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The List and Living Amends

If you go to step meetings like I do that follow the months of the year, you feel totally exhausted of Steps 8 and 9 by the end of September. Amazingly, however, no matter how many times I am in meetings that discuss a step (and we take one entire month per step), I hear something new or I have somewhat of an epiphany concerning my own recovery. And since I have been asked to speak on Step 8 this Sunday, I guess there are still a few things my Higher Power wants me to either put out there or clarify something within my own sobriety.

I feel that I have exhausted Steps 8 and 9 in my articles from how to do a Step 8 to everything I had experienced in Step 9; but when all is said and done, more is always revealed to me within my recovery and that is what I want to share with you.

When anyone first begins working the steps it seems that most newcomers are aware of and in fear of Steps 4, 5, 8, and 9. We all know why they are so intimidated. They require trust, honesty, humility, openness, willingness and probably a lot more. In other words, all of the qualities many of us do not have a grip on when we enter recovery. For many of us, Step 9 might be the most uncomfortable because we now have to go outside of any comfort zone we might have established for ourselves by working with a sponsor we know and trust. But what if we could do Step 8, making that list of all persons we had harmed, without knowing that Step 9 meant we had to make direct amends (whenever possible)?

Of course, that is impossible. But think of the freedom and the further willingness to add certain persons to our list that we might not otherwise feel free to do. I think most of us would have a longer list and it might even be a more honest list. Please know that I am now inferring that anyone intentionally holds back on their Step 8 list. I am only suggesting that if we were to “brainstorm” to prepare our list, knowing that was all we ever had to do, I believe the list would be quite different. Perhaps when we do that, even though we might have been through the steps before, we may find a few people out there that we missed the first time. No matter how long the list is, we remember our amends can harm no one including ourselves.

That brings me to the actual amends made in Step 9; specifically “living amends”. This is the other topic that hit me this past week like a lightening bolt. No, I don’t think it was a spiritual experience but it was, indeed, another one of those moments of clarity. Many of us, maybe most of us, had to make amends first and foremost to family members. Unlike former employers, friends, business colleagues and others who do not see us every day or have no other connection with us today, we make amends based on each situation. It seems that with our families, the day-to-day folks we love, we make living amends. We almost have to. We cannot possibly make up for the harms we had done to them because the past is the past. Unless they ask us to do something specifically for them as part of the amends, the living amends is usually the most useful for all concerned.

What I have realized recently is that these living amends that I made are the hardest to honor. Why? I still have not been relieved of a lot of the defects that are a part of me. When I made a living amend, I made the decision to change my behavior. Each and every time I find myself angry, controlling, discontent, and argumentative, I realized that I have just reneged on my living amends. I know longer expect to be perfect but I dislike when I catch myself saying or doing what I know is not appropriate behavior. These are not big things. These are the little everyday things that are not conducive to harmonious living with the family—comments, attitude, looks (the kind the kill) that are just not necessary.

This is a small thing and it sounds petty but many an argument has begun with this situation. My husband and I are driving somewhere and he takes a completely different route than I would take. Do I stay quiet? No. I have to ask him why he isn’t going “my” way; it’s easier, less traffic, etc. An argument ensues because not only have I done something that makes him crazy, I argue that he shouldn’t be so sensitive when I make my “suggestion”. I think you get it.

Living amends are really just decisions to live as a good person, treating others with kindness (Golden Rule), being good citizens, good workers, honest, sensitive, and all of the other qualities attributed a decent human being. So why is it sometimes so difficult? I realize that it really isn’t about being an addict but about being a member of the human race. It is just that we addicts have to understand and realize how a “good” member of the human race behaves.

Making living amends is not a one-shot deal. Every day for the rest of our lives we have an opportunity to become the person we want to be. We can’t do it alone. Being in touch daily with our Higher Power through prayer and meditation as well as taking the time each evening for an honest inventory of our day, increases the chances that we will be able to live out our amends in a way that will honor those we love and honor ourselves in our recovery as well.

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

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