My brain whirled. I might have done terrible things, and I wouldn’t even know it.
~ pg. 223 Big Book, 3rd Edition
Perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of drinking for me and countless others was the “black out” drinking. I would awaken to strangers, in scary places I would never go to sober, with no car, no money, and no memory of how I got there, and what had occurred. This makes making amends particularly difficult, and that is why I say amends may never be completed. Every now and then, I will recall an instance from the past. It will come in a dream, or when I am ill and feverish. I guess that is because I am more vulnerable and susceptible to such thoughts. Some folks experience “using” dreams. That happened more frequently when I was first sober.
When I do have the clarity of mind and do remember some harm I have done to myself and others, then I can act on the amends immediately. I find it wise to walk through the memory with a sponsor, write about it, and pray for the right words and actions to take. I need to forgive my younger self for putting me in harm’s way and doing things that I would never in sobriety even consider. Step 9 is a healing component in sobriety, and not one to take lightly. Be kind and gentle with yourself, heed those dreams, and continue to live each moment doing the best you can with what you have. New things will be revealed. This I promise.
Amazingly, God did for me what I could not do for myself. I was to ask,
using steps 9, 10, 11 and 12 on a daily basis. ~ Anon
If AA were a treatment center, steps 1, 2, and 3 would be the emergency room. Where a lot of detox, testing and surveying goes on to assess the problem and decide on a treatment plan. Steps 4-9 could be considered inpatient treatment. Where there is direct supervision to work the steps, a protected environment, and an ongoing treatment program, the ground is being laid for a lifetime of recovery. Steps 10-12 then could be considered outpatient treatment. The alcoholic is out in the community with the freedom to choose when to go to meetings, do daily work toward a better way of living, and hopefully becomes involved in the AA community in his/her own right.
I never went to treatment, but I need to add the word “yet” to that sentence. I do not plan to go back to drinking. I suspect that I do have few a few more drunks in me; but I don’t think I have another recovery left in me. That keeps me sober. AA is a lot like the Mafia. You know too much to leave! I thank goodness and the universe that 2 drunks got together and decided it would be smart to help each other get/stay sober. It is a simple program, but some of us are too smart to enjoy it. Be teachable. Invite HP in and enjoy the ride. You will love it some day.
I am simply too busy looking for a blinding revelation from the heavens or the fireworks, that I do not notice the miracles inherent in step #9.
I did not experience many oh wow feelings. I was not blinded by awe. Nor was I bowled over by any reactions to step #9. I did however experience great healing and peace of mind. I think that is more the typical reaction to step #9. Some of the most healing and peace filled experiences came from letters I wrote to people who had already died. Some folks might mock and overlook this tremendous opportunity to make amends to those no longer here. They dismiss this as silly and useless. I would say, unless and until you have gone through this process, you know not what you speak of.
One of these amends had to do with my dad. We had had a long and painful relationship. He was a baked in sexist, racist, bigoted and angry man. In AA, I learned to forgive and move beyond his pain. I learned that we each have good and bad in us. I learned that step #9 was for me; not him. He had to die to find recovery. His death was the catalyst for me to get sober. I did not want to die in regret and from the effects of a lifetime of abusing my body. I would not wish that on anyone. So, I wrote him a goodbye letter. The format is: I loved…I hated…I wanted…I wished for…I hoped for….and then, goodbye and then hello. Hello is for all that will be in life if I let go of my feelings and control of the outcomes. Do yourself a favor, and write a goodbye letter. It will launch you into a new realm of peace.
As long as we have not forgiven people for the harms they have done us, we will find it impossible to make sincere amends to them for our side of the conflicts.
~ AA wisdom
I wish I could tell you that I have done this recovery thing perfectly, but I have not. I wish I could tell you that all my amends went smoothly and without pain. But, I cannot. I also wish I could tell you that your experience will be mistake and pain free. But alas, I cannot say that either. Step #9 is about clearing up the wreckage of the past. Anyone that has lived on this earth long enough knows cleaning up wreckage of any kind is a huge and hard task to handle. In recovery, we have a coach or sponsor. Someone is on our team. They cannot do the work for us, but they can encourage, mentor, and support us through the process. I guess that is why they call it a “we” program.
So, forgiveness of others. What would that look like? I would prefer to use acceptance VS tolerance. The latter sounds like putting up with whatever the other person dishes out. That in my opinion and experience is a whole lot like playing judge, jury and executioner. I don’t want o go through my life judging and trying to abide by whatever nasty stuff is presented. I want to learn this thing called radical acceptance. The Buddhist teaching says that ‘what is, is. And, what isn’t, isn’t’. No matter how we shake it out, it will land on it’s head or it’s tail. Ours is to not understand how or why, but to accept the result and act accordingly. I am a work under progress. I will never graduate. Thank goodness for that.
We complete our amends for our wrongful actions of the past by changing
our actions in the future. ~ AA literature
An old but apt saying is, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” It would be two wrongs if we were to go right back to the same old behaviors that got us in trouble in the first place. That is why it is very important to have plenty of sobriety under our belts and get sponsor directions before we go about making amends. Many people in our past have heard “I’m sorry” from us far more times than any reasonable person can and should tolerate. The words “I’m sorry” have lost their meaning. They no loner ring true. So, we need to ditch those words. What we were really sorry about is that we once again screwed up and got caught. Those words are hollow promises, much like the promises we made to stay sober.
Step #9 is our do over step. We get to wipe the slate clean, clean up and move beyond the wreckage, and trudge forward. I want pg. 164 of the Big Book to say “hop, skip, and jump”; but it says trudge the road of happy destiny. Much like age, recovery is not for the faint of heart or for sissies. This is tough work. We need to put on our big kid pants and get busy living, or we will get busy dying. So, if we truly regret how we treated others and want to make amends, the first and most important thing is to change our behaviors. If steps 6 & 7 have been done thoroughly, these changes should already be in place. If not, go back and review what you might have missed. There is no sin in redoing any of these steps. This is a process, not a race. Keep working it until it works. Relax, you got this! Isn’t AA a great gift?
Before I speak, think: Is it kind? Is it necessary?
Does it improve upon the silence? ~ Anon
In step #9, we are given a chance for do overs. I have told you before that a few years ago, I took on a G.O.D. that I believe allows for do overs. In AA, we are told that “there is only one little thing we have to change = ourselves”. That used to make me mad as all hell. How dare they say that to me! Who do they think they are? They are drunks, just like me, that’s who they are. But they had managed to stay sober for years on end. Perhaps, I needed to sit down, take the cotton out of my ears, put the cotton in my mouth, and listen instead of spouting off. They just may know a thing or two more than I do about living soberly and peacefully. Perhaps I could learn that too.
I still spout off to friends when I am passionate, but I have learned how to listen to their point of view as well. I am in this life to learn and grow. There are several lessons in this universe that I have yet to learn and incorporate. That is half the fun of being in the 12 step program of AA = learning. I feel that every day has a new lesson in it for me to experience. Each day offers more do overs. It is like the movie “Groundhog Day!” ha ha. Wherever I go, there I am. There is the postal person, the person in traffic, the clerk in the store, and the dog in the street. What I breathe out, I breathe in. If I see things as all bad and wrong; that is how I appear to others. It is all about perception. Chose how you want to live this day. It is either a good day or a bad one. Your choice. I will give you one little hint: the good one is easier!
Clearly, if we were going to remain sober and find serenity, we had to learn better ways of dealing with other people, ways that would bring us joy instead of pain. ~ Anon
As we move through our step #8 list and start making amends in step #9, we can’t help but face our fears; batter our pride. We learn that how we dealt with people, places, and things was not just unhealthy, but it was downright self-destructive and self-defeating. No wonder we stayed drunk! Who the heck would want to be sober and face all the fallout from our self-imposed storms? Creditors, banks, and the IRS were just the small potatoes to chew on in that stew. We had loved ones, employers, neighbors, etc. who had a thing or two to say about how we dealt with them. There are real consequences for real behaviors that harmed others.
That is why is it highly recommended that you do the following before you make amends:
#1 Be sober. #2 Study/Work Step 1-8 thoroughly with a sponsor. #3 Write those letters never sent. #4 Pray for those on your list, for the very things you want for yourself. # 5 Pray that you be free of resentments or hidden agendas. #6 Practice/rehearse the amends with your sponsor.
This will ensure greater success in managing your emotions and fears as you plug along this path of a healthier, saner, and more productive means of dealing with people, places and things in the future. Thank G.O.D., that we do not have to do any of this alone. Thank goodness for AA.