In my journey through the Twelve Steps, a spiritual awakening forms the purpose of healing my relationships with self, others and God. To be free of addiction, I must be willing to go to any lengths to achieve this spiritual healing. Step Eight is crucial to living out this goal, even if I am threatened by the possibility of facing my most difficult relationships. I have been in a midst of transforming my thinking, behaviors and attitudes. My pride and false self was punctured to reveal the new “skin” of a humble, teachable spirit. Step Eight may activate my egos and defensiveness once more. Making my amends to some of the painful relations of the past can activate fear of the possible humiliation in store when I contact these people “It’s in the past; it’s over and done with; nothing can be changed now.” I will want to protest. I also want to point out to my sponsors and trusted advisors that these are people who harmed ME. When do I have make amends? I cry. My excuses are ways to resist forgiveness. I may fear that other people will perceive that I may fear that other people will perceive that I condone their behavior, or that I am allowing others to take advantage of me. Forgiveness is required if I am to achieve lasting recovery from addictive substances and behaviors. I need to shatter my pride to develop deeper humility that opens the way to forgiveness. God expects me to extend mercy to other people, just as God has extended to me. It transcend my own hurts and have mercy on others who have harmed me, I will remain in the prison of my addictions. Lasting recovery and serenity will continue to elude me. I have to identify and admit the harm I have caused others in my list. I may cling to the belief that my addiction didn’t harm anyone but myself, either because no one knew about it, or because I ate or drank only at home. I am now going to be even more drastic in taking responsibility for myself because I want spiritual freedom. It is challenging. I must now examine my unintentional sins and how unaware of the fact that food/alcohol (and other addictive substances and behaviors) affects my moods, emotions and judgment. The harm may not be tangible, but it is damaging. What about family members who suffered our silent scorn, pouting, or depressive bouts? What about the emotional effects of my angry tirades? What about subjecting my family to my poor judgment with money, time, decisions for work and moving from city to city? I can see that my list may be quite extensive. This step is only for list making and for becoming willing to make amends. I must work with my sponsor to reach a decision about whom I will make amends to when I work the next step. If I keep putting off making my list, as I think of Step Nine, then I am not fully engaged in the task of Step Eight. I become willing to amend my ways and take responsibility for myself, after making poor choices under the influence or just being insensitive and unaware of my effect on others. I may put off working this step because I am afraid of the responses I will get. I am not responsible for how THEY respond, or for my WILLINGNESS to set the relationship right. My resentment and defensiveness--natural responses to unhealthy relationships--will block me from offering forgiveness to the people on the list. I may have to review Step Four for my part in these situations. Step Four through Nine is actually for “plowing up the hard ground of (my) heart.” As I become clear about my responsibility for my crop of anger, grief, and sadness over broken and lost relationships can be more open to the process of making amends. The “plowing up” that occurs by taking these steps and seeking God’s will is actually the beginning of a new crop of forgiveness and compassion toward those I have hurt and those who have hurt me. I may still have to face negative consequences from my addictive behaviors, but my heart work will become life-changing recovery. I realize that my wrongdoings have been forgiven and that I am on a path of new life. I am more adaptable to offer forgiveness and understanding to others. The act of humility and forgiveness opens me to willingness to make amends. I must acknowledge that I have hurt myself and I must put my name at the top of the list of people I have harmed. Willingness to forgive myself and make amends to myself makes it easier to do the same for others. I am ready for Step Nine.
STEP EIGHT: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE: Self Discipline; defined as the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptation to abandon it.
SUGGESTED READING FOR STEP EIGHT:
AA Big Book (p. 76-79), Into Action
OA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions (p. 67-73)
This AA Big Book information that I am sharing is from Lawrie Cherniack (5-6-08)
Step Eight and Nine are not discussed separately in the Big Book. They discuss one action--making amends--which is broken down into two parts--being ready to make amends to everyone we’ve hurt and making only amends if we won’t hurt other people, including those we’ve already hurt.
These are action steps which actually bring us recovery from compulsive eating. They are the steps which remove our character defects and allow us to become different people-- recovered people, people full of hope who are able to transmit that hope to the compulsive eater who still suffers. The Big Book’s instructions are simple. First we make a list of people we had harmed and figure out what harm we’ve done to them. We made that list the Big Book says, “when we took inventory” (page 76). Then we make those amends unless to do so would injure them or others. Really quite simple.
Types of Amends:
What kind of amends are there?
The Big Book -- through examples -- lists three kinds of direct amends.
The first is EYEBALL TO EYEBALL -- “I am sorry for what I have done.”
The second is RESTITUTION -- “I will make-up for what I have done.”
The third is TAKING THE PUBLIC CONSEQUENCES -- “I will make know to other people what I have done.”
When you think about it, these are the only three kinds of direct amends. You go directly to a person and apologize and/or make up for the harm you’ve done; or if the harm you’ve done has had broader consequences, you have to make broader amends.
The Big Book discussed living amends from the middle of page 82 to the middle of page 83. Here is the concept is that direct amends simple aren’t enough for people with whom we have had long-term relationships; they don’t need apologies or restitution--they need a new person to have a relationship with.
AMENDS WE CANNOT MAKE:
And on page 83 the Big Book discusses amends we can’t make and promises us that if we are ready to make them, that is good enough.
The Big Book provides two basic rules for making amends. The first is that if they are possible to make, we must make them or else we will not recover. The second is that in making our amends, we sweep our side of the street off and not deal with the wrongs others have done to us.
Step Eight Prayers:
The Big Book gives us Step Eight prayers:
If we’re not willing to go to others and make amends, the Big Book suggests on page 76: “If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes.”
And on page 79:
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.
So our prayers are clear: “God, give me the will to do this. God, please give me the strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be.”
SAMPLE STEP EIGHT WORKSHEET:
(Carefully survey the compiled list of persons and how you harmed them and then decide exactly what character defect of the Acquired False Self injured and disturbed them. Briefly note beside each person the defects involved. An accurate and really exhaustive survey on your past life will lead to your eventual freedom from the bondage of self).
Eight Step Worksheet #1
Proposed List of Those I Have Harmed
Type of Harm Caused:
Willing to Make Amends?:
Type of Harm Caused: (Briefly describe how the harm came in each of these areas that apply)
Proposed List of Those Who Have Harmed Me
Willing to make Amends?
Type of Harm Caused
Type of Harm Caused: Briefly describe how the harm came in each of these areas that apply)
OA 12 STEPS AND 12 TRADITIONS
Most of us were so obsessed with food, we had little time to develop or nurture effective relationships with other people. We had isolated ourselves. We usually found that our defective ways of dealing with others were a source of pain so we were tempted to eat again rather than face it. Clearly if we are going to remain abstinent and find serenity, we had to learn better ways of dealing with people. In Step Eight, we look at our relationships for the purpose of discovering those patterns which have done harm to us and to others, and about the healing power of forgiveness. Here we discover how to forgive ourselves and others. Most important, we begin here to become willing to make AMENDS that is to make CHANGES -- in the way we deal with the people who share our lives. Step Eight is a two part process, the first part is to make a list in writing of all persons we have harmed. Perhaps to help us answer the question of “what is harm” we might think about some of the ways in which we’ve been hurt and ask ourselves, “Have I ever dealt with another person in a similar way?” We may be surprised by answering honestly, to learn that we ourselves have given others the same sort of treatment which hurt us the most when we were on the receiving end. The written moral inventory we did in Step Four will help us to make a list of the people we have harmed. Our own name belongs somewhere near the top of our eighth-step list. Yes, we harmed other people, but we have also damaged ourselves with our self-destructive thinking, eating and living habits. An complete willingness to make amends to ourselves and to forgive ourselves for past mistakes has been essential to our recovery. We look with complete honesty at our side of each relationship. We have to remember that our purpose in doing step eight is not to judge others, but to learn attitudes of mercy and forgiveness. We are doing step eight for ourselves, so that WE can recover from compulsive eating. Once we wrote every name of every person we harmed then we are ready to grapple with the second half of step eight. Now we must become willing to make amends. This can be sometimes frightening and humiliating prospect. We’re now asked to admit our failures and face all their consequences. And asked to do so while being abstinent, without eating compulsively to numb our feelings. How can we possibly become willing? Our sponsor and other OA’s will guide us and give us good suggestions to help us with this task of becoming willing. Here we will want to take our amends list to our sponsor and discuss the various problems with her or him. A sponsor will often encourage us to think about forgiveness. Since forgiveness is obviously essential to completing Step Eight, some discussion of how to forgive another person is in order. Forgiving someone by writing down in black and white the reasons why we are angry with this person. The writing process can be very healing because it gets us in touch with our true feelings and emotions. We find it is helpful to give away what we’ve written. There are different ways to symbolically release the hurt, perhaps by burning the writing or tearing it up and throwing the pieces away. Prayers can be used to free us of resentments and unforgiveness. If we keep praying for them faithfully, sooner or later our feeling will change. When we find ourselves being sincere because of our change of feelings, then we will know we have forgiven them. We need to remember, however, that we can be WILLING to do something we don’t WANT to do. We turn to God, asking willingness to do the things we fear, to make the amends we owe.
NOW YOUR PART:
QUESTIONS FOR STEP EIGHT
What excuses have I used for not looking at my behavior?
In what areas have I unintentionally harmed others with my words, moods, self-pity, depression, anger or fears?
Have I held on to shame about a certain incident or relationship? What am I willing to do to let go so that I can become willing to make amends?
How have I allowed isolation due to shame and guilt to keep me from supportive relationships?
Are there people on my list, that I am having trouble forgiving for THEIR part in our relationship? Who and Why?
Have I been so afraid of rejection that I have delayed willingness to make amends? Who could reject me and why?
What “crop” did I sow while practicing my addiction?
What have I learned from Step Eight?
The Twelve Steps
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