Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
The step program of Alcoholics Anonymous can be intimidating.
The 8th step of AA is a precursor to the step most of us feared more than any other. The post examines the value of this step and looks at how we can make this list of the people we had hurt and how to decide on who makes which people make that list.
This step is surprisingly hard unless we have the courage and humility to think about it honestly.
Who did we harm through our character defects? If we are timid and avoid hard truths this step will take a long time to complete and may never be completed.
Again, it is easy to jot down names, but take a look at what is written down. Is it a thorough list? There is an understandable tendency to sometimes avoid some past actions where we hurt people, because of the overwhelming guilt we may feel, but if we do our list of people will be incomplete.
The single biggest reason though for leaving names off this list is the fear of people we know that we may have to face.
Particularly such people that we feel have special reasons to be very hurt, angry, and bitter. We want to avoid facing personal responsibility for what we were and what we had done during the active phase of our alcohol addiction. If you are like most of us there are deep issues in the wreckage of your past.
What issues can arise in this survey of those you need to make amends to? Here are a few:
Lack of thrift
This list is not comprehensive but shows why I suggest that you start making this list back when you are doing the 4th step inventory.
As you make the fearless moral inventory, names will pop into your head.
Just jot them down. Don’t go into detail in any of the previous steps but wait for this one. If you feel intimidated remember that this stage is not about making amends but becoming willing to make amends.
The best way is to start by considering each family member and whether there is something that needs to be dealt with. Mom, yes. Dad, yes. Sisters and brothers, yes. Partner, yes. Uncle Billy, no. Uncle Joel, yes. Don’t stop until you have considered grandparents, great aunts, cousins, second cousins, and any other relative you have come into contact with.
After that move on to the workplace, past, and present. Think of each person and add them to the list if they should be there. From CEO to the floor worker, who needs to be on the list? You are not going to recall everyone, but that is fine. Those you remember will be those who made an impression for either good reasons or bad and sometimes even both. It is the bad and the “both” that we want to consider. Is what happened bad enough to warrant the need to make amends? Punching someone in the face, yes. Calling them an idiot? Perhaps not so much. But calling them an idiot every day for months on end is a different matter.
Seek the help of a sponsor in establishing where to draw the line regarding who makes the final cut. Remember they have done this and had their time to correct mistakes. Draw on them.
Consider as well that the higher your position was in the workplace, the more chances you had for taking out your frustration and nastiness on others. Subordinates are easy targets and are not exempted from the list of those we need t make amends to.
Now consider friends. Each friend you have ever had. If they are no longer friends perhaps it was because of our addictive behavior and if we engage with a level of honesty we may be able to bring back the personal relationships that we once had with them.
Use your daily prayer as part of an ongoing process to ask that you have a clear mind in selecting the names to add to the list.
Now you have a list that probably contains a lot of people and who you will make amends to is a list that will be pruned in the next step which reads
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Part of the final list we make might look like this:
Swearing at her in public
Ego - She criticized my drinking
Mike and Muriel's wedding
Was able to drink freely
Stole $50 from the cash register
The only way I could get money to buy a drink
Rather than just write down the names, we need to prepare a chart like this so when we approach people, we are already able to focus on what we need to make reparations for and avoid confusion or hesitancy.
This post is not about the ninth step, but I feel compelled to say that we shouldn’t manufacture reasons why it isn’t possible or pretend that making amends would hurt them or others simply to avoid the possible confrontation of talking to these people. The reason I say this is that when we make this list, we make it looking ahead to the next step and already start to plot to avoid certain names. As I have said this is about the list and not the act of making amends.
What are the effects of doing this step poorly? We will be unable to make amends for the hurt done by our defects of character. We will make little headway in the spiritual awakening that comes with the principles of this way of life. In many ways, this step concludes our first round of the personal inventory. It must be approached with the same fearlessness as we approached step four.
The words of the 8th step prayer found at http://www.sober-today.org/prayers/prayer_s8.html end with the sentence, “Grant me the willingness to begin my restitution.” The completeness which we achieve in this step is a marker of how willing we are.
What are the effects of doing this step well? We fulfill the most important purpose of this AA step and that is that we prepare for positive action. We bring ourselves further under the care of God and we will start to experience the greatest peace we have ever known. This step is the step that prepares us for the promises of step nine – a new freedom and a new happiness.
There is another surprise that comes when we are doing this step. We may realize that there are people we need to forgive as well and often because of the hurt and anger that lead us to the place where we need to forgive, we need their forgiveness as well. It can be a definite two-way street.
Look back at the brief again and consider that there is somebody you left out. The step says, “all people we had harmed.” Yes, we have now moved away from the bondage of self but think about this - by calling on our higher power, by pursuing this 12-step program, right from the first step we have started to make amends to ourselves as well.
Is your own name on the list?
Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous