12 Steps of Recovery | Step 8 - Amending our Wrongs
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."
In the prior blog I wrote about the positive effects that follow from living a life of humility and how humility plays a significant role in working the Steps to this point. In Step 1 we humbly recognized and admitted our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. In Step 2 and Step 3 we humbly recognized that our lives were unmanageable via our autonomy alone and, therefore, sought refuge in the wisdom that follows from pursuing a higher spiritual path. In Steps 4, 5, and 6 we humbly excavated personal inventory, filled in the blank pages of our life story, and took on a new attitude to help us throughout our journey in sobriety. Finally, in Step 7 we fully embraced both the reality of and positive effects that follow from a life of humility.
Steps one through seven have prepared us for the work to come in Steps eight and nine. In Step 8, and similar to Step 4, we are digging up past inventory, however, differently this time, with the intention of amending the relationships we managed to stress or sever through our abusing of drugs and alcohol. In the Step 4 blog I gave the example of a significant other having an affair and the potential resentments that may follow from that experience. What made Step 4 so powerful was taking those negative situations and turning our attitudes inward in an attempt to discover how we may have played a role leading up to the affair. Recognizing the behaviors and attitudes that were correlated with the affair was no easy task and, now, through Step 8, we are humbly preparing ourselves to amend our own behavior with our significant other.
From the example used above, though we may have been hurt ourselves, it is important in this situation to both forgive our partner and amend our wrongs. Conflict can cause a considerable amount of stress for both parties. Making amends helps repair relationships by getting both parties to talk again. Even if relationships cannot be restored themselves, maybe there are children involved. Opening up the line of communication can do well by the children long term.
In situations unrelated to partner conflict, making amends gives others the opportunity to re-establish dignity lost by our hurtful actions and an opportunity to heal. Throughout our addiction many friends or family members may have become codependent and formed an excessive emotional reliance on us throughout our addiction. Addiction causes many stressors among our loved ones and amending our behaviors and attitudes with these individuals may allow them to obtain the much needed closure so that they can begin their own healing process.
Amending situations can be a polarizing process due to feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and responsibility that may follow from wronging others. Maybe someone feels that if they apologize for their wrongdoing prior to the affair, that, the other person will fail to take responsibility for their own part in the conflict. However, and when appropriate, a well-delivered, sincere apology tends to avoid the above fears. A powerful apology allows for resolution, reaffirms shared values, and can restore positive feelings that became vacant during our intoxicated states. Whatever follows in the process is out of our control and we leave what we cannot control for our higher power to free us from.
To be clear, we are not working toward a simple apology. Change is proven through action and only time can show how much you are willing to change. For now, though, Step 8 is about recognizing those who were harmed and working with a sponsor or treatment program to help guide the future process of making amends. The inevitable goal is not to ensure that all relationships will continue the same as prior or that others will be able to fully accept what we are amending. The goal within Step 8 is to identify those individuals and be willing to amend what is broken.
Continue reading our series on a 12 Step Recovery | Step 1