Jul 03

Making Amends

Step Nine requires humility and courage.  We are prepared though, if we have worked the previous steps thoroughly we are ready.  We take our list in hand, we swallow our pride and we begin the important business of rebuilding our lives.

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

Making amends is perhaps what we fear most when considering the Twelve Steps.  Most of the work we’ve done so far has been very personal and quite private, between us, God and our sponsors.  Now we are told that we must go out into the world and face the wreckage of the past.  We have learned that we must take responsibility for our actions, all of them, if we are to live with a clean conscience.  True healing insists that we make every effort to do what is right in all things and this is where we begin that work in a more physical form.  We have already made great progress and we have all we need to help us keep moving forward.

The AA Big Book is always an excellent resource as we prepare.  Two passages in particular are helpful to remember before making amends.  Page 77 explains our only goal:

“We are there to sweep off OUR side of the street, realizing that nothing worthwhile can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do. HIS faults are not discussed. We stick to OUR OWN. If our manner is calm, frank, and open, we will be gratified with the result.”

And page 80 gives additional direction, especially when our amends could possibly cause harm:

“Before taking drastic action which might implicate other people we (1) secure their consent. If we have obtained permission, have (2) consulted with others, (3) asked God to help and (4) the drastic step is indicated we (5) MUST not shrink.”

We take the advice of our sponsor and ask for God’s guidance on where to begin.  As we approach those we have wronged we start by asking permission.  We explain briefly how our recovery has made it clear to us that we must set things right and most often the other person is willing to hear us out.

Proper amends include the following:

  • An admission of what we’ve done and the harm it caused:  “This is what I did and what I did was wrong.”
  • An apology: “I sincerely regret what I did and the way it affected you.”
  • An amendment of the harm done:  “What can I do to make it right?”

In certain situations we have physical amends that need to be made.   In matters of finance, property and objects destroyed or stolen we should do our best to make arrangements to take responsibility for the loss or damage caused.  When feelings have been hurt or trust violated we may have little to offer other than the honesty of our admission and sincerity of our apology.   Sometimes our heartfelt words are enough to begin healing relationships.  The ways in which our amends are received will vary but we will know that we have done our part.  In every case the change in our behavior is what will eventually convince those around us that what we have said is genuine.

Living this new spiritual life includes the ongoing process of making amends.  We continue to make them whenever possible, we hold ourselves accountable for all of our actions and we notice that all of our circumstances improve as a result.

“Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.”  ~ Promise Nine

Recommended Reading:

The AA Big Book and Guide for Working the Twelve Steps are recommended reading for anyone in recovery of any kind, not only because they were the first but also for their inspirational and direct content. Two great resources for those working the Steps for codependency are also included here. More books on 12 Step Work from other fellowships and programs can be found in the “Steps” drop down list under “Programs and Literature.”

Featured image for this page taken from Hazelden 12 Step Pamphlet Collection – The Complete 12 Step Collection used by patients in recovery centers throughout the nation, these easy-to-read editions are a sure way to gain a basic, and yet thorough, understanding of the significance of each Step. Pamphlets are available individually or in a money-saving full collection.

Recommended Links:

The questions above are fairly generalized in order to apply to a variety of conditions. The basics are the same but if you are working the Steps specifically for drug/alcohol abuse or codependency the following links may help you to explore further. There are many other formats and workbooks available through a simple web search.

12 Step Worksheets

CoDA 12 Step Worksheets

Barefoot’s Intro to Working the Steps

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