Leader's Share and Step Questions
STEP Nine: "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Hi WTS loopies! I’m convinced that if we've gotten this far and survived to tell our stories, we're well on your way to recovery. I want to encourage you to keep working.
Step nine is the transition step between clearing the wreckage of the past and living in recovery ODAT. For me it was/ still is a very difficult step. The purpose of doing step nine is also to look at our sides of the street. After more than four years in this fellowship I learned to become ready and willing and leave the results up to my HP.
In the Big Book we read:
"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." (AA Big Book, page 76)
"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)
Making amends means to change, to compensate for an injury, loss or insult and to make up for wrongdoing. So we make up for the injuries or harm we did in the past. We endeavour to take away ill will and build healthy relationships.
This step also talks about making DIRECT amends, except if doing so would injure others. Then we make living amends which means that we live the 12 steps through our actions. Our actions will demonstrate that we're sorry for what we've done.
I learned through two painful amends that it is important not to have any expectations. How the other person reacts is unimportant. In the majority of cases amends were of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had in my life.
So I will share some of my stories with you to help prevent you from making amends for amends (like I tried to do). I did some things wrong. BUT EVEN if I did everything PERFECTLY right a positive outcome could not have been predicted.
About three years ago I made amends to a recovery friend for crossing boundaries and asked her forgiveness and she was not very friendly and told me that I had no right to ask forgiveness. Since then I've never again asked forgiveness from anybody, not even my family, children or husband. Today I simply own my side of the street, do my part, leave the results to God and I'm done.
A similar thing happened to me a year or two later. Again my boundaries were not strong and I had to make amends to a person (a veteran in the 12 step recovery programme) who was cold, distant and accused me of not clearing my amends with my sponsor at the time. She was right ~ I did not. I was guilty of buying my own peace of mind at her expense. I had to let it go and hope to never make a similar mistake again. I tried to make amends for wrongly made amends, but up till today it was not possible and I learned to accept it. The Big Book says "We should be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble without being servile or scraping... we don't crawl before anyone." (page 83) and I took this suggestion literally. I did my best and that was enough...
In both these cases I wanted to escape from very uncomfortable situations. Whenever certain individuals entered a virtual room I would fight the instinct to immediately run away, even though I did a few times. So this is a clue ~ If there is someone who makes you so uncomfortable that you want to escape from their presence, that is a person to whom you need to make amends. If you leave when you see that person, you are the one being affected and something is going on that may keep you in the disease. BUT remember clearance from your sponsor.
Remember the positive experiences I had with amends by far outweighed the above-mentioned cases. Be aware that thorough consultation with your sponsor is very important to prevent boo-boos, and to put expectations aside. We want to recover. This is our primary aim. We also want to be of service to the God of our understanding. We are in this program to stop hurting ourselves as well as others, so we are not making amends to win a popularity contest or to have a relationship with the people we make amends to. It is none of my business what the person does with whom I try to set the past straight.
When I was young in recovery (about three years ago) my sponsor helped me to make some amends as soon as possible, postpone some amends until later and make some indirect and living amends. My experience was very positive but I knew I was not DONE yet and in a way I procrastinated the most difficult amends with some vague excuses. I learned that this is dangerous and maybe I swayed too much to the other side of the scale by being too hasty the next time around and did not properly consulted experienced people in recovery.
Maybe we want to make amends succumbing to the temptation to justify why we did something? Or do we want to try and shift the blame to the other person? How very human of us… Remember that Step Nine is about OUR sides of the street ONLY and the harm WE did to OTHERS, not why we did what we did or what others did to us.
Preventing Step Nine mistakes are neatly summed up in the AA 12 and 12 in the contents, (page 7 and 8):
"A tranquil mood is the first requisite for good judgment. Good timing is important in making amends. What is courage? Prudence means taking calculated chances. …Peace of mind cannot be bought at the expense of others. Need for discretion. Readiness to take consequences of our past and to take responsibility for well-being of others is spirit of Step Nine."
The principle of Step Nine: BROTHERLY LOVE.
When we practice the principle of love we learn to accept others as they are, not as we would have them be. One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. (The Golden Rule). In this way we start to establish better relationships with the people in our lives.
NINTH STEP PRAYER:
Higher Power, I pray for the right attitude to make my amends,
being ever mindful not to harm others in the process.
I ask for Your guidance in making indirect amends.
Most important, I will continue to make amends
by staying abstinent, helping others & growing in spiritual progress.
"GOOD judgment, a careful sense of timing, courage, and prudence—these are the qualities we shall need when we take Step Nine." (AA 12 and 12, page 83).
- Good judgment: Having a sense of what's good or beneficial for yourself or others. That involves making a balanced decision, weighing the pros and cons. “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.” ~ slogan.
- Careful sense of timing: the ability to choose the best moment for some action.
- Courage: The ability to confront pain, fear, humiliation, or anything else a person would naturally stay away from and can be physical, mental or both.
- Prudence: An eloquent word describing common sense, careful conduct and good judgment.
Most of us need the courage to fight our fears, otherwise
“…our fears may make us want to procrastinate. We’re warned that to put off making our amends would immobilize us and threaten our recovery from compulsive eating. As soon as we have become willing in step eight, we need to move ahead quickly and act on that willingness." (OA 12 and 12, page 75)
We cannot waste any time. We need to move forward and pray for willingness.
We learned in Step Eight how to deal with those who harmed us, and learned that a forgiving spirit helps us to become more willing to do the hard work in Step Nine.
"It may be he has done us more harm than we have done him and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward him, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults. Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy than to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial to us. We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret." (AA Big Book, page 77)
How do we begin?
"These conversations can begin in a casual or natural way. But if no such opportunity presents itself, at some point we will want to summon all our courage, head straight for the person concerned, and lay our cards on the table. We needn't wallow in excessive remorse before those we have harmed, but amends at this level should always be forthright and generous" (AA 12 and 12, page 85 – 86)
"Simply tell him that we will never get over drinking [addictive food behaviours] until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off our side of the street… If our manner is calm, frank, and open, we will be gratified with the result."(AA Big Book, page 77 – 78, additions between bracket my own)
A few suggestions in the HOW department:
- AGAIN Honesty, Openness and Willingness.
- An expression of sorrow.
- Telling them that we want to make restitution and set things right.
- Say that God willing these things will never happen again.
“… keep the wording of our apologies as simple as possible, in order to avoid dragging in facts and details which might hurt people all over again. … avoid excuses, dramatizations, or detailed rehearsing of events surrounding our actions." (OA 12 and 12, page 77)
Wording may contain the following:
- “I regret that I added to… “ can be used where people harmed us but we have no responsibility.
- “I want to apologize for saying/doing/assuming” is applicable where we hurt somebody without meaning it.
- “I am sorry for saying/doing/neglecting etc.” are words used when we were guilty of wrong doing and want to set it right.
Remember some people may be hurt and angry at us with reason.
"Usually, however, other people are involved. Therefore, we are not to be the hasty and foolish martyr who would needlessly sacrifice others to save himself from the alcoholic pit." (AA Big Book, page 79)
A story is told about an addict in the Big Book who was in big trouble:
"A man we know had remarried. Because of resentment and drinking, he had not paid alimony to his first wife. She was furious. She went to court and got an order for his arrest. He had commenced our way of life, had secured a position, and was getting his head above water. It would have been impressive heroics if he had walked up to the Judge and said, 'Here I am.'
We thought he ought to be willing to do that if necessary, but if he were in jail he could provide nothing for either family. We suggested he write his first wife admitting his faults and asking forgiveness. He did, and also sent a small amount of money. He told her what he would try to do in the future. He said he was perfectly willing to go to jail is she insisted. Of course she did not, and the whole situation has only since been adjusted.
Before taking drastic action which might implicate other people we secure their consent. If we have obtained permission, have consulted with others, asked God to help and the drastic step is indicated we must not shrink." (AA Big Book, page 79 - 80)
Another true story is told on page 80 of the AA Big Book where one person was a liar and a cheat.
"After consulting with his wife and partner he came to the conclusion that it was better to take those risks than to stand before his Creator guilty of such ruinous slander. He saw that he had to place the outcome in God's hands or he would soon start drinking again, and all would be lost anyhow… [After admitting and amending his offence] his action [was] met [with] widespread approval, and today he is one of the most trusted citizens of his town." (AA Big Book, page 80, additions and changes between brackets my own)
Yet another example is given on page 81 and 82 where a man’s drinking complicated sexual relationships and disclosure to his wife about his unfaithfulness would cause more pain than she already endured.
"It is better, however, that one does not needlessly name a person upon whom she can vent jealousy.
Perhaps there are some cases where the utmost frankness is demanded. No outsider can appraise such an intimate situation. It may be that both will decide that the way of good sense and loving kindness is to let by-gones be by-gones. Each might pray about it, having the other one's happiness uppermost in mind. Keep it always in sight that we are dealing with that most terrible human emotion, jealousy." (AA Big Book, page 82)
The AA 12 and 12 divides different classes of direct amends:
(AA 12 and 12, page 83)
- "As soon as we become reasonably confident that we can maintain our sobriety;
- those to whom we can make only partial restitution, lest complete disclosures do them or others more harm than good;
- cases where action ought to be deferred; and
- others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all."
"There may be some wrongs we can never fully right. We don't worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would right them if we could. Some people cannot be seen - we sent them an honest letter. And there may be a valid reason for postponement in some cases. But we don't delay if it can be avoided. We should be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble without being servile or scraping. As God's people we stand on our feet; we don't crawl before anyone." (AA Big Book, page 83)
Common mistakes that we can make in Step Nine:
"At this first sitting [with our family], it is necessary only that we make a general admission of our defects. It may be unwise at this stage to rehash certain harrowing episodes. Good judgment will suggest that we ought to take our time." (AA 12 and 12, page 84, addition between brackets my own)
“…we cannot buy our own peace of mind at the expense of others.” (AA 12 and 12, page 84)
"Under no condition do we criticize such a person or argue." (AA Big Book, page 77)
"We are there to sweep off our side of the street... never trying to tell him what he should do. His faults are not discussed. We stick to our own." (AA Big Book, page 77 – 78)
“… at the office or factory...we may need to use a little more discretion than we did with the family. We may not want to say anything for several weeks, or longer. Then we are ready to go to these people, to tell them what A.A. is, and what we are trying to do. Against this background we can freely admit the damage we have done and make our apologies. We can pay, or promise to pay, whatever obligations, financial or otherwise, we owe.” (AA 12 and 12, page 84)
"Even our severest and most justified critics will frequently meet us more than halfway on the first trial." (AA 12 and 12, page 84 – 85)
So how will we know how to make our amends and prevent mistakes? We use our sponsor by talking over each case. In this way we may be more balanced and prevent chances for self justification. The biggie is to do more harm while making amends.
So there is enough help:
- First from our sponsor’s. His/her valuable experience, strength and hope (ESH) can help prevent mistakes of judgement. We tell our sponsors what we did, what was done to us, emotions that were involved, our fears, feelings and possible problems we may encounter. Our sponsors help us to keep our sanity while we make amends in Step Nine.
- Second we ask God. The 11th step says, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God...." We ask what God’s will is in each situation and for direction and guidance. We will instinctively know the right answer after a while.
- Third other recovery friends can also help, especially if they confirm what our sponsor said and what our intuitive feeling is after we prayed.
So what else can we expect when making our initial amends?
(AA 12 and 12, page 85, additions between brackets, and bullets my own)
- "An atmosphere of approval and praise [can] put us off balance by creating an insatiable appetite for more of the same.
- [W]e get a cool and sceptical reception. This will tempt us to argue, or to press our point insistently. Or maybe it will tempt us to discouragement and pessimism."
"In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens. Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits his own fault, so feuds of years' standing melt away in an hour. Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress. Our former enemies sometimes praise what we are doing and wish us well. Occasionally, they will offer assistance. It should not matter, however, if someone does throw us out of his office. We have made our demonstration, done our part. It's water over the dam." (AA Big Book, page 78)
"In most cases we'll be treated better than we've anticipated. Sometimes people won't even remember that we ever harmed them. Others might refuse our attempts to make restitution. In some rare instances there will be those who refuse to accept our apologies. If this happens, we release these people without rancor… They don't owe us forgiveness, and we don't need it to complete step nine and recover from compulsive eating. Our only job is to clear off our side of the street…” (OA 12 and 12, page 76 - 77)
“After taking this preliminary trial at making amends, we may enjoy such a sense of relief that we conclude our task is finished. We will want to rest on our laurels. The temptation to skip the more humiliating and dreaded meetings that still remain may be great. We will often manufacture plausible excuses for dodging these issues entirely. Or we may just procrastinate, telling ourselves the time is not yet, when in reality we have already passed up many a fine chance to right a serious wrong. Let's not talk prudence while practicing evasion.” (AA 12 and 12, page 85)
It’s common to see a dramatic effect when we start making amends. We start to feel better and the danger is that we don’t complete the list. I did not during my first round and I headed for trouble ~ I relapsed. During my second round I did my best and was willing to make these amends and by the grace of my HP those very people on my list crossed my path out of the blue. How neat is that? God made a way once I demonstrated my willingness.
"As soon as we begin to feel confident in our new way of life and have begun, by our behavior and example, to convince those about us that we are indeed changing for the better, it is usually safe to talk in complete frankness with those who have been seriously affected, even those who may be only a little or not at all aware of what we have done to them. The only exceptions we will make will be cases where our disclosure would cause actual harm." (AA 12 and 12, page 85)
When can we NOT make amends or amends can land us in jail?
"That will arise in the occasional situation where to make a full revelation would seriously harm the one to whom we are making amends. Or—quite as important— other people. We cannot, for example, unload a detailed account of extramarital adventuring upon the shoulders of our unsuspecting wife or husband. And even in those cases where such a matter must be discussed, let's try to avoid harming third parties, whoever they may be." (AA 12 and 12, page 86)
"Are we going to be so rigidly righteous about making amends that we don't care what happens to the family and home? Or do we first consult those who are to be gravely affected? Do we lay the matter before our sponsor or spiritual adviser, earnestly asking God's help and guidance" (AA 12 and 12, page 86)
"Of course, there is no pat answer which can fit all such dilemmas. But all of them do require a complete willingness to make amends as fast and as far as may be possible in a given set of conditions." (AA 12 and 12, page 87)
"Most alcoholics owe money. We do not dodge our creditors. Telling them what we are trying to do, we make no bones about our drinking; they usually know it anyway, whether we think so or not. Nor are we afraid of disclosing our alcoholism on the theory it may cause financial harm. Approached in this way, the most ruthless creditor will sometimes surprise us. Arranging the best deal we can we let these people know we are sorry. Our drinking has made us slow to pay. We must lose our fear of creditors no matter how far we have to go, for we are liable to drink if we are afraid to face them". (AA Big Book, page 78)
"Perhaps we have committed a criminal offense which might land us in jail if it were known to the authorities... we are sure we would be imprisoned or lose our job if it were known… Maybe we are divorced, and have remarried but haven't kept up the alimony to number one. She is indignant about it, and has a warrant out for our arrest. That's a common form of trouble too." (AA Big Book, page 78 – 79)
“…we should try to be absolutely sure that we are not delaying because we are afraid.” (AA 12 and 12, page 87)
So, how do we handle these difficult amends?
“…there are some general principles which we find guiding. 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)
Sometimes a person cannot not be located, or they are in another country or far. Step Nine says “DIRECT AMENDS”, so I have to be willing to go to any lengths to make direct amends. Drive to that person, take an airplane, pick up the phone, write a letter or an email, but DO something. It’s so easy to find people on social media nowadays, the sky is the limit.
“… we may put in writing the words we would say to them if we could see them face-to-face. We might write down our acknowledgment of the wrong we did and outline our plans to make things right with them. As we go on with our program, we'll need to continue searching for them, resolving to make the amends directly once we've found them. We are sometimes surprised by the sudden reappearance of people on our amends list who have been out of our lives for years.” (OA 12 and 12, page 79)
What about indirect amends and when is this method indicated? When a person died, we can write down the wrongs we did to them. They refer to indirect amends.
“… we might read the letter out loud at some place that reminds us of them. The restitution part of our amends might be made by a gift to their favorite charity, by help given to a member of their family, or in some other appropriate manner.” (OA 12 and 12, page 79)
AND living amends? Living amends refer to a change in behaviour and attitude:
Our behavior will convince them more than our words. We must remember that ten or twenty years of drunkenness would make a skeptic out of anyone. (AA Big Book, page 83)
Living amends will also be used when ill feelings were involved (remember, only from our sides of the street):
“… remember that we make direct amends for our actions (or inaction when action was called for) rather than for our feelings. To go to someone and say 'I'm sorry I've dislike you all these years,' is inappropriate and will only inflict pain. The appropriate way to make up for five years of secret jealousy or hatred is to replace it with five years of open acceptance, respect, and love.” (OA 12 and 12, page 80)
Making right and then carrying on doing the same offence again is useless. We can make direct amends, live different (living amends) and ask our HP to change the way we are with people; to remove or transform our shortcomings or coping mechanism.
Is it not enough that we stay abstinent and forget about the past? Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) not. We are to live on spiritual basis to stay abstinent on the longterm:
"The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept he home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, "Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin?'
Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won't fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very careful not to criticize them. Their defects may be glaring, but the chances are that our own actions are partly responsible. So we clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love." (AA Big Book, page 82-83)
The Spiritual malady is described in the Big Book:
"We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people-was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important than whether we should see newsreels of lunar flight? Of course it was." (AA Big Book, page 52)
The spiritual malady (also known as bedevilments) brings us to a comparison with the Promises:
Big Book, page 52)
Big Book, page 83-84)
were having trouble with personal relationships.
will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Self-seeking will slip away.
couldn't control our emotional natures.
will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
were a prey to misery and depression.
whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
couldn't make a living.
of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
had a feeling of uselessness.
feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
were full of fear.
will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
couldn't seem to be of real help to other people.
matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our
experience can benefit others. We will not regret the past nor wish to
shut the door on it.
(Available at: http://www.thejaywalker.com/pages/52vs83.html)
When we procrastinate working Step Nine, we procrastinate on getting the results of this programme. Do you want these promises to come true for you? Let me put it this way - we cannot expect to get a perfect product of a recipe when we use only part of the ingredients. Are we still willing to go to any lengths to recover? If the answer is yes, the promises will be ours for the taking. Half measures availed us nothing. Ask those who relapsed how many actually worked Step nine…
"If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them." (AA Big Book, page 83 – 84)
"This step has freed us from the shackles of our past mistakes in a miraculous way. Our lives are changed, our broken relationships are mended, and the ill will which poisoned our hearts for years is washed away." (OA 12 and 12, page 75)
What about making amends to ourselves? Speaking for myself, I believe by getting out of my self centeredness and helping others I make amends to others AND myself.
Working the steps and recovering from our compulsive eating behaviour is the best amends we can make to ourselves. It is very important that we get started, not only for ourselves, but also for other purposes.
"…to put our lives in order… 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)
(i) Reading for this week
(ii) If you worked Step Nine before, have you ever had to make amends for the way you made amends? If it's the first time for you to work Step Nine, how will you make sure that the above will not be needed?
(iii) "The [compulsive eater] is like a tornado roaring his way thru the lives of others." (AA Big Book, page 82, changes between brackets mine) How were you like a tornado in the lives of others?
(iv) When is it appropriate to delay making amends?
(v) Did you start making your amends? How did it feel? Do you care to share with us an example and what the outcome was?
(vi) How will you make amends to yourself?
(vii) Which of the ninth step promises on pages 83-84 are being fulfilled for you?
(viii) “I've heard it said that shame can be overcome by disclosure. What is this ‘disclosure’? We certainly touched upon it in our Step Four inventory -- we disclosed to ourselves our wrongdoings. Then in Step Five, we disclosed our inventory to our sponsors. In Step Nine, we get another chance at disclosure -- disclosing our wrongdoings to people in our lives by apologizing to them for that behavior. All of this DISCLOSURE relieves us of shame. Shame is like the dark shadow that hangs over our ‘drug use’ [compulsive food behaviours]. Disclosure is like a bright light shining into that dark area, making it disappear (along with our drug use) [compulsive food behaviours]. Light and dark can't exist in the same place.” (Susan W, in a previous WTS). Please reflect on the role of disclosure in Step Five and Step Nine?
In loving fellowship
The Twelve Steps
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