My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
I congratulate those of you who are still working on the Steps. Many of you have apologized for being behind. Be tranquil! The important thing is that you stay on the path. Even if you are on the First Step, as long as you are doing Step work, your recovery will deepen and lengthen. Since we continue to work the Step for our whole lives, one day at a time, most of us have quite a bit of time left! All of the shares posted so far can be found at www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2010/ so keep leaping or trudging down the field!
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Once you’ve made your list of pending amends and have gathered the courage and willingness to make them, it is best to jump right in. I’m a cheddar head from Wisconsin and one of my favorite activities is swimming in lakes. (One of the few physical activities I could still do when I was morbidly obese!) My community has a leisure house in Northern Wisconsin which is my favorite place in the world. There, I spend almost all of my time in the lake. I haven’t found a way to sleep there yet, but as in all things, I have great hope! The water is quite cold and the initial plunge is heart-stopping. But once I’m in, the water is glorious. It’s best if I forget the bracing impact and dive in without hesitation or reservation.
Step Nine was like that for me. I had to confront the daunting task immediately before I lost my nerve and was left standing on the dock. I braced myself, asked HP to remove my fear (See Fear Prayer AABB p. 68), and immersed myself. Once I began, the process was challenging, but glorious. During this process, prayer was crucial. Before each encounter, I petitioned HP for courage, a forgiving heart, an honest view of my errors, the appropriate words to express my repentance, and the willingness to repair the damage.
The purpose of Step 9 is to clear away the debris of all our harmful actions in order to restore right relations with all to whom we relate. Our focus is on the harm we have done, while a posture of compassion and forgiveness for the harm done to us (which is not mentioned) is maintained. This is a daunting task and I needed the support of my sponsor and HP’s loving guidance throughout the process.
The importance of letting go of the outcome of my amends was stressed to me by the literature, my sponsor, and more experienced OA members who have walked this path before me. What is critical is that I clean off my side of the street with honesty, courage, dignity, and integrity. As much as I wanted others to reciprocate and apologize to me or to forgive me and recognize my newly acquired sainthood, I could not control how others responded or reacted. What changed mostly was how I felt about myself.
My experiences were somewhat varied. The majority of my encounters were moments of profound mutual relational healing. The other person expressed his or her regret for actions which had harmed me and asked for forgiveness. Because I had prepared my heart and, with the help of HP, had rid myself of expectations, the expressions of repentance touched me and opened up space for love, tolerance, and compassion. I had some rich dialogues with people with whom I had held mutual animosity for years. I recognized that when others had done me harm, their motives emerged from a place of woundedness or illness. My capacity for forgiveness and responsibility for my own actions enlarged greatly.
Some of my amends involved people I hadn’t seen for years and I wondered how I would be able to carry them out. Shortly after I began to make amends, I attended a 25 year high school reunion. A woman attended who was on my amends list. She was someone I had teased and harassed mercilessly in grade school and had basically ignored in high school. When I made the amends, she exclaimed, “You DEFENDED and PROTECTED me!” That’s not how I remember it, but there you have it. I believe HP places people in our paths when the time to make amends is right. My work is to keep my heart in readiness for restorative action.
One person, who was greatly hurt by my reaction to a decision she had made, was still smarting from the pain I had caused. She was not yet ready to forgive me and I had to accept that. For the purpose of my recovery, it was not necessary to receive pardon. I simply had to be willing to admit my wrongs. The good news is that, since the 12 Step Program has transformed me so much, our relationship has healed and deepened.
A simple apology, of course, is not sufficient. Many of us spent our lives in empty promises and false repentance. As the AABB states, “The spiritual life is not a theory, we have to live it.” In order for our verbal amends to be authentic, we must make living amends.
The OA 12&12 exhorts us, “Only by changing our harmful attitudes and actions can we make it up to ourselves and to our loved ones for the hurts of the past.” True and believable amends are always accompanied by change. I recall thinking after each amends, “Whew! I never have to engage in that behavior again!” Of course, being the creatively corruptible compulsive overeater that I am, I find new ways to endanger my precious relationships. This is where Step Ten comes in. Stay tuned!
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- Am I ready to plunge into the deep waters of amend-making? Please explain.
- How do I feel about cleaning off my side of the street?
- How will I make living amends to others? To myself?
- The AABB tells us that “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.” The life transformations expressed are known as The Promises. Read The Promises found on page 83 (last paragraph “If we are painstaking…”) to page 84 (first 2 paragraphs ending with “…They will always materialize if we work for them.”) Have any of these promises been realized for me? Which ones?
- What are some of my experiences in making amends? What were my feelings before, during, and after?
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AABB, 4th Ed. pages 76-84)
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous - Step 9
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step 9
The Twelve Steps