Part of the 12 steps in AA is making amends. It is concerned with your personal relationships that may have fallen apart before you began your road to recovery. Step 8 is all about looking back to see where you were at fault. Step 9 is then about doing your best to rectify the problem.
When you make it to step 8 and 9 of AA, you should take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve already come. These steps are challenging emotionally because you may feel guilty when you look back on your behavior. These steps are not about feeling badly for yourself and you’ll be well equipped to deal with what arises in you. Step 8 is the beginning of making amends for the things you did when you were under the influence of alcohol. You make a list of the people that you harmed and put yourself in the space of being willing to make amends to those people.
In step 9, you will then begin to make those amends to the people on the list. In the 12 step program of AA, they are described as this,
Step 8: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Step 9: “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
First, AA asks that you reflect on where you started and where you are now. You should feel proud that you’ve made it to where you are. You can now work to improve your life because you’ve had the breakthroughs to get you to the 12 and 12 step 8 and 9.
What Does Amends Mean?
Amends is compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind. There are steps you take to make amends, which include:
- Take stock of the damage you caused.
- Express the desire to repair it.
- Admit to your mistakes.
- Find a way to repair the damage.
- Be patient about getting someone’s trust back.
Step 8: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Step 9: “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Earnestly working Steps 8 & 9 is a crucial part of the 12-Step recovery process. If you are about to work the Eighth and Night Step, pause for a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come. You have worked seven of the 12 Steps. This is quite an accomplishment!
The Earlier Steps
Your first step was to admit powerlessness and recognize that your life had become unmanageable. With Step 2, you came to believe that a Power greater than yourself could restore you to sanity. You turned your will and life over to the care of God with Step 3.
Later in sobriety, you completed a searching and fearless morale inventory in Step 4 and admitted the exact nature of your wrongs in Step 5. You became entirely ready to have God remove all your defects of character in Step 6 and humbly asked Him to remove them in Step 7. Now, you’re ready to continue the recovery journey through all 12 Steps by moving forward with Steps 8 & 9.
This is your opportunity to make amends and mean it from your heart. It’s time to make amends and mean it.
The Truth About Making Amends in Recovery
Chances are, you’ve traveled a difficult, uphill journey to arrive to Step 8. Now, you are clean and sober with seven steps under your belt. You’ve likely experienced some uphill battles but with that, you’ve experienced some of the many gifts of recovery.
Life has calmed down, things have leveled out, and you’re feeling a significant level of serenity and manageability. You may have the occasional dope dream but the sense of true freedom from the bondage of active addiction feels great. No doubt, you should feel very proud of the work you have done so far.
The first seven steps of recovery is all about you. They are all about getting YOU right with the reality of your addiction, getting YOU right with God, and getting YOU right with yourself. You, you, you! Making amends in step 8 and 9 is about getting right with others. Here’s where it stops being about you.
Steps 8 & 9 Come Right on Time
Many people say that by the time they arrive at Step 8, they are completely sick of themselves. This is no surprise. Active addiction caused us to be very self-centered. The first seven steps of recovery, in many ways, still has us completely focused on ourselves and our addiction. By now, we are over ourselves and looking for ways to stop making it about us all the time.
This is where the making amends process comes in. Like every other step in recovery, it shows up right on time. From Steps 8 and 9, we get clarity about the consequences of our addiction-driven decisions. We seek forgiveness for our wrongdoings, which releases us from guilt and allows us to repair valuable relationships with those we care about. We become aware of others again and care about their feelings.
For most people working a sincere recovery process, we come to realize that as long as life is centered completely on our own wants and needs, it feels very isolated and unfulfilling. In doing the work called for when making amends, we gain perspective on how our actions affect others.
Making Amends in Recovery – Why it is so Important
Working step 8 and 9 puts you in touch with your own humanity again. You begin to feel empathy and compassion for the people you have hurt as the result of your addiction. It makes you more mindful of your place in the world.
When you were in the midst of your addiction, you likely caused people harm. You downward spiraled and took casualties with you. People you loved were hurt. You made a mess out of your life your problems spilled over onto the lives of people you care about the most.
Some of the common behaviors of addiction that hurt others include:
- A lack of control to stay away from the substance. This can mean that you may steal, cheat, and lie to anyone to get the substance.
- You’re less social and abandon commitments.
- You ignore your relationships and stop working on them.
- You ignore risk factors, which can put people in your life in jeopardy of being harmed.
- You become uninterested in your hobbies and activities.
- You miss important obligations like work. This can cause you to lose your job. If you have a family and you lose your house, you are affecting everyone.
- Risk taking tendencies.
- If you’re withdrawing, you may become extremely agitated and act negatively to those around you.
- You may sleep all day.
- You keep secrets.
Step 8 of the 12 Steps
The AA 8th step is the breaking point where you stop focusing solely on your recovery and is the beginning of making amends for what you’ve done to others. You will go through the process of forgiving other people and being forgiven. Through step 8, you will also have opportunities to forgive yourself. First, you’ll want to make a list of the people you harmed in the process of your addiction.
You will need to come to the place in your heart where you’re willing to make amends. This process is all about taking action to heal the past with others. You learn to gain your confidence again and look people in the eye.
You will identify the damage you did to others and list the names. How you harmed them doesn’t matter. It may have been from anger, dishonesty, selfishness, reckless behavior, or other character defects. Even if you didn’t mean to cause harm, you will need to make amends for the harm you did cause.
The Step 8 List
When you go through the list, you’ll want to consider all the ways that it’s possible to harm another person. Some people may be verbal about the hurt you caused while others may not. It’s your responsibility to acknowledge what you did. Some situations will be obvious to you. You may have stolen money from a person or a business. You may have been physically and emotionally abusive to people.
The names on your list may involve you cheating on someone, acting in a violent way, or treating them coldly. It doesn’t matter if they have died, are still alive, or your relationship is over. This is merely a list that you’re starting.
Adding People on the List that Caused You Harm
Many people will resist writing the list because of people that caused them harm. It’s hard to make amends with people that have hurt you. There is a lot of pain and resentment that you’re afraid of confronting. The trick here is to practice compassion for people that hurt you. Put them on the list. Forgiving someone who hurt you may involve swallowing your pride but it’s the path to healing. If you don’t forgive people, it costs you your freedom.
Recovery is all about letting go of the weakest part of yourself. The resentment, the blaming, and the self-pity. When you forgive others, you can more easily forgive yourself too and you let go of the past fully.
Identifying Damaged Relationships in Step 8
The result is to rebuild relationships that were damaged. First, you’ll need to identify the relationships. This is what the Step 8 list is all about. You have the opportunity to take responsibility for the past you played in your behavior and how it affected others.
It’s important to write it down on a piece of paper. When you put the names on the paper, it takes those ideas out of your head. You have already processed a lot of things in your mind. You’ve taken inventory of your character defects. Pen to paper allows you to examine them from another angle.
Every name you can think of should be written down. Even if you don’t know that you owe amends to a situation, write it down if it comes to mind. You may even wish to put your own name on the list. You can make amends to yourself on an ongoing process this way.
When you feel you’re ready, take the list and break it into four categories. This should be done with your sponsor.
- People you want to make amends with now.
- People you want to make partial amends to so you don’t injure them or others.
- People to make amends to later.
- People that you will likely never be able to make direct contact with again.
The 8th step will bring you courage because you don’t just restrict the list to making amends to people where you think it will work out. You may be rejected; people may not want to forgive you. They may not even want to talk to you. Being this open and honest with yourself can be a painful experience. You may find out truths that are hard to accept. While the truth does set you free, it can still hurt.
Spiritual Principles in Step 8
There are many principles in step 8 that are of a spiritual nature. Forgiving, being honest, being courageous, willing, accountable, and compassionate are just some of the aspects you’ll need. When you list who you think you’ve harmed, you hold yourself accountable. The admittance of imperfection and that you’ve made mistakes allows you to become compassionate for yourself. When you forgive others who hurt you, you are set free.
Giving out love requires humility. These actions will help you through your recovery and bring awareness into your life about what’s truly right and wrong. It’s about walking the straight path with nothing to hide. You have to trust the process and know that it’s all for the greater good.
Questions to Guide You in Step Eight
This step is important because you build awareness. This helps you to gain a new attitude about yourself and how you deal with other people. These questions are a helpful way to bring it all to the forefront of your mind.
- Do you have resentments that are getting in the way of your willingness to make amends?
- If you’re hesitating to work on step 8, why?
- Why is it valuable to you to figure out the nature of your wrongs?
- Why is it important that you’re clear about your responsibility?
- Are there people you feel you owe amends to that are a threat to your well-being or a person of concern in another way?
- Why is saying you’re sorry not enough to repair the damage you’ve inflicted?
- Why is changing your behavior not enough to make amends?
- Do you have financial amends to make that are preventing you from wanting to make them?
- Can you see what your life would be life if you do make these amends?
- Do you have amends with people who have caused you harm?
The level of honesty that you experience when you do the 12 steps have brought many on a clear path. People who have undone AA said they feel free after all the steps are done. This is why one of the slogans is “happy, joyous, and free.” Without substances in their life, there is freedom to just be alive. There is no fear of people finding out something you’ve done, going to prison, or just generally watching your back.
The traumas that you’ve experienced or have imposed on others takes time to heal. As an addict, you may want to rush to being fully ‘fixed’ but it’s a slow transition and it’s not always easy. When you focus on being true to the eight step list, you are one step closer to recovery. You can forgive and heal, let go and grow.
Step 9 of the 12 Steps
In step 9 of the 12-step program, you may be feeling good. You have now reached the point where you have to repair relationships. As an addict, it is very likely you did some awful things. Addiction likely caused you to behave terribly and everyone in your path may have taken a hit.
Step 9 is all about letting go of the terrible feelings you have when you look back to your past. It’s about repairing relationships completely. The weight of amends may feel heavy at first. Once you begin to repair relationships, you’ll feel much lighter. You’ll no longer have to live with leftover guilt and shame from the things you did in the past. This allows you to move forward and the risk of using again gets smaller and smaller.
The reason you feel better is because you’re getting better. You are recovering and as part of the Twelve Steps, you becoming a better person. It’s less desirable for you to engage in destructive behavior. You are now aware that they cost you and others misery. If you were self-centered before, you are now aware of people around you. You care about people and become more selfless.
What is the Step 9 of AA?
This step is about making direct amends to people if you are able to. There are three different kinds of amends. They include:
- Direct Amends – Taking responsibility for your past actions and confronting the person you’d like to reconcile with.
- Indirect Amends – Seeking out ways to repair the damage that you did. The things that can’t be undone. This can be something like volunteering or helping other people.
- Living Amends – This is where you show other people and yourself that you have made a lifestyle change. You show that you made a commitment to yourself and the people you love that you don’t indulge in destructive behavior any longer.
When you make amends to yourself through the changing of your behavior, attitudes, and beliefs, this already has an effect on people around you. When you start to making amends to others, you might find it feels scary. There are expectations that may be involved, this can feel like a lot of pressure. You might be afraid of rejection or that the person will retaliate on you when you’re at your most vulnerable. There is also the fear that you will have to make financial amends.
Making amends doesn’t have to be a terrifying venture though. If you shine some light on the situation, you may even feel excited at healing relationships or the relief of having the past behind you. If you have a scary amends that you don’t want to deal with, it feels like a huge weight when it’s done. The freedom you gain is worth the work you have to put in.
Three R’s of the Ninth Step
In real life matters of the heart, it’s not always easy to maintain the focus of your purpose of step 9. The three R’s will help you stay on target when making amends.
Restoration is to bring something back to the way it was. Usually things that are damaged require restoration. It could mean restoring your reputation or trust in a relationship.
As a recovering addict, resolution may involve past experiences that we think of often and we find disturbing. These past events may even be at risk of being triggers. When you can find a resolution to these problems, you can get that sense of freedom. It will usually involve coming up with answers and finding solutions to let them go completely.
When referring to step 9, restitution means returning something back to the owner. This could be anything from paying someone back for money you stole. It could be abstract also.
You will want guidance from your sponsor to gain perspective on how to make proper amends.
Planning Out How to Make Amends
You may want to hit the ground running when it comes to making amends but it needs to be carefully looked at. It’s important not to be impulsive when making amends. Equally as essential is that you don’t procrastinate. It is of high importance that you don’t take your time with amends because many recovering addicts have relapsed due to overwhelming fear of taking this step.
You want to be realistic about your period of making amends. You won’t complete your 8 step list and then start crossing off your amends. Some of your amends may never be completed. Every day you put in the effort to being your best self and not hurting others, you’re continuing on with your amends.
Keep in mind that some amends might have different steps. Even a concrete amends like paying money you owe doesn’t mean you’re done. You also have to refrain from lying, cheating, and stealing. This ninth step is an ongoing practice.
When Making Amends Could Cause Harm
When we have certain rules and guidelines for making amends, there is also a grey area. Life is complex and some of the step 9 amends may involve creativity and patience. When you’re doing the 9 step process, it shouldn’t lead to more harm to others.
There are situations where speaking to a person directly or looking to give them restitution could cause them further pain. If you did something behind someone’s back and they don’t know about it, telling them could cause more harm.
You can get your sponsor to help you decide how to handle situations like this. They can help you check your motives for why you want to tell others about your addiction and saying sorry for it. You may want to look inside yourself and ask if the person really needs to know.
Step 9 Spiritual Principles
Humility might seem like a scary word but it is freedom from pride and arrogance. It is the ability to stay humble. You focus on humility, forgiveness, and love. Gaining humility occurs when you take a look at the damage you did to yourself and someone else. Then you accept responsibility. When you can acknowledge what you’ve done, you can then take responsibility to fix it. When you experience increased humility, you will find you’re more empowered and love yourself more.
When you do your amends and then experience that feeling of being forgiven, you’ll see that you are bringing value to your cause. Forgiving others is also deeply healing. You begin to see that we are all human. When you acknowledge that, you’ll feel less judgmental and guarded about others.
Step Nine Questions
Before you go ahead making amends, there is potential for a lot of fear to come up. Remember that you are probably thinking of the worst-case scenarios. This isn’t always the way things are. To best prepare for step 9, you should try to let go of your expectations on how your amends will go.
Some helpful questions to help you with step 9:
- How is making amends going to create a process of change that lasts?
- What are my fears about making amends? Is it a fear that I will be rejected or that someone will take revenge on me?
- Why does step 9 require a new level of surrender to the 12-step program?
- When it comes to financial amends, do I have the faith in God to ensure I have everything I need though I am sacrificing to make amends?
- Why is it not important how my amends are received?
- How will my support system be the source of my strength through this?
- What names on the 8-step list are complicated? Are there amends I’m making that might have consequences if I do them? What are they?
- What behaviors do I need to amend within myself?
- What plans should I make first for making amends to myself? Do I have goals for the long term that can help me make amends to myself? What are these? What is the process I will need to do to follow through?
- Have I accepted my responsibility for the harm I caused and am I prepared to repair the harm?
- What has happened to me that allows me to see the harm I caused with clarity? How has that helped to expand my humility?
- How have I benefited when practicing the principle of forgiveness?
The Opportunity to Right Your Wrongs
Making amends is important because it allows us to right the wrongs of our past. It brings healing where things have broken down. It requires us to be accountable and take ownership of our past mistakes. With Steps 8 & 9, we acknowledge that our actions were hurtful to others and make amends by doing what we can to right our wrongs.
We ultimately experience healing and a new level of freedom by looking our past squarely in the face and owning up to our poor choices with Steps Eight and Nine. However, the real focus of this part of our recovery process is to bring healing and freedom into the lives of those we have harmed. Making your amends can bring closure, peace, or forgiveness where there once was resentment, anger, and bewilderment for an untold number of people affected by your addiction.
Working Steps Eight and Nine With a Recovery Sponsor
Although there may be some differences and misunderstandings about AA and NA, there are certain hard truths you can depend on from 12-Step recovery programs. For example, whether you are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, or one of the many other 12-Step programs, you should always work the 12-Steps with the help of a sponsor.
Sponsorship is an integral part of every 12-Step program. As someone who has already worked the steps and stayed sober for a considerable period, your sponsor will guide you through Steps 8 & 9 and show you how to make a 9th Step Amends.
Making a proper 9th Step amends is very important because you can inadvertently do more harm than good if you do not handle this process appropriately. For example, it may not be wise to call up an abusive ex to apologize for something you did two years ago. Additionally, it might not be the smartest thing to call your previous employer and admit you embezzled thousands of dollars you are not prepared to repay.
You need to work with your sponsor to determine the best course of action as it relates to each individual circumstance where amends are concerned. A sponsor will remind you that no direct amends should be made that will result in anyone being hurt – this includes you!
How to Make Ninth Step Amends
Whether you are making a direct amends to an ex, making amends to a friend or family member, or making amends to someone you worked with, you want to make sure you do this right. Keep in mind, there are a number of different ways to make an amends. You can do it face-to-face. You can write a letter and send it. You can make a phone call. Thanks so And, in the world of modern technology, you can make a proper amends from a safe distance through a text or a message on Facebook.
But, before you rush out and start your apology tour, remember, there are two parts of the amends process – making a list and making amends. Step 8 instructs you to make a list of the people you have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. Step 9 tells you to make direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so it would injure them or others.
When you Make an Amends, Mean It
An amends is not lip service. Anyone can say, “I’m sorry.” You may be truly sorry for something you have done. However, until you are willing to pay the price to make it right, you’re not finished with Step 8, let alone ready to complete Step 9. For example, if you did embezzle those thousands of dollars from your company, making a true direct amends would be apologizing and paying back the money.
As there are two parts to the process, there is actually three parts to an making amends. First, you admit your wrong doing. Secondly, you sincerely apologize for your actions and own them without excuses. Finally, you take whatever action is necessary to right your wrong through your behavior.
Making an amends and meaning it is “putting your money where your mouth is.” Talk more with your sponsor about Steps 8 and 9 before you undertake this part of your recovery journey. Bring up the topic in a meeting to hear the experience, strength, and hope from others about the amends process.
Remember, recovery is a “we” deal. Although you ultimately have to make amends on your own, you are still part of a community there to support you as you continue to walk the path of the 12-Steps. The steps that brought you to step 8 and 9 prepare you. In the beginning of the 12-step program, you might have thought it was impossible to sit down with someone and deal with the pain you’ve caused them. The preparation that you’re given will guide you with this.
Do you have experience working through steps 8 & 9? Has someone ever made an amends to you? Share your experience here. We would love to know about the freedom that you experienced when you started making amends. If you’re looking for more addiction recovery resources, we at Northpoint can help you with any questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Way to Make Amends With Someone?
There really is no way to make amends that is considered better than any other. You should look for an approach that will work best for you and your situation. It is also important to remember that what works well with one relationship in your life but not work as well with all of them.
Your sponsor is a great person to talk to about your concerns with making amends. They have gone through this process before themselves. They can offer you advice and guidance about what did and did not work for them.
Remember, what matters most is that your actions match the words you say. When you talk with people, use language and an attitude that is sincere. You may also find that you feel ashamed as you admit your wrongdoing, and that is completely normal. But you are not your disease, and the things you have done may not have caused lasting damage; especially if you make amends.
How Will Making Amends Help Me as I Recover From Addiction?
So many people with addictions see themselves as addicts and they are unable to separate themselves from the disease. But when you make amends, you are working on separating yourself from the addiction. Both Steps 8 and 9 are there to help you move out of that shameful place because staying there only serves to fuel the cycle of addiction.
When you take the time to work on important relationships in your life and make amends, you are doing something truly great for yourself. You are strengthening and reinforcing a healthy recovery.
Everyone needs support when they are recovering from an addiction. Sadly, the people who love us the most are also the people we have the ability to hurt the most. Making amends restores your support system and makes you much stronger in the long-term.
When Should I Start Making Amends?
Anyone who is participating in the 12-Step program should feel free to take their time to work through each of the steps. You are on your own timeline and schedule, and you should move at a pace that feels right for you.
Your sponsor and others in your 12-Step program should be able to give you insight about whether you are ready to make amends. There are sure to be some setbacks along the way, so keep that in mind. Get advice from others about your next steps and take it to heart. When you are ready to start the process of making amends, you will have all the support you need.
What Does Making Amends Have to do With My Recovery?
There is no denying that making amends is an important part of addiction recovery. If you want to stay clean and sober, it is important to work on repairing important relationships in your life. If you do not, it could result in serious problems for you later on.
For example, perhaps you know you caused problems for some of your friends and family while you were actively drinking or using drugs. Maybe you borrowed money without paying it back or caused harm in some other way. It is important to make the situation right. If you do not, you will probably find that the issue will come up again at some point. But when it does, it could become a trigger for a relapse, which you want to avoid.
Dealing with issues from your past will keep them in the past, where they belong. It gives you the freedom to put them behind you so you can focus on building a promising future for yourself.
Can I Work on Step 8 Alone?
There are some steps you will take throughout the 12-Step process that you will do on your own, at least partially. But please remember that you are never alone in your addiction recovery. Most people work through the steps with their sponsor or with a therapist. AA’s Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions offer a lot of helpful information about getting through this step.
Take some time to really think about your list as you write it. There may be certain names that come to your mind right away, but there may be others that you have forgotten about. If you have a trusted friend or family member you can talk to, they may be able to offer you some insight about other names that should be on your list.
What Does it Mean to Make Living Amends?
As you work through the process of making amends for things you have done to hurt others, you may come across the term, living amends. This means that you are not just apologizing for what you have done wrong; you are actually making a serious change in your way of life.
Living amends means that you are making genuine changes in your life. Your behaviors and actions are true, honest, and they follow a path that is emotionally sober. Sometimes when people make amends, they are nothing more than words because their actions do not line up. But that is not the case with living amends.
You want your loved ones to see that you have made real changes in your life. You want to commit to living a clean, sober and honest life that will never reflect the person you used to be.
What is a Direct Amend?
In this day and age of technology, it is easy to tell yourself that making a phone call or even sending a text message will work when you are making amends. There may be some cases when this is appropriate, such as when the person lives far away. But it is best to make a direct amend, which means going to the person and talking with them face-to-face. This will reinforce that you are serious.
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