Step Nine

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

The AA 12+12 says, “Good judgment, a careful sense of timing, courage and prudence – these are the qualities that we will need to take Step Nine.”

That always made me a bit nervous, until I turned it around and realized what it was saying was “If you’ve properly done the previous eight steps, these are the qualities that you will begin to receive.”

We’ve reached the point in our journey where all of the hard work and dedication that go ne into our step work - all of the insights into our personality characteristics, how they’ve affected others, and how powerless we were to overcome them without the help of our Higher Power and other people – all this has prepared us for this “phase of our development”.

Having seen the damage that our actions had caused in our relations with others, and how our emotional maturity was stunted by our addictive behavior, we have been given the emotional energy and inner strength to address our transgressions, one by one

If we were thorough in our inventory, we recognize that fear of rejection or embarrassment, or just good-old fashioned procrastination are trying to sabotage our efforts to meet the challenge before us.

This step is about making DIRECT amends… not indirect or roundabout…
Live, in person, face to face, nowhere-to-hide amends for our misbehaviors.

As daunting as that sounds, this step, which may bring up feelings of dread and ambivalence, ultimately produces such a sense of freedom and increased self-esteem that we are promised to be “amazed before we are half-way through”.

As tempting as it may be to want to use the phone or send a letter – there is no substitute for standing before someone, despite our fears, and simply tell the truth, as so much of this past month has been about.

The Big Book tells us to keep things simple, explain why we’re there, and avoid qualifying our remarks, or risk stirring up a debate about who did what to whom.

It’s important that we not stray from our purpose – which is to take responsibility for our past acts, and to show respect and consideration of the other party’s feelings as we do.

Not everyone will respond with effusive praise, unqualified forgiveness and pats on the back – but almost all will give us credit for having the courage to own up to our shortcomings, and in many cases, we may find that their memory of the same past events were less traumatic for them than they were to us.

It was very helpful for me to write out what I intended to say beforehand.
When I practiced honing my presentation, it helped me avoid getting trapped in indecision, or getting tripped up because of the fear that the amend might go badly.

A formula that I’ve used that has been good to me is to let the party know that I want to address a past situation – say what was that I did or said, and be sure to make them aware that I’ve have a better understanding now as to what it must have been like for them…and that I regret putting them through that.

In some cases, sharing that you suffered from an addiction and am in recovery will seem to come naturally. In others, it’s not necessary. Just to say that you’ve been going through some changes and want to take responsibility will be very well received.

One of my more difficult amends involved a former employer that hired me when I was in a very difficult place in my career. He saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself, and he predicted that I would be successful, which turned out to be true.

However, I took advantage of him by padding an expense account. Because I did very well, I thought I was entitled to fabricate charges for meals or put in for personal things that had nothing to do with business for reimbursement

My boss was a pretty straight arrow, a no-nonsense sort of guy, and I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But I screwed up my nerve and made an appointment to sit with him, and told him that I had taken advantage of his generosity.

He sat there for a little while, and then he said that he had been in our line of business for a very long time, and he hadn’t met anyone who hadn’t taken advantage of his expense account from time to time…and that by coming forward, I showed him that he had made the right choice to hire me in the first place.

We agreed that I would withhold certain legitimate expenses until I had brought my account back to even, and that would be that.

It was…without a doubt, the one amend where I simply wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I didn’t think he would fire me, but I just didn’t know, and I had to set aside my expectations and simply do the right thing, and trust that the inherent ability for people to forgive in the face of sincere regret would shine through.

Nothing is more real and more encouraging than witnessing another person show compassion and forgiveness when we make an amend.

And most of our tougher amends tend to be with people that we once (or still) loved, respected, or appreciated

An amend isn’t just about saying I’m sorry, or about eating crow, it’s about saying “I’ve changed, and I understand things that I didn’t understand before.”

That is the ingredient that was missing when our transgressions were frequent, and our apologies just didn’t mean that much any more. We were a source of disappointment, or we manipulated people in ways that simply burned out whatever good will or friendship that we’d was achieved.

To amend is to change – to restore – to make right.

Regardless of the level of willingness that the person to whom we make the amend, WE know that we have made an unconditional investment in the relationship, and earned the right to walk with our heads up. And we’ve made an important step in earning back the respect of someone we may have harmed.

Where there are financial or material consequences to our actions, we must make arrangements to repay them. If the party is quick to “let us off the hook”, let them know that it’s important to you that you make things right. If they still decline, you can always make a donation to a charity or other cause that you believe they might support.

In the case of people that we’ve lost track of (after having tried to find them, of course; something that is easier and easier with new social networking tools), I encourage sponsees to write out what they would want to say, and create a file for when God sees fit to have your paths cross again.

If the individual has passed away, write the letter, and after properly preparing yourself, read it in a place that has some significance in your relationship with them; a gravesite, or some place that you spent time together.

If restitution is called for, and you can’t reimburse a loved one of his/her, find a way to make a meaningful contribution in someone else’s life.

In the end, our goals are simple:

Admit our wrongs
Don’t cause harm….
Demonstrate regret for past acts
Make arrangements to set things right (thru repayment or living amends – a change in future behavior)

We make amends for the things we do…not for what we thought.

The 12+12 talks about causing unnecessary harm by telling someone that you didn’t like or hated them, but never acted on it. We CAN, however change our behavior toward them to reflect our growing awareness that we all deserve respect and kindness

However, if you gossiped about them, or caused others to think ill of them, that is altogether different, and it probably does require admitting to damaging their reputation as a result of your words and/or actions.


Read Page 76 through the middle of page 84 of the Big Book. It’s quite noteworthy the amount of space given to the process of making amends. Clearly, it is fertile ground for physical, emotional and spiritual recovery

Read Step Nine in the OA 12+12

As usual – here is your weekly multiple choice question, the answer to which I’d like you all to include in your posting.

Make two amends this week, and continue to pursue opportunities to make other amends in a systematic and committed manner.

And, of course, report your current status on working the tools and the state of your physical abstinence.

1) I have made an effort to work the tools this week, but I could do much better.
2) I’m working the tools each day. It’s a regular part of my program and my abstinence.
3) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools, but I’m cleanly abstinent.
4) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools and I cannot stay/get abstinent.

Neil R.

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