Leader's Share and Step Questions
STEP Eight: "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Hi WTS loopies! SusanB here, still a recovering COE, sugar addict and emotional eater. Thank you for your shares the past week. We sure had quite a journey so far. If you are still falling behind, no need to worry – just keep on keeping on. The best is yet to come! Your shares are helping me and the loop more than you can realise at this stage.
Step Eight reminds me that I did not only harm my body when I was in the food; I also damaged my loved ones, even more than I harmed my acquaintances, because I kept pretences when I encountered them. Makes me think of Elvis Presley's song "The great pretender". I have not been available to anybody (in an honest way) while I was busy with my insane eating behaviours.
Isolation has been my modus operandi for as long back as I can remember, but the past four years this phenomenon is gradually starting to change. As the debris of my past was/is taken care of and I progress[ed] in recovery, something woke up in my soul ~ I am learning to feel both pleasant and uncomfortable feelings without running away to my cave of isolation. I am better able to forgive myself and have more compassion for individuals I was convinced I would NEVER be able to forgive.
I believe it is no coincidence that ISOLATION is the first concept that is touched in the OA 12 and 12:
In our days of out-of-control eating, most of us were so obsessed with food we had little time to develop of nurture effective relationships with other people. When we were eating compulsively, we may not have fully realized how we had isolated ourselves. (OA 12 and 12, page 67)
I felt very sorry for myself while isolating, but food was very effective to dull my feelings. Makes me think of the programme slogan:
“Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.”
I gradually moved out of isolation, stopped picking up the food to bury my feelings and learned to accept responsibility for my present and past behaviours. Step Six and Seven greatly helped with the process of ego puncturing. The order in which the 12 steps is written is perfect, building upon one another as we are prepared to dig deeper and deeper to get rid of the debris of the past and present.
The principle of Step Eight: SELF DISCIPLINE
“In Step Eight … we looked at the damage we had done others and set about repairing it. Now we apply the same principle of self discipline …. to all of our actions. Self discipline makes us less likely to hurt other people and quicker to make amends when we do.” (OA 12 and 12, page 105)
EIGHTH STEP PRAYER:
Higher Power, I ask Your help in making my list
of all those I have harmed. I will take responsibility for
my mistakes and be forgiving to others as You are forgiving to me.
Grant me the willingness to begin my restitution. This I pray.
This prayer truly helps us to become willing to make amends. So we become more willing to apply the self discipline that is needed to press through the pain of making this list. The good news is that by the time we completed this list, we are so ready that we actually cannot wait to get our amends done in Step Nine.
Susan W (in a WTS study in 2012) shared a list (written by an unknown person) to demonstrate the difference between Trying and Being willing:
you are TRYING, this is a state of frustration.
you are WILLING, this is a state of great humility.
you are TRYING, this implies you know the answer (or should know it),
but cannot seem to come up with it.
WILLING implies you do not know, but are willing to learn.
you are TRYING, you are closed to guidance.
you are WILLING, you are open to receive.
you are TRYING, you fear failure.
you are WILLING, even "failure" may be used as a teaching device, for
you know you will be shown.
you are TRYING, the responsibility is on you.
WILLING places the responsibility on your HP.
Step Eight is described by the AA 12 and 12 as follows:
“It is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God.” (AA 12 and 12, page 82)
"Now we need more action, without which we find that ‘Faith without works is dead.’ Let's look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory." (AA Big Book, page 76)
Now we go out to our fellows and 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 and run the show ourselves. If we haven't the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol. (AA Big Book, page 76)
Why is it necessary to work these very, VERY difficult steps? We want to recover, even if it means going to any lengths.
“Clearly, if we were going to remain abstinent and find serenity, we had to learn better ways of dealing with other people... we look at our relationships for the purpose of discovering those patterns which have done harm to us and to others.” (OA 12 and 12, page 67)
But this is not the only reason. There are more:
"At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us." (AA Big Book, page 77)
“Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood with all…” (AA 12 and 12, page 77)
“We're not doing step eight to make other people feel better or like us better, WE'RE DOING IT FOR OURSELVES, so that we can recover from compulsive eating.” (Overeaters Anonymous, 2008: 69–70 emphasis is mine)
So what did Bill Wilson do? Here is what he did:
"My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability." (AA Big Book, page 13)
So we have some good reasons to work Steps Eight and Nine:
- to stop the self destructive behaviour of our illness and put our lives in order for OURSELVES;
- to find permanent recovery so that we can be of maximum service to God and the people about us; and
- to move out of isolation.
At this point it does not matter if you harmed others or if others harmed you. Don’t edit or eliminate anything. List everybody, institutions etc. that you have harmed, resent, or have anger towards. We will make amends in step nine so there is no need to worry about the details while we are busy making our list. We are simply making a list.
How do we make this list? OA 12 and 12 (page 68) says that "Step Eight is a two-part process, ..."
The first part of the list:
“...the first part of it which is to make a list in writing of all persons we have harmed…” (OA 12 and 12, page 68)
“…the harm we are consciously aware of having done to others... we now look with complete honesty to our side of each relationship.” OA 12 and 12 page 68 and 69, emphasis mine)
“… we look back over what we wrote on our fourth step and we draw from that inventory a list of names, adding to this list any other persons to whom we feel we owe amends.” (OA 12 and 12, page 68)
“…paying special attention to those which deal with ways in which our character defects have affected other people.” (OA 12 and 12, page 69)
The second part of the list is as follows:
“Now we must become willing to make amends to each person on our list.” (OA 12 and 12, page 70)
“…really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his wake. To a degree, he has already done this when taking moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt, and in what ways.” (AA 12 and 12, page 77)
“the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.” (AA 12 and 12, page 78)
So some obstacles I identified as I read Step Eight in the literature are:
- Obstacle One is FORGIVENESS (AA 12 and 12 page 78) “Here we learn about the healing power of forgiveness as we discover how to forgive ourselves and others.” (OA 12 and 12, page 67) “…our purpose in doing step eight is not to judge others, but to learn attitudes of mercy and forgiveness.” (OA 12 and 12, page 69) If someone hurt us or was rude to us and we feel badly toward that person we certainly need to do ourselves the favor of forgiving. However, that individual's name does not need to appear on our amends list unless we have also harmed him or her in some way.” (OA 12 and 12, page 69)
- Obstacle Two is EMBARRASSMENT (AA 12 and 12, page 78) In many cases this will seem like a frightening and humiliating prospect. We know we have done wrong and we are sorry for it, but to actually confess our deeds to the very people we've wronged seems impossible. After years of running from any kind of unpleasantness and hiding ourselves in food so we wouldn't have to feel embarrassment or pain, we're now asked to admit our failures and face all their consequences. And we're asked to do so while being abstinent, without eating compulsively to numb our feelings. (OA 12 and 12, page 70)
- Obstacle Three is FEAR & PRIDE (AA 12 and 12, page 79) “Our sponsors and other OAs who have walked this way before us will have good suggestions to help us with the task of becoming willing.” (OA 12 and 12, page 70)
- Obstacle Four is NOBODY KNEW ABOUT OUR ADDICTION (page 79) Often others did know ~ the evidence was obvious because most of us ‘wear’ our disease. The same goes for other addictions. Many people do know about our so-called ‘secret’ problem.
- Obstacle Five is PURPOSEFUL FORGETTING (AA 12 and 12, page 79) “The moment we ponder a twisted or broken relationship with another person, our emotions go on the defensive. To escape looking at the wrongs we have done another, we resentfully focus on the wrong he has done us. This is especially true if he has, in fact, behaved badly at all. Triumphantly we seize upon his misbehavior as the perfect excuse for minimizing or forgetting our own." (AA 12 and 12, page 77)
- Obstacle Six SUBCONSCIOUS FORGETTING (page 80) Also referred to as DENIAL = Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying.
So what is the "HARM" we did to others? Harm is defined in the AA 12 and 12 as follows:
“To define the word ‘harm’ in a practical way, we might call it the result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people.” (AA 12 and 12, page 80)
Examples of gross harms are further discussed
“If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others. If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional security and peace of mind. We really issue them an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong desire to retaliate in kind. (AA 12 and 12, page 80)
Examples of more subtle harms are:
“Suppose that in our family lives we happen to be miserly, irresponsible, callous, or cold. Suppose that we are irritable, critical, impatient, and humorless. Suppose we lavish attention upon one member of the family and neglect the others. What happens when we try to dominate the whole family, either by a rule of iron or by a constant outpouring of minute directions for just how their lives should be lived from hour to hour? What happens when we wallow in depression, self-pity oozing from every pore, and inflict that upon those about us?” . (AA 12 and 12, page 81)
Who did we do harm to as mentioned above (gross and subtle)?
“… shop, office, and the society …” (AA 12 and 12, page 81)
This list can be extended to our family, recovery friends, church, spouses, children, grandchildren… even sponsors and sponsees.
Your memory can be helped by going through the following categories:
For what type of harms do we make amends?
- Physical for example I hit somebody or gave somebody a sexual transmittable disease like HIV/AIDS.
- Emotional as in causing hurt, envy, suspicion, fear, bitterness, division etc. ~ including harm caused by gossip and insults.
- Financial where we broke somebody’s possessions, stole, failed to pay back debts, borrowed stuff and never returned them.
There are many other examples.
How old should these harms be?
Then, as year by year we walk back through our lives as far as memory will reach, we shall be bound to construct a long list of people who have, to some extent or other, been affected. (AA 12 and 12, page 81)
Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything. (AA Big Book, page 79)
It is critically important in this stage of our work to ask the help of our sponsors. We cannot hide in isolation or food or both, but need the ESH (Experience, Strength and Hope) of others who walked this road before. USE your sponsors!!!
“After years of running from any kind of unpleasantness and hiding ourselves in food ... At this stage of the program more than at any other, we will not want to try to go it alone. Here we will want to take our amends list to our sponsor and discuss the various problems with her or him. First of all, an experienced OA will be able to help us by making sure we actually do owe amends in each case. Further, a sponsor's suggestions about how to go about making amends will help us to become willing.” (OA 12 and 12, page 70)
“As we frankly discuss the actions we might take and words we might say, the making of amends begins to seem less threatening. For the first time, we begin to feel that we really may be able to face the people we have harmed.” (OA 12 and 12, page 70 – 71)
“A sponsor will often encourage us to think about forgiveness as we work through step eight. As long as we have not forgiven people for harms they have done us, we will find it impossible to make sincere amends to them for our side of the conflicts. Even in cases where we manage to muster the willingness to talk to them, we're very likely to bring up their mistakes and wind up insulting them, rather than making amends. Even if we don't bring up their mistakes directly, our ill will toward them will come through in other ways, if we have not truly forgiven them.” (OA 12 and 12, page 71)
"In many instances we are really dealing with fellow sufferers, people whose woes we have increased. If we are now about to ask forgiveness for ourselves, why shouldn't we start out by forgiving them, one and all?" (AA 12 and 12, page 78)
Forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free; to find that the prisoner is me. How do we forgive others?
We go back to our Step Four inventory and look at our resentments and why we were angry at others ~ if needed we can write more about our feelings. The OA 12 and 12 says that:
“The writing process can be very healing because more than any other tool of our program, it gets us in touch with our true feelings. Writing clarifies emotions which have been confused and buried in us, sometimes for many years. Also, by setting down our grievances in black and white, we place a boundary around them.” (OA 12 and 12, page 71)
If we did not share our hurt feelings in Step Five yet, now is the time to share them with our sponsors or somebody we trust. Feelings of hurt has a beginning and an end! Shared pain is healed pain…
I often use the strategy in the AA Big Book to get over a specific resentment:
“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free...Even when you don't really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don't mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.” (AA Big Book, page 552)
For hurt feelings, we can pray the following prayer:
“God, please help me to be free of anger and to see that the world and its people have dominated me. Show me that the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, has the power to actually kill me. Help me to master my resentments by understanding that the people who wrong me were perhaps spiritually sick. Please help me show those I resent the same tolerance, pity and patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend. Help me to see that this is a sick man. Father, please show me how I can be helpful to him and save me from being angry. Lord, help me to avoid retaliation or argument. I know I can’t be helpful to all people, but at least show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. Thy will be done." (Paraphrased from the AA Big Book, page 66 and 67)
I found these strategies very powerful. I had one very stubborn case where I just could not overcome the hurt and bitterness against an individual and my sponsor at the time recommended I close myself in a room and hit my frustrations out with a belt or any other object on a pillow. I was given permission to use strong language. I did and it worked… and I was free. I laughed and laughed towards the end. I cleaned up the feathers afterwards with a smile on my face... This may not work for all, but it worked for me.
By forgiving others we set ourselves free and we save our souls. We stop drinking poison, hoping the other person will die… Because the law of love works alike for one and all, we help to save the souls of them who did us wrong. Does it mean we will like our perpetrators who cause us so much pain? No, NO! We are not obliged to like anyone; but we are under a binding obligation to love everyone; to have a sense of good will and kindness, even if it is impersonal. No feelings need to be involved in this willingness to do the right thing. From personal experience I most often found my choice to forgive to be followed by a miraculous feeling of peace and happiness ~ sooner or later.
Remember that the eighth step does not specifically call for forgiveness. It is simply an aid in the process of becoming willing to make amends. Forgiveness may be an ideal we pray to grow towards. This can be an obstacle (if we refuse to forgive) or an aid (if we choose to forgive in spite of how we feel).
Step Eight does not have to be done perfectly:
"It is a task which we may perform with increasing skill, but never really finish." (AA 12 and 12, page 77)
But the rewards are:
“…defective relations with other human beings [are healed]... no field of investigation could yield more satisfying and valuable rewards... Calm, thoughtful reflection upon personal relations can deepen our insight… Thoroughness, we have found, will pay—and pay handsomely.” (AA 12 and 12, page 80)
i) Reading for this week
(ii) Go over your step four inventory of harms done to others and place them on a new list. Try to remember people you have harmed that are not on the lists and add their names. Add the names of people you have harmed after writing and sharing your inventory and share them with your sponsor. In a second column give a short statement of the harm done in each case. In a third column write out the words you may possibly use to make amends.
- Share one example with us if you wish.
- Which of your character defects have hurt or injured others or yourself?
- Do you see certain patterns from this list?
(iii) Some obstacles to be willing are removed while we're busy making our Step Eight list. What are/were your obstacles to become willing?
(iv) Listen to the YouTube (short video clip of about four minutes) and answer the following questions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExfG9K-Scto
- Why do you think forgiveness is important in working Step Eight?
- Are you willing to make amends to all the people on your eighth step list or are there some that you can’t see yourself making amends to?
- Are you willing to pray daily for those people who have wronged you?
(v) Do you feel you've been "going to any lengths" to overcome your compulsive eating behaviours? Do you think you are ready to move on to Step Nine? How come?
In loving fellowship
The Twelve Steps
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