8—Step 8—Cleaning House
Welcome to Week 8 of the Working the Steps study for the first quarter of 2015. I am Cindy M., a compulsive overeater in recovery, thankful to share with you in this study. All the lessons are available here: http://www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2015/index.html
Steps 8 and 9, mentioned briefly on p. 76 in the Big Book, go together, as completing some of the amends—the easier ones—allows us to get brave enough to do some of the harder amends. But we will look just at Step 8 this week, since you should be communicating with your sponsor before launching out into Step 9—actually making the amends.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed,
And became willing to make amends to them all.
Who do you make amends to? To people you have harmed. We get the list of these people from our own minds and especially from our Step 4 inventory. It’s kind of funny that the people we have resentments against are the ones we need to make amends to, isn’t it?
For me, for example, one of my four children is a particular challenge, and this child appeared on my resentments list (as did they all, actually). But as I worked through my resentments against him/her, I was able to find my part (that last column in some of the published inventories), and I realized more fully ways that I had harmed this child. I discovered in the process that my own wrongdoing against the child fed into my defensiveness that picked up that child’s harms as a shield against my own responsibility. But working the steps helped me see my part more fully, and I was able to isolate particular harms in order to make amends.
Some of the materials I’ve provided in the first lessons may have guided you to a particular Step 8 form or process, but if you don’t have one picked out yet, try the one at www.oabigbook.info. This one helps us work our way through these sticky issues to come up with a plan we can discuss with our sponsors. This particular form asks for the person’s name, the harm(s) we’ve done, possible amends we can think of, possible issues with making those amends, and an assessment of our readiness to make the amends (now, later, or never). It’s comforting to know we’re “allowed” to confess we cannot see when we will ever be able to make the amends!
Part of this step is to become willing to make amends to them all. For now it is ok to leave that “never” box checked for some of them, because as you work through the “now” and “later” boxes, you’ll find—I have it upon good testimony and my own experience—that you become even eager to get them done!
Once this chart is complete, you are ready to review it with your sponsor. In particular, consider these possibilities of amends:
- Apology—simply telling the person what you perceive you have done to him/her, and apologizing for it. This is NOT the time to go into his or her part—what led to your retaliating with the harm you did, for example. That’s called taking another person’s inventory, and we’re not to do that in recovery.
- Restitution—offering to pay back money or time or particular belongings. It’s interesting that ancient restitutions require paying back more than the original, to fully restore the person—like paying interest.
- Public Acknowledgement—for when it is appropriate to declare your harms and apologize to a larger group. I had a very moving experience once when a relative, in the presence of other relatives, acknowledged his harms against me (and family members) and expressed his gratitude that my family had persisted in maintaining relationship with him in the face of those harms. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my family life and still resonates with me.
- Living Amends—for those for whom words will not do. If you mistreated a pet, for example, loving that pet better, or loving another animal as a symbolic restitution for the earlier one, can be appropriate. Some family situations may be so complex and unhealthy that a person may not be capable of properly receiving a verbal apology, so just loving that person well will have to do. For my child I have harmed, my ongoing demonstration of my desire to treat him/her better is my living amends in connection with my verbal apology.
All our relationships—with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, religious bodies and community organizations, and government authorities, even HP—are possibilities for making amends. And some of them may not appear on the Step 4 inventory, so it’s good to add them on as you think of them.
As you work through your list, can you share discreetly an example of one or two of the amends you think might be appropriate in your case?
- How did you harm the person/organization/entity?
- What seems to be a good amends for this harm?
- What might stand in the way of making the amends?
- If you’re not quite ready to make the amends now, what is standing in the way?
- Has your sponsor had any feedback that you have found useful that might be useful to someone else on this list?
I have learned through the process of recovery that those who harmed me in the past have power over me, and that is a profoundly chilling thought. In releasing my hold on them for the harms they’ve done, I also release their power over me. And in moving into Steps 8 and 9, realizing my answering harms against them, I realize I can get even more freedom by clearing my own accounts.
I have been done great wrongs over my life, especially in my childhood, and I used to make people marvel at my war stories. But I’ve found in recovery that I can deal with the still-problematic people on a much healthier basis, and their power, and my fear, has dribbled away. What a wonderful thing! Press on with this step, “to any lengths” (p. 76)—you’ll be glad!
Congratulations! You’ve completed Step 8! Next week we begin Step 9—Out on the Town.
Please write me privately at OneDayCindyM@embarqmail.com if I can answer any questions for you as you work through the study. I want it to be as helpful a study as it can be, and your feedback helps me do that!
For Those Who Have Time: Reading and Contemplation
Backing up just a moment, I realize I did not specifically assign Steps 6 and 7 in the 12-and-12, so please do review those chapters and add Step 8 to them this week. This section helps answer all those objections that jump up for us, and next week the content of the Big Book and the Step 9 material in the 12-and-12 will also help. So if this reading isn’t quite enough for you, and your sponsor is not available to help just now, go ahead and read these sections.
Whenever our pencil falters, we can fortify and cheer ourselves by remembering what A.A. experience in this Step has meant to others. It is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God. (12-and-12, 82)
Stop just a bit and think about what this can mean. In all my years of compulsive eating, beginning in childhood, I felt very alone. I believed God was “out there” and sought to please Him, but I certainly didn’t feel close to Him. I had the gift of a core grounding of faith, for which I am very thankful. But in my wounded immaturity, when the grownups in my life were not meeting my needs (though some tried, in terribly inadequate 1960s ways), I began “taking care of myself. That meant comforting myself with food, and excelling in the things I could excel in (academics, then music). I set myself apart with a prestigious scholarship, the only one in my high school class of almost 600 students. And so it went over the years. But I didn’t know how to have solid friendships or romances, and I was so very alone.
I spent decades like that—succeeding in many things, but growing fatter over the years, until my successes couldn’t outpace my handicaps from the weight. But in the last year and a half of recovery I have begun to experience depths of relationships with God and with people that have enriched my life in ways I did not think possible. These are the promises of our program! Amazing! Miraculous! And I’m living them! I want you to live them, too, so keep going with these steps!
Blessings in Recovery,
The Twelve Steps
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