undoubtedly very low. The AABB compares us to tornadoes roaring through the lives of others. In preparing your list, however, I strongly recommend seeking the aid and advice of your sponsor. We are so enmeshed in our situations of conflict that we often lack the objectivity necessary to discern where amends are called for, when making amends may do harm to others, or when amends are simply not necessary.
Once the list is compiled, the more demanding aspect of Step 8 is called for. We must be willing to make amends to every person on the list. I remember pondering my list and thinking, “These people have done more harm to me than I have done to them. I’ll make amends over my dead body!” The truth of the matter is, if I had not become willing to make those amends, it would have been over my beaten body, ravished by the harsh consequences of too much fat, processed carbohydrates, and sugar.
We can become willing to do many things we do not necessarily want to do. The sister I live with and I divide the household chores between us. One of my tasks is to clean the bathrooms. To be honest, I never really want to scrub the toilets, but I am willing to do so because I detest filthy bathrooms. The Principle behind Step 8 is self-discipline. There are many things in my life that I discipline myself to do because the positive outcome is worth the effort. The promise of working the Steps is a spiritual awakening which provides a daily reprieve, freedom from food obsession and compulsive overeating. For me, it is a treasure worth striving for.
One of the major blocks to my becoming willing to make amends was my stubborn resistance to forgive. The AABB reminds us that those who have done us harm were very sick individuals. I had to approach others with attitudes of mercy and compassion. Wasn’t I gravely ill when I committed my wrongs? If I wish to be forgiven for my transgressions, shouldn’t I extend the same understanding and tolerance to others? Without learning to forgive, I would not have been able to make amends.
At the time that I prepared my amends list, I agreed with the concept of forgiveness in theory, but there was a gaping breach between my intellect and my heart. How would I close the gap? Just as we cannot force the removal of our character defects by sheer self-will, we cannot forgive of our own power. I needed to rely, once again on the salvific power of my HP to relieve my fear and open my heart to the willingness to forgive.
A compelling example of that actually happened to me before I began to recover in Overeater’s Anonymous. Eleven years ago, my dad died of lung cancer which metastasized to his brain. If you read my autobiography, you may recall that my dad was violent and prone to impulsive and seemingly unprovoked bouts of rage. For most of my life, I harbored a deep resentment against him and was thoroughly convinced that forgiveness was quite impossible.
Two weeks before he passed away, my sister called me in Ecuador saying that my dad was close to death and requesting me to help my mom care for him. When I arrived at his side, he grasped my hand and stammered, “I was wondering if you would be able to forgive me.” I immediately and without hesitation exclaimed, “Of course I do!” And I meant it. I felt forgiveness and compassion bubble up from the core of my being. I could not have summoned that forgiveness from my own will. It came from a Power stronger than my decades long resentment.
Since the willingness and ability to forgive is given to us by our Higher Power, the remedy for hate and resentment is prayer. I have mentioned the Resentment Prayer (AABB 4th Ed. p. 552) previously and it is worth repeating. In performing this powerful prayer, we ask that our “enemies” be given all that we would want for ourselves; health, prosperity, success, good relationships, peace of mind, etc. The beauty of the prayer is that we don’t even have to mean it! My sponsor laughingly refers to it as fake prayer. Eventually, if repeated regularly over time, our prayer becomes authentic. This prayer opens our hearts to transformation and forgiveness. What was previously animosity and contempt turns into tolerance, compassion, and love. We are then willing and ready to make amends to all those we have harmed.
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- Approximately how many people have I adversely affected in my life?
- What is the difference between wanting to do something and being willing to do it? Give a personal example.
- How do I define self-discipline?
- What is my experience of forgiving and being forgiven?
- Am I willing to forgive those who have done me harm? Why or why not?
- Am I willing to make amends to all those I have harmed? Please explain.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AABB, 4th Ed. pages 76-83)
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous - Step 8
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step 8
The Twelve Steps