Making amends

Step 9 of A.A. says:

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do
so would injure them or others.”

This is a logical next step after “making the list of all people I had harmed” in Step 8, building on the very tough “searching and fearless moral inventory” of Step 4. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Step 8 was mostly about surrendering for me, of getting myself mentally ready to make amends to people I had harmed in my drinking and drugging.

There were some people I had lost touch with after many moves so I could not reach them to make amends: easy. And I had been a pretty kind and warm friend with most of non-addicts I knew, so telling them about some of my baby steps to recovery was the way to make amends with them.

Though it took a bit of getting my head around how I had amends to make to my fellow alcoholics/addicts, having those conversations was not that hard. Some of my former friends had already let me know they wanted nothing to do with me; they were not interested in hearing any apology. Others brushed it off, unable to hear anything about problems with alcohol or drugs because they didn’t want to think about their own using. One friend got really angry at me for what I did even though she couldn’t see that her own addictions led us to the crazy behaviour together; with her, I just tried not to get mad, not to get defensive, and be as humble and calm as I could while saying how sorry I was.

Don’t get me wrong, this was/is not an easy step. It took some true soul searching to assess whether making amends would do more harm than good in individual relationships. The first time I worked on this step, twenty-five years ago, I was not that good it it. Over time, I have gotten better at making those honest assessments, the first step in making amends with people I harm. I have also learned how powerful it is to say I am sorry, to admit my part in a misunderstanding, as a way to have genuine friendships.

The other really difficult part of working this step was in relationships with my family of origin. It took me years and lots of therapy to heal my own hurts from growing up. It was also hard to see beyond my own hurts to how I contributed to the negative family dynamics. Mostly, the best I could do to make amends was to try and speak my truth, my perspective as we continue to build adult relationships and friendships. These are not so much amends as a commitment to be more thoughtful, to speak more gently and lovingly, with my family. Believe me, though, I still don’t always get this right!

One of the important things I have learned through this Step is that sobriety is a journey. The first time I worked through the 12 Steps, from September to February in my first year of sobriety, was just the beginning. Many people continue to go to A.A. meetings during their entire sobriety. Although I rarely go to A.A. meetings now (more of that in a later post), I have been working on the 12 Steps over and over again as part of getting sober, and living a full and sober life. That it took me many years to work on Step 9 is okay. As we say in A.A., “it works if you work it.” This step took a lot of trying, but I am working it …

Thanks to my friends and family for their patience as I learn to own up to my mistakes, to make amends, and to show that I love them.

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