It’s unusual for me to write an article about the steps two weeks in a row but Step Eight and Step Nine are like Siamese twins who either cannot be separated or refuse to be separated. If we work these steps in the proper order, the way the original authors intended, we dare not make amends to anyone until we have thoroughly planned who, why, when, and how. These two steps rely on each other more than any other two. To work Step Eight and forget Nine or to work Nine without having done Eight is a sure recipe for trouble. As a matter of fact, I have difficulty writing only about Nine so forgive me if I waffle back and forth.
Step Nine is “made direct amends to such persons whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.” There are so many important words in this step that may make a difference in how we make amends and the result. The important thing to remember, though, is that no matter how prepared you are, no matter the time or the kind of amends, you have absolutely no control over the other person’s reaction to you. You are making amends for you; so that you can free yourself from the past and live a new life out of the shadows and despair of addiction.
“Direct amends” would indicate that we speak directly to another person and I do believe this was meant face-to-face. I think we must be careful in this day and age to keep this in mind because how much easier would it be to send an email? When you make direct amends (and this is how I was taught), it is important that the timing be right. What might be the right time for you might not be the right time for the other person. You don’t want to be working this step if the other person doesn’t feel well, doesn’t have time or is mired in his/her own problems. Pray. God has a wonderful way of putting people in the right place at the right time if we ask Him. If “your” time doesn’t work, be grateful. It probably wasn’t the right time anyway. If you are going to make amends to people in your household or even a best friend, you can always set an “appointment”. These folks only have to know that you want to talk to them about something vital to your recovery. They will generally have no problem with this but keep in mind that the timing issue doesn’t change because they are family.
Prior to making your amends, it is important to set ground rules. Trust me on this one because if you don’t, you will be wishing you never began this step. Tell the person about this step and how important it is in your recovery. Next ask the person to allow you to read (remember the index cards in Step 8?) the amends to them without interruption. If they think this is rather impersonal (the index cards), tell them that it is so you can stay on track. I also knew that I would get highly emotional and explained that the cards would help me through. Explain that when you are finished, you will give them as much time as they need to respond and you will not interrupt them.
If you followed my suggestions in Step 8, you will not have specific incidences on your amends list but general statements. This will prove especially helpful because you don’t want to go through a laundry list of events only to have the other person bring up the one you didn’t remember. If you have done all of the above, you are now ready to sit quietly, index cards in hand, and begin “I was wrong for….”
It is impossible to predict how any amends will work out. The people I thought would ask a million questions or challenge my sincerity did not. As a matter of fact, never once were any of these amends brought up again by anyone. In other cases, the amends were accepted but kind of with an attitude of “yeah, okay. No problem.” Sometimes we get warm fuzzies; sometimes we don’t. We can only do what we must do in this step and are not responsible for anyone else.
True. We are not responsible for anyone else but this is because we never make amends for anything if it is harmful to anyone, including ourselves. Direct amends might be made with the highest level of honesty but if that honesty is harmful, it’s not a good idea. If you have already wreaked havoc on others, you won’t make it better by hurting them again and the other innocents left in the wake of the storm.
So if we can’t be direct because of injury, then we can make living amends. This doesn’t get us off the hook because it has to be a conscious amend. There are so many worthwhile things we can do depending on the situation. Being of service of any kind is probably first and foremost and I don’t mean service work inside of the fellowship. Living amends go outside of our world and there is effort involved. Amends can be made to the deceased via a letter or a living amend.
Lastly, it is important that we remember that making amends could be a long process. Yes, we want to do the most important first but it is likely due to so many geographic moves, that a lot of people on our list live far away or cannot be found. We try and we remain prepared in the event that the person, whom we never thought we would ever encounter again, reappears into our lives.
Amend means to change. It does not mean “I’m sorry”. If we are truly honest about the amends we make and work this step as long as we must, we will truly know a new freedom and a new happiness! WOW! The Promises are now here!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Join/like my Facebook page at Grateful Recovery! Kathy L. is the author of "The Intervention Book" (Conari Press)