Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
ACTION: Make Amends
~ Finish the earlier reading if you haven't as yet
~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - Chapter 6 "Into Action," 8 pages, beginning at the bottom of page 76 with the last (fourth) paragraph on the page, beginning with "Probably there are still some misgivings," and ending on page 84, in the middle of the page with the sentence "They will always materialize if we work for them."
~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step Nine
~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step Nine
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.
Hello again, friends. I'm so grateful to be with you through this study experience. Thank you for hanging in with us and sharing. Your shares help me, and I'm sure they are helping you, and others as well.
You are not alone in feeling discomfort, even dread. "Before we do the step, most of us dread the thought of going to each person we've harmed, frankly acknowledging our faults, and taking direct action to remedy the damage we did or repay the losses we caused." OA 12 & 12. But we are reassured that the AA Big Book, AA 12 and 12 and OA 12 and 12 all tell us IT'S WORTH IT and WE NEED THIS. "Our lives are changed, our broken relationships mended, and the ill will which poisoned our hearts for years is washed away." OA 12 and 12.
We move right along from our step eight list and our willingness, into step nine, making amends - cleaning up the debris of the past so that we can stop compulsive eating and live "happy, joyous and free." By taking action, we are removing the ties which have bound us to old ways of dealing with life, including compulsive eating. "We don't delay if it can be avoided." AA 12 & 12. "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.
Guilt and shame about our actions, and anger, ill will and resentment about the actions of others - these are the essence of the heavy baggage we have been carrying, hiding from, ignoring, struggling with. These are the things we have been burying under mountains of food, and the things we now begin to resolve with others so that we can complete the process of letting them go.
To amend, in the dictionary, includes:
- to put right
- to change or modify for the better
- to improve (amend the situation)
- to reform oneself
All of these are part of our intention.
ATTITUDE The right attitude is important as we make amends: "...a sincere desire to set right the wrong." AA Big Book. If I hold this thought in my mind as I consider my list, it helps me decide how to approach a person or a situation. In any situation which is particularly touchy, risky or fraught with emotion, it's good to discuss it with our sponsor. It would be great if the other person accepts our amends and apologizes for their part, if any, in the situation, but it is not necessary, and "...we must let go of any expectations we may have of how the other people will receive us...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 by doing whatever we can to right our wrongs." OA 12 and 12.
WHAT ACTUALLY DO WE DO? Amends will usually include some or all of the following:
- Acknowledge the specific harm we've done
- Make restitution
- Change our behavior toward them in the future
- Tell the persons what sorts of changes or restitution we are undertaking
- Make clear we are glad for a chance to set right our wrongs
- If we have lied, set the record straight, providing we can do so without causing further harm
HOW DO WE DO IT? The OA 12 and 12 has some suggestions:
- "be sincere and direct in our approach"
- "an honest and straightforward acknowledgment of our mistakes"
- "keep the wording of our apologies as simple as possible...avoid dragging in facts and details which might hurt people all over again."
- "a simply worded statement of the things we did to cause them harm, and we express our sincere regrets"
- "avoid mention of things they may have done to provoke us"
- "avoid excuses, dramatizations, or detailed rehashing of events surrounding our actions"
The AA 12 and 12 identifies four types of situations in making amends:
1. Those we can and need to do as soon as possible
2. Those we can only partially amend, to avoid doing further harm to others
3. Those where we need to defer action
4. Those where we will never be able to make direct amends, because the person has died or can't be located
ASAP (AS SOON AS POSSIBLE) AMENDS We have probably already begun making these amends to those we live and/or work with. These direct amends may well continue for a lifetime as "living amends." These amends probably include changes in behavior in daily life, changes how we accept and deal with others, and changes in our basic attitudes.
After apologizing for my past behavior, part of my direct amends to others is acceptance of them as they are. I used to think I was a very accepting and "live and let live" person, but as a result of working the steps in my daily life I have discovered my basic critical and judgmental defect which pops up as go through daily life. And I've discovered how it poisons me. So acceptance of myself and others as we are, as God/my Higher Power accepts us, is part of my amends. To do this I need to keep working the other steps each day, because without seeing and accepting my own powerlessness over my defects, without asking for them to be removed, without praying and meditating, I can't get to the point of accepting others. "Only by permanently changing our harmful attitudes and actions can we make it up to ourselves and our loved ones for the hurts of the past." OA 12 and 12.
For me, this has been the biggest focus of my step nine work - disclosing my harmful actions, apologizing, changing my behavior toward my husband, my children, my mother, my brother, and those I work with, changing the way I behave with others as life goes on. I made an amend to my daughter for rejecting her request when she asked for help when she was a child and I was selfishly wanting "me time," probably including hiding and eating and reading - something that had bothered me deeply all these years. She didn't remember it. I realized that the defect and my obsession about it wasn't so much about the incident, but about the way I had distanced myself from her and her needs and retreated into my addictive exaggerations of self-care, and I am amending this to her and others as I go forward.
I made an amend to my brother for hitting him, yelling at him, scapegoating him, lying to him and lying about it to our mother, when we were children, when I was left in charge - something that had bothered me ever since. He barely remembered it and thought it was funny. I realized that my bad feelings about this incident were more about guilt and shame about my steamroller "self-seeking" defect of dominating others, trying to make people bend to my will, getting my way, no matter the harm it did to them, a defect which continued to play out as I went on through life. The amend includes changing the way I am with him and with others going forward, not telling others what to do, how to do it, not "running the show," praying for him and for others, accepting that others have their ways, which may be different and even better than "my way."
Unexpected gifts of this amend are that I am learning to practice humility, and I am learning so much from others - unanticipated benefits of humility.
PARTIAL AMENDS TO AVOID HARM TO OTHERS Step nine has an exception: we make direct amends "except when to do so would injure them or others." As the Big Book says, in many ways we have been like a "...tornado roaring his way through the lives of others." We certainly don't want to do further damage by approaching our amends in a similar fashion. Amends may be made anonymously to avoid hurting others, but not if it is only to avoid our own embarrassment.
DEFERRED ACTION AMENDS Circumstances or conditions may require that a direct amends be deferred. However we can begin indirect amends, make a plan for the amends, make a plan for restitution, begin action on it, and be prepared to make or complete direct amends as soon as possible.
"NOT POSSIBLE" AMENDS Where we can't locate the person, or they have died, we make indirect amends. The OA 12 and 12 suggests writing our acknowledgment of the wrong, and outlining our plan to make things right. Restitution can be made to their family, to charity, or to others. If a person we couldn't locate becomes available, we can make direct amends.
THE PROMISES - WHY WE ARE DOING THIS One of the most quoted sections of the AA Big Book is "the promises" beginning at the bottom of page 83. The OA 12 and 12 also provides a promises: "We no longer need the crutch of excess food because we have discovered a new way of life which nourishes us physically, emotionally, and spiritually." It makes sense that the promises come after step nine, because step nine is the completion of a housecleaning of the past messes we have created and carried around with us, poisoning the well of our lives. The first nine steps help us prepare for a new beginning, of living on a new basis, with new attitudes, new behaviors, a new source of energy. Although for me, I wasn't "struck abstinent" at the completion of step nine, I did begin experiencing significant abstinence, and I did see the promises begin coming through in my daily life, and I was relieved of much discomfort in my relations with others and the way I experience stress, and I am grateful. And as they say, "more will be revealed." And as the Big Book says, "They will always materialize if we work for them." I keep finding surprising gifts of this 12 step work.
FOR YOUR REFLECTION AND COMMENT:
1. What concerns, difficulties or obstacles do you have as you work step nine?
2. What actions are you taking to work step nine?
3. If you are comfortable, describe how you experienced a particular amend.
4. What "promises" are you beginning to experience?
5. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or step nine?
The Twelve Steps