I have a lot to share with you about step 9. When I first walked into a 12 step room, and read the steps on the wall, the very step that seemed an absolute impossibility was step 9., Not in a humble way either. The idea of saying Iím sorry to anyone was something I couldnít even fathom. At that point not only was my opinion that everybody was idiot, but I was certain that I was the ďrightestĒ any person could ever be about everything.
Thankfully, one of the ways Iím sure I have some recovery is that the 9th step is a critical part of my life now. When I did my first formal 9th step, about 2 and a half years into my first recovery, I had this list of about 13 people that Iíd been keeping for a while. Suddenly, one day, I felt that I wanted to make some amends. I knew a woman at the time who I considered very honest, and diligent about the moral principles of this program. I invited her over for dinner, and to show her my 8th step list. After I went over ever person, and explained what I thought my amend was, I said to her, ďdo you think Iím ready?Ē, and Iíll never forget her answer, she said ďNancy, you are so ready it isnít funnyĒ. So I proceeded. The most important amends I made were to a few former employers, which I handled by letter. I felt that what I needed to do was change their last thought of me. I didnít want it to be that woman who worked for them some odd years ago. Yes, I felt true remorse, and regret about the great jobs I frittered away with self-centered behavior. But I also wanted to be remembered as a woman who would write a respectful letter acknowledging her impact on the working relationship. The essence of those letters was a message that said ďI was thinking about you recently, and wanted to let you know that I am aware, today, that I wasnít a very good employee while working for you. I was having some serious personal problems at the time, and though I did get some help, and am doing better now, I wanted you to know that regret any trouble I caused you. You were a very kind employer. I hope things are going well for youĒ. I didnít say anything specific about what affliction I was suffering with. I felt it was enough to say I had problems that affected my work. After those letters went out I wasnít afraid any more to run into them on the street. I felt a heck of a lot better.
Another interesting amend experience I had was with a person in my ďneverĒ column. The reason I was reluctant to deal with this person was that I really didnít want him in my life. Though I was hurtful towards him years prior, I didnít like his personality. Iíd seen him often on the street and pretended I didnít know him, thatís how awkward I felt about what had happened. Nonetheless, about 12 years into my recovery I was at an interfaith church service, and it wasnít until the end of the service that I noticed this personís name on the program. I looked up, and lo and behold there he was, playing piano (he was a musician), at that moment, just like years before, I felt so ready to talk to him it wasnít funny. And I did. Boy was he angry at me, but with him I did explain that I was bottoming out on my addiction at the time and resented his happy, healthy life, which I did. It went well, though we arenít friends today. Iíve made amends to my deceased mother by writing a letter and burying it in her grave (a little morbid, I know). I guess I could have burned it, but thatís what I did at the time.
My experience is that when we are ready, we are ready, and I wouldnít make any amends a moment before you feel really compelled to do so. The payoff on all these efforts is spiritual relief, renewal, self respect. As faras mending broken relationships, thatís entirely up to you. But making amends doesnít necessarily mean you want to be friends, it does mean you want to acknowledge your behavior. Making restitutions for harms done is a practice as old as the hills. I encourage you to work with a sponsor, or another person whose spiritual growth, and whose experience you admire. This will be one of the most important spiritual tools in your toolbox. Making amends makes conflicts short work in the future. I promise you.
Questions for reflection:
Take one example of an amend that you plan to make, and share with us what you will be acknowledging in your amend, and what your desire is for the relationship going forward.
Can you think of an example of an amend that you would make, except that getting in touch with that person might harm them or others?
What is your understanding of a pattern of behavior that has run throughout your amends list, and what will you strive to do in the future to work towards not causing that kind of harm again.
For those of you who have experience making amends, can you share with us one amends situation that is particularly memorable for you?
In loving service,
The Twelve Steps