Making amends may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but for those serious about recovery, it can be good medicine for the mind and spirit.
Step 9 is another of the 12 steps that may seem the most difficult at first, but the benefits of implementing this principle can be immense. The spiritual principle is that of forgiveness, not only from others, but also forgiveness of the self, which can bring healing to both parties.
What is step 9?
Step 9 begins:
“Immediately compensate such people wherever possible, unless it would hurt them or others.”
After you’ve completed Step 8 – making a list of everyone we did harm to and ready to make them all right – the next logical step is to make those changes if possible, and the suggestion is that , to do that directly to those who have been hurt. Direct reparation to the injured person avoids the temptation to bypass the problem due to embarrassment or pain.
It’s easy, but not easy!
But those who make amends often find that the person they harmed is more than willing to happily accept those amends – and a healing process begins not just in the relationship but in each individual.
Sometimes the injured person is unwilling to forgive and forget. Regardless, spiritual advancement for those in recovery depends on doing their part right and making direct reparation.
There is a condition associated with this step – unless it would hurt them or others. The benefit of making amends to the recovering person does not outweigh the need to cause further harm.
If reparation opens old wounds or creates new damage, direct reparations should be avoided.
What does reparation have to do with sobriety?
If your goal is to stay sober, it’s important to take this step to seek relief if possible. Failure to do this can cause problems later.
If you know that you did harm to others during your drinking days or borrowed money and never paid it back, and you weren’t trying to fix the situation, there is a very good chance the problem will recur and when it will happen is this a trigger for a relapse?
On the other hand, when you deal with the situation from the past, there is no way it could come back and bite you later. You handled it right, kept your side of the street clean, and put past mistakes behind you.
Alcoholism can be a deadly disease. Don’t let that stop you from apologizing or paying any debts you owe and you will become a bigger problem in the future that could lead to your getting a drink.
Visitors to this website have shared their experience of working from step 9. Here are some of their stories:
Face the truth
Oh, this is a difficult step for me. I tend to hide memories of past transgressions under the ever-handy umbrella of “Didn’t if I don’t remember”. Having spent years in a damp haze, all sorts of injuries have been ignored.
During my “career” as a drinker, I lived a long way from my family so no changes were required. Not correct! Given that omissions can be painful, this was a powerful healing step. And I keep working on it by staying sober, that’s also a form of change.
A change, not an apology
What’s a change? The technical answer is a change is a change.
A change is not an excuse. It is a clear and purposeful act to solve a problem from the past.
If I have harmed someone and the steps in the course of work reach a point where changes need to be made, it is my duty to sit down with the person and explain in detail about substance abuse, my personal program, my fears, and explanations of how I have changed as a person.
If I owe some material, I will pay it back, with interest if necessary. If what I owe cannot be measured in gold or any other material substance, I must humbly ask for forgiveness for my indiscretions and go my way. (What is the price for hurt feelings?)
A healing option
When I first experienced step 9, I made it up to me because I finally saw things differently and saw my part in the injuries I had caused and that I wanted to confess to them so that I could feel better and let go of the guilt that I had with this new awareness.
This was a good start for me, but there were still many “I’s” when I saw this move. As with all the steps I’ve found for myself, they’ll reveal more and more to me over time. I’ve found that they have so much spiritual depth. The more I practiced this step, the more I found out how much healing came from it and not just for myself.
As with a lot of damage, I found that it wasn’t “I” who had twisted everything. Many dear and wonderful people have also received healing, understanding, and answers about things that they have held onto for far too long by exposing some past mistakes and correcting them. The truth set them free too.
When I become aware of an injury I’ve done to another person, I like to carry my soul of my wrongdoing so the other person doesn’t have to carry excess trash with them and keep twisting their minds to make sense of the Mack -Truck that just ran them over. How blessed are we to be free from our past and receive the gift of helping another to set them free.
Making reparation for the past provides not only an opportunity for people to heal, but also an opportunity to help people who may have been harmed by their actions
Admit the role that I played
I always thought I would have made amends when I hurt others. I would apologize for my mistakes and pray that I would know not to repeat my actions. This is how I felt before I came to Al-Anon.
But as I worked this step with my sponsor, I realized I was having some issues that I didn’t even know I needed to make up for. The first to be alcoholics in my life had a part in their illness and didn’t know what I had done to them.
I tried to help them out of love, I thought. But now I know I took her inventory, not mine. So I had to make it up to her first. It was healing for sure. Not as painful as I imagined.
I also realized that when I was a child I had blamed my father for things my mother had actually caused by trying to get him to stop drinking. He had been drinking for years and she started later in my life, so I also blamed his actions for making her drink.
The program and this step made me realize that it was her own doing; You made the choice. This happened after both of them died and I am sorry that I was unable to personally take up this issue. But I know they will know, we settled everything we made up for and enjoyed the rest of their lives. It makes me realize more and more how much this program is a lifelong program.
And I’m glad we took this step. He keeps us honest with ourselves and others!