Step 9 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:
I am still working the steps, even though it may seem like I have stalled at step 9. I haven’t. But I am taking my time with it, because it is no easy task. Step 8 has us make a list of the people who we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. Step 9 asks us to use that list and to actually go to those people and make amends, unless it would be harmful. That’s where I am…stuck somewhere between willingness and action. This isn’t my first time through the steps, so I have done step 9 a few times. And I continue to practice the maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) on a daily basis, so now when the necessity for an amends comes up, I do it right away…no procrastinating, and life is so much better when I do that. So the amends list I am working on now is short, but difficult. They are the people who have been on my list since the beginning, but they are the ones whom I haven’t been ready to address. I feel ready now, and my sponsor agrees that it is time, so I am doing it – cleaning up my side of the street, with no expectations of the outcome. It’s still a scary prospect, but it will be a relief to have it done.
I think that the hardest part of making amends is not having expectations of what the other person’s response will be. Over the last couple of years, when I have done step 9, I have had people react in different ways. Some have hugged me, thanked me for talking to them and relationships have been made stronger, some have expressed their own amends to me for whatever their part in it was, some have completely ignored my attempts to take responsibility for my actions, some remained angry. I have to be ok with whatever the outcome is. I have to remember that I am not to focus on what the other person says, does, feels. Step nine is about me taking responsibility for how I harmed someone, and trying to make it right. Acceptance or rejection on the other person’s part should be none of my concern. If only it were that easy.
The amends I am working on will all be done by letter, because those left on my list no longer want to speak to me. My sponsor is going over everything I write and making suggestions and keeping me focused on exactly what it is I need to say. My inclination is to take on the responsibility for every bad thing that has happened…I blame myself for just about everything. So it’s extremely helpful to have someone look at what I am feeling and writing and say, “nope, this part isn’t your deal,” or “this sounds a little bit like begging, you don’t have to do that.” It’s about recognizing my part, verbalizing to the other person that I realize how I harmed them, and doing what I can to make it right (if that is even a possibility).
While I have no idea what, if any, responses I will get to my amends letters, I do know that writing and sending them will bring me relief. Knowing that I have done the best I can to make things better – staying sober being the biggest thing – is what will lead me to feeling the fulfillment that the 9th Step Promises guarantee. I know that these promises do come true, I’ve seen it time and time again in the rooms of AA. Doing a thorough 9th step changes people, it strengthens them in their life and their program. I want what they have, so I am going to do what they did. I will let you know how it goes.