Recovery Step 8

Willing To Make Amends

Step eight in 12 step programs, AA, NA, Alanon and over one hundred others, says, “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

“Harmed? Who have I harmed? Not me. I have never done anything to anyone, well, never physically hurt anybody. I don’t hit, push, bite or fight. And I never do anything mean; well, except when they do it first. I don’t shout or name-call; well, not usually, except maybe that time…but I was angry, so it doesn’t count; besides he deserved it. Well, yes, I had a glass or two of wine when he made me so mad I… but that had nothing to do with it. Alcohol never affects me and I’m always in complete control. It’s entirely his fault.”

Sound like it might apply, at least a little, to you, echoing your thoughts? Sometimes we are unaware of the harm we do and it is not until later, perhaps at a more selfless time, that we understand how deeply what we do affects others. We human beings are very good at justification, retaliation and denial.

Is there any chance you have ever done anything unkind, maybe even harmful to family? Parents, siblings, spouse, children? Few normal human beings could honestly respond in the negative. How about extended family? Friends? Coworkers, neighbors, strangers, anyone else? Ever behave rudely in traffic, in line in a store or anywhere else you are somewhat anonymous?

Could you be one of the many people who put on a fa├žade for the public? Are you not only dressed perfectly, every hair in place when you are away from home, but also pretending, wearing the, “I am perfect and so is all in my life” mask? Do you save your biting comments, negativity, and controlling, passive-aggressive and vicious side for family? Would you treat your loved ones the same way if your neighbor, coworkers or friends were watching? Would you change anything about the tone of voice, the level of compassion or attitude if your neighbors or parents of your children’s friends were listening? Rethink how you treat those closest to you, as they are the ones we usually hurt the most.

Of course, there are outright harms to consider: theft, cheating, dishonesty, and so on. Even if it is the fault of a cashier, accepting more change than you are due is dishonest, comparable to stealing. Small lies are still lies. Do you justify this type of behavior?

Little omissions can also be damaging: not acknowledging someone’s existence, either in person or by not returning a call, snubs and rejections of any kind. All of this behavior harms the person committing the act (you) as well as the victim, but you, of course, have a rationalization for everything you do.

If you should decide that there is a chance you have done something that hurt another human being, and you are willing to ‘fess up, deal with it and change yourself, then you are ready for this step. If you persist in believing you have never hurt anyone, go back to and through steps one through seven, special emphasis on step four. The cool thing is that the word, “amend” means “make changes, corrections, or improvements.” Since no human being can see himself clearly, this, like all the steps, requires coaching from someone who has done this and the preceding steps. Such a person, called a sponsor or mentor, can be found in twelve step meetings of any kind and often among professionals such as therapists, counselors, recovery coaches and consultants. Find someone who has done this step and with whom you are willing and able to work; make your list. There is no point in postponing this step; harm that was done remains until dealt with. Please note that step eight says, “…became willing.” It does not say that we actually MADE the amend, just that we became willing. Specifics on how, when and where to actually make the amend comes in step nine.

Recovery Step 7

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings

For anyone seeking recovery from addiction, this seventh step on your way to twelve requires honesty with yourself, willingness to change, and action. An additional key to working this step is to remain in the spiritual realm, specifically remembering to use your developing relationship with God. Sadly, many never get this far and have long since stopped doing the work. Some relapse to alcohol and drug use. The saying, “one, two, three, drink!” refers to the high percentage of alcoholics who drink after doing only steps one, two, and three, balking at the process of looking at themselves in step four and beyond. Individual alcoholics and addicts find that to stay clean and sober they must also do the action steps of four through nine, then maintain their recovery and spiritual fitness by adopting as a way of life all of the steps, including ten, eleven and twelve. Continue reading

Recovery Step 6

Ready for Change?

This is the step that separates the men from the boys, or, more accurately, the real adults from the emotionally immature. For those working and living by a twelve step program, you may remember that this step, quoted here from the Narcotics Anonymous literature, actually says, “We were entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character.” For anyone not in a twelve step program, personal growth may still be of interest and step six is a terrific “step” on the way to having a better self. Continue reading

Recovery Step 5

Tell Someone

I recently watched that great old classic movie, Crocodile Dundee, and was struck by the following conversation taking place at a cocktail party in NYC:

Sue to Croc: “A shrink, that’s a Psychiatrist.”
Crocodile Dundee: “Oh, I didn’t know she was nuts.”
Sue: “She’s not nuts. She goes there to talk about her problems, to bring them out in the open.”
C.D.: “Doesn’t she have any mates?”
Sue: “I guess there aren’t any shrinks in Walkabout.”
C.D.: “If you have a problem in Walkabout, you tell Wally, he tells everyone in town, brings it out in the open and there’s no more problem.”
Sue: “We could all use more mates.” Continue reading

Recovery Step 4

This is a terrific time to get to work on ourselves! For anyone working a 12 step program, or anyone who wants to use this method for emotional and spiritual growth, the hard work continues with step four. Some say that this is the step that separates those who really want to recover and change from those who just say they do. A saying that goes around recovery groups is, “One, two, three, drink,” a commentary on what often happens to people who are beginning recovery from addiction but are not willing to do the difficult work of step four. Experience shows that if he just does steps one, two, and three, without continuing through the rest of the steps, the alcoholic usually drinks again. Continue reading