Step Eight

Made a list of all persons we had harmed,
and became willing to make amends to them all.

Leader's Share and Step Questions

OA 12 &12, P. 82
It is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God.

Center yourself as you are able
Readings: AA Big Book, Page 76
AA 12&12, Step 8

Step Eight doesnít have much to say for itself in the Big Book of AA. It is not even mentioned separately, but in its context with step 9. The paragraph in the Big Book of AA that contains the only reference to Step 8 is on page 76 and it says
Now we need more action, without which we find that ďFaith without works is dead.Ē Letís 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. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self-appraisal.

What we can read here is that there are two parts -- make a list and become willing!

Making the list demands some more drastic self appraisal, but I, for one, thought I did that in Step 4. Am I really expected to do more? It turns out that Step 4 is a good start and will shine the light we need to do Step 8. We have a pretty good idea about our character defects, about what we resent and what we are afraid of. Step 8 lets us see how our character defects harmed others. And not just some others, but all others.

For me, this was really scary with Step 9 looming next. When we make this list we know that the next thing we will have to do is talk to the people on the list (unless it would harm them or others). I didnít want to do that -- Iíd avoided some of those folks for years; buried my feelings a bit, and lots of time blamed them for the harm I did them. This is a common reaction -- it is self defensive, yes? When I harm someone, I am in some sort of relationship with that person (or institution) -- even if it is only for a moment (the cashier at the convenience store) or long term (my spouse, parents, children). They may have harmed me, for sure, or even if not, I imagine they did. I allow myself to believe that the harm has been just one way -- he/she harmed me so problems in the relationship must be his/her fault. It is not true; even if the harm mostly came to me, it is absolutely true that I have also, or perhaps, only harmed them. Step 8 is about cleaning up MY own messes, and forgiving others their part as I need to do so. My recovery depends on this. This one is really all about me.

A.A. 12 & 12, pages 78-79.
"This attitude, of course, is the end result of purposeful forgetting. It is an attitude which can only be changed by a deep and honest search of our motives and actions."

When I think of this, the example that I think of is all the manipulation I have done to my family to get them to eat in restaurants. Oh my, did I ever! I would lie, manipulate time and distances, say I was too hungry (I was never too hungry) to wait. So much more. Not only did that mean they were doing things they didnít want to do, or eating things they didnít want to eat, but the fundamental harm is that I manipulated them -- they were victims of my dishonesty. My family -- my husband and my children -- are the very people who I want and expect to count on me for anything, yet I was harming their chances to trust me. Yet I would tell you that they were getting a treat. They were not. I was acting in complete service of my disease, and I harmed their emotional security.

Work the Step, Part I:
The Big Book seems to assume we know what it means to harm someone. I had a list of folks I knew I had harmed. The authors of the Big Book didnít specify, but by the time BIll W. got to the 12 &12* he does specify this a little more:

AA 12 &12 , p. 80
To define harm in any practical way, we might call it the results of instincts in collision which cause physical, mental emotional, or spiritual damage to people.

AA 12&12 p 81-82.
Ö.we can now commence to ransack memory for the people to whom we have given offense. To put a finger on the nearby and most deeply damaged one shouldnít be hard to do. 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 another, been affected. We should, of course, ponder and weigh each instance carefully. We shall want to hold ourselves to the course of admitting the things we have doe, meanwhile forgiving the wrongs done to us, real or fancied. ...we must not exaggerate our defects or theirs. A quiet objective view will be our steadfast aim.

All of this comes from the AA 12&12, but Iíve separated it into bullet points so that it might be easier for us to think about each in turn as we make our list. Think of each of these and write your list:

  • If our tempers are consistently bad, we arouse anger in others. (I was guilty there, for sure)
  • If we lie or cheat, we deprive others not only of their worldly goods, but of their emotional security, but of their piece of mind. We really issue then an invitation to become contemptuous and vengeful. (I think of this last piece as creating a space for others to harm me)
  • If our sex conduct is selfish, we may excite jealousy, misery, and a strong desire to retaliate in kind.
  • 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?
  • Ö..
  • When we take such personality traits as these into shop, office, and the society of our fellows, they do damage almost as extensive as that we have cause at home.

Work the Step, Part II -- our transition from our lists into Step 9.
The format of this step study gets us into a little bit of trouble. I donít think Step 8 and 9 were ever meant to be separated, yet in this study we do one step a week. (And I know there are many of you who have worked much longer than that on discrete steps.) As you work on the list this week, donít worry if you donít finish it -- it can (and should) overlap with step 9 so the following is really the beginning of Step 9. And when we get to Step 9 next week and then 10 through 12, we will find that the steps lose their discreet qualities, and that weíll have an ongoing practice of them, particularly 10 through 12.

I canít figure out a way to make this discreet, and since I believe it doesnít have to be -- this will be brief and weíll talk about the rest next week, I think.

AA Big Book, p. 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 our victory over alcohol.

Please redo this one with your own name, and with compulsive eating substituted for alcohol -- hereís mine:

Now I will go out to my fellows and I will repair the damage I have done in the past. I will sweep away the debris that has accumulated because I have lived on self-will and I have run the show myself. If I find I donít have the will for this, I will ask until it comes. I agreed at the beginning that I would go to ANY LENGTHS for my recovery from Compulsive Overeating.

About asking -- If you pray, pray for willingness, if you meditate, meditate on willingness. Do it everyday. Everyday. The willingness will come.

If you are in frequent contact with someone that you resent, and if that resentment flares every time you see this person, you have to find your way to forgiveness. One way is the resentment prayer:

AA Big Book, p. 66
"This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."

I remind myself that ďI love this personĒ -- that is my higher power, a deep and abiding commitment to love and service. And then I say a thank you that person is in my life. He or she has brought me lessons and I find joy in those lessons.

You can write lists of the personís assets, to help yourself be willing to own your own part in what has happened. Work with your sponsor on people with whom you find yourself resenting and blaming more than seeing your own part in the harm you have done. But mostly pray or meditate. Work on this every day. Everyday -- this isnít a once and done sort of thing; this is a persistence thing. The willingness will come.

As we transition into step 9, and this isnít in the big book, because eventually we will have to make amends in some way to everyone on our list, it is useful to look at the willingness. Who are you willing to make amends to right now, and who are the folks that fall onto the list of Ďpraying for willingnessĒ. We can begin Step Nine with those on our NOW list.

Step 8 Reflections

  1. Reflect on the very beginning statement of the Step, From AA BB p. 76 Now we need more action, without which we find that ďFaith without works is dead.Ē
    • Do you think you can recover without action? Or what does it mean that faith is dead, without works?
  2. How did your compulsive overeating harm others.
  3. Reflect on the statement form AA BB p. 76:
    Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for our victory over [compulsive eating]
    • What stands in your way of going to any lengths?
    • What is the most uncomfortable thing you can think of that would stand in your way of making amends (remembering that we will not be making direct amends to anyone who would be harmed by doing so)? Work with your sponsor to get past that.
  4. As you wrote your Step 8 list, did you find it correlated with your Step 4 list? Did you add anything to your Step 4 list as you went created the Step 8 list?
  5. Please describe what you do to become willing? What roadblocks are/were in your way? How are you overcoming them?
  6. Have you made the list of people you have harmed?

*The Big Book was published in 1939, and the 12&12 in 1952 -- some 13 years later. In the versions of the history of AA that Iíve read its purpose was to address the needs of an ever-growing fellowship that may have gotten away from the program of AA.


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