As part of this step I took my sponsor through the list of people I had harmed and my proposed amends which we discussed together. Having been through Step 5 together, my sponsor was able to help guide me through this and give me his thoughts on each of my amends. Doing a thorough Step 5 with your sponsor means there’s no room to run and hide, your moral inventory highlights your part in all of these moments from your past, and your sponsor will be able to quickly tell if you’re trying to avoid doing any of your amends, be fearless, be thorough.
After we initially read this step, I slowly worked my way through some smaller amends, things I could do over the phone in Lockdown. They all went well, it was good to be open and honest about things which I had been carrying for years.
There were some amends I couldn’t do immediately due to geographical restraints, amends I needed to make in person. One in particular I wasn’t quite ready to undertake at the time which was the most significant to me, significant both in terms of who it was to, and due to the sheer weight of the my actions involved. I was able to do that amend this weekend and wanted to share my experience.
So what makes Step 9 so important to our recovery?
Step 9 is hugely important for both our sobriety and personal growth. it is about clearing the wreckage of our past and moving on. We need to take action, own responsibility and come clean to those we have harmed in the past which is no small task.
We have to be completely open, honest and be ready and willing to not only make our amends but to also accept the outcome or reaction of the person we have hurt, whatever it may be. The person we have hurt might be unwilling to forgive us, to accept our apology, they may ignore you completely when you make contact, they may agree to meet you to hear you out and then walk away, unable to forgive and forget. Their reaction is something you have to be prepared for, making our amends is not about us, it is about acknowledging our past actions, how we’ve hurt others and owning up to this, but also crucially giving them to opportunity to have their say. They may come back to you with other occasions you caused them harm or distress, things you didn’t even think to consider, which have had an impact upon them all this time. We have to be ready and willing to listen, to accept this and most importantly to take responsibility.
The Big Book tells us of certain instances where we need to be careful about our approach when making amends. You should read these carefully with your sponsor before moving forward, before this particular Step 9, my sponsor and I re-read this section of the book to help give clarity around the wider situation and so that we both were sure I was approaching things in the right way.
How to go about a Step 9
We need to be careful approaching our amends. We shouldn’t take an approach that makes our life easier at the expense of the person we are making the amend to. When realising the gravity of our amends, it’s easy to want to do them as quickly as possible, to clear our conscience and rid ourselves of any uncomfortable feelings we may have.
For this particular amend thats certainly what I wanted to do, I wanted to make it as soon as possible because the weight was unbearable, however I had to remember that this wasn’t about me, it’s about the other person. So I had to sit with these feelings of anxiousness and make sure I approached things in the right way, that I was considering the other person as much as possible.
We made a clear time to talk about this that worked for them. When arranging amends, creating some dedicated time is important. This makes the other person acknowledge you’re taking the whole affair seriously. Doing an amend off-the-cuff just because you bump into someone on your list , doing it because it’s convenient, may cause the person to think you’re being insincere. You don’t want to have to do these twice, so plan the situation accordingly and make sure you give them your full and undivided attention. It’s a hard process, you’re bound to have lots of emotions and thoughts running through your head, but it’s worth it in the long run.
In the run up to the amend itself, I noticed a few things. I had some fleeting thoughts of going back to drinking and I’d started smoking again. These unsettled me and my sponsor urged me to think about what could be causing these behaviours. It became clear that this Step 9 was bringing up certain feelings which made me uncomfortable and this was coming out through these negative thoughts and compulsive behaviours. That’s one piece of advice from me, watch your programme, thoughts, feelings and mood while you’re working amends. They are a huge undertaking and could cause you some internal emotional stress which might be subtle at first. Make sure you’re aware of the potential for this and that you’re speaking to fellows and your sponsor regularly. Keep on top of your programme make sure you are as spiritually fit as possible during what can be a stressful and triggering time.
This particular amend involved dishonesty and ultimately theft of money. I’d put someone’s finances at risk and I’d have to not only be honest about everything but also put this right financially. Before doing this, I did a thorough accounting of what I owed, and also spoke to some other fellows I knew who had done similar amends themselves. When dealing with finances, you have to be open and honest about the entire affair, including any plans to repay and begin to make things right. My situation involved a large sum of money, certainly something I wasn’t able to pay back right away. Advice given to me was having a proposed plan in place to pay this back over time and see what the other person thought. If you can repay immediately then this is obviously best, if you need more time, look at what you can afford now and see if you can make a gesture to repay part now with a plan in place for the remainder. Speaking to other fellows who had made similar financial amends helped me a great deal, just by speaking to other people who had been through a similar experience gave me perspective, helped me to untangle the thoughts inside my head and helped me to understand I was not alone in what I was about to undertake.
Doing the actual amend
It’s important to be thoroughly open and honest when you actually come to making the amend. The fear might cause you to think about how you can soften the narrative of your actions, at least that’s what my alcoholism was telling me to do. Be thorough, don’t hold back, you’ll be much better off for it in the long run regardless of whether the amend goes well or not. You need to keep your side of the street clean. I prayed before I made this particular amend, I asked my higher power to help give me the strength, and it helped. I felt like I had support with me, and was able to be as open and honest as possible, even though it was a hard and painful moment. One last piece of advice is don’t try to rationalise things, don’t try to cover things up by blaming things on your drinking, we did this ourselves and we need to fully be ready and willing to own our past in order to move forward.
How did the amend itself go? It went fine, as you’ll hear in meetings and read in the Big Book, most amends go very differently from how we imagine them in our heads. Despite what I’d done, the person was just happy for my new outlook on life, happy to hear I was getting better and was more concerned about my own wellbeing than the finances. They appreciated I had a plan in place to make things right and agreed to my plan, but first and foremost they were just happy that I was getting well. I can’t really describe just how this all made me feel.
I’m still trying to process these feelings. I feel elated sometimes thinking of the sheer weight that’s been lifted from me, from unearthing this dark secret I’ve kept for years and knowing that I’m able to now make this right. Other moments are darker, I feel concerned, anxious and nervous about just how far the me in active alcoholism and addiction was able to push things. If anything, it’s certainly been good as a reminder for my Step One.
I never want to be in a position like this again, where I’m causing this much pain and destruction not only to myself, but to those around me. I want to move forward and leave that life behind.
Good luck to anyone reading this and going through their Step 9. It’s a huge undertaking, but incredibly worthwhile and so important to our recovery. I wish you all the best.