Okay, so the first eight steps were behind me. I felt as if I had already given so much of myself in the previous steps, but was now faced with moving from behind the shield of protection that surrounded me in AA, to the firing line of reality. Could I do it?
I had felt protected. I had felt safe. All the things that I had shared or accomplished to this point were conducted in AA meetings, or were shared with my sponsor in working the steps, in safe and protected rooms. The people I had harmed were still just in written form, on a piece of paper. I knew the harm had been done, but it seemed distant and less real, even though I had just completed a thorough eighth step. They were names on paper, that’s all. Standing in front of a piece of paper with a list of names on it did not seem threatening in any form.
My sponsor was great at bringing me back to reality. I won’t say he was a big book thumper, but he knew that if I wanted to truly get over drinking, that Step Nine must be completed. We read and reread pages 76-84 in the Big Book, which provide the primary instructions for making amends to those we harmed, and then he set me free to go make amends. I found that I could do it, but more importantly, that I WOULD do it. Willingness: the word that leads to honesty and open-mindedness, and ultimately ACTION.
My experience boils down to this: First – pray for courage before meeting with any individual that you are going to make direct amends to (you must stay spiritually fit). Second – keep it honest and simple and stay on task, never get defensive. Third – disclose directly the reasons you are making amends as you understand the situation. Fourth – ask the person what harm you have caused them (it is easy to express what you believe happened, but entirely different to know what they experienced, or how they felt when we harmed them).. Five – ask not for forgiveness, but make a sincere apology to the one you harmed and ask specifically what you can do to ‘make it right’, and if it is not immoral or unethical, do all you can to heed their request. Six – accept that you did all you are required to do to make amends, regardless of the outcome. Surprisingly you will find that most amends end positively.
My strength boils down to this: The ninth step promises are real. My favorite promise from working this step is that I will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace, followed by not being afraid of people anymore, especially those I harmed.
My hope boils down to this: I hope you pray for the courage to do this step. The freedom is immeasurable and the promises are life-changing. I hope you lean on your sponsor for direction and take advantage of their experience and guidance along with the suggestions found in pages 76-84 of the Big Book and complimented by the suggestions in the Twelve and Twelve on step nine. Taking AA from the rooms of AA into action is life changing. You want to quit drinking for good? Then take this step completely and thoroughly. Remember: Half-measures avail us nothing…..
– Lloyd R