It’s been a while since I reflected on the 12 steps of the A.A. program. The next, Step 8, says:
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
For me, making the list of all persons I had harmed flowed directly from the “searching and fearless moral inventory” that I did in Step 4. From that inventory, it was really easy to name (to myself) the people that I had harmed. That was not the tough part of this step.
What I found hard was the second part: the willingness to make amends. I did so many things that I was not proud of in my drinking and drugging days, and made so many bad choices – some made in such a haze of using that they could barely be called choices and certainly not made with anything like careful thought.
On my list of people that I harmed were my using buddies, my so-called friends, who hung out with me to get, share and consume drugs and alcohol, and to get into other kinds of trouble along the way. These were some of the people I had to be willing to make amends to … Certainly, I had taken advantage of people and situations in order to drink more, smoke more, use more. I had also put myself in a lot of stupid and sometimes dangerous situations, and did a lot of harm to myself. Nonetheless, for my fellow addicts, I knew supporting their addictions was often just as harmful to them as to me. It was important for me to acknowledge that I contributed to their addictions just as they had done to mine. It took some effort to see this, but I got to recognizing that I needed to be willing to make amends to them too.
More important, some of the people affected by my bad choices were people I love/loved or worked with, and it was not easy to become willing to make amends with them. I was embarrassed by my drinking and drugging, by my addictions. Many of the people I cared about and cared about me did not know how far down I had gone in my addictive behaviour. I was also shy about approaching people to talk about my addictions and apologize for how I might have hurt or harmed them.
Which is why this step really was about surrendering to me. To be willing to make amends, I had to work on letting go of my excuses for why I wouldn’t make amends to certain people. More difficult, I had to be willing to let go of my embarrassment, my shyness, my shame.
So I practiced letting go and surrendering. It was hard in that first year of sobriety, but it has gotten easier and easier over time. In fact, surrendering has become more and more part of my contentment in life. Working this step started me on the journey to surrendering, and I am so very grateful.