For many of us in ACA, our most comfortable role had been that of victim. We had waited years for someone, anyone, to make amends to us. Step Nine brought us to our moment of truth. It asked us to take that particular action ourselves… this was truly the time to seek spiritual guidance.
In the past we may have minimized our effect on others. Now we no longer believe that what we do is insignificant.
You may not have written a list, but if you have been relating to people, you have a list. Any relationship, past or present, you don’t feel good about; any person, including yourself, you’re harboring troubled, unresolved feelings about; any relationship that brings discord to mind or heart; all are on this list. These relationships are blocking your heart and your ability to love and to let love in.
Step 9 grounds us in what will become a new way of life: allowing other people to have their paths and issues and learning to have our own. In this Step we learn to own our power to take responsibility for ourselves and our conduct in relationships.
Step 9 is about making peace with ourselves and others. That is the purpose of amends.
Working on forgiveness before making amends is very important. As we let go of the past, accept the truth about it and learn about our freedom of choice in recovery today, we begin to feel a new inner peace. This opens the door to restoring relationships with ourselves and others. Without forgiveness, we harbor resentments and our amends may not be genuine. This is not a time to “act as if”.
We may need to start by writing a list of all the people who have harmed us who we are still holding resentment towards. We need to let go of the other person’s part and be responsible for our part only. Making amends in this way gives us the experience of freedom from the burden of shame, guilt and over responsibility.
Forgiveness comes in its own time. First we need to work through and experience fully our feelings. We need to figure out what the lesson is for us and what our new behaviors and responses need to be so that the abuse or mistreatment does not continue. Often the lesson is learning to own my power to take care of myself with people. This is a grieving process, done in stages that begin with denial and move us into anger and sadness. Once we have done this we are ready to forgive, but not until then. Forgiveness done too soon will be ineffective and will require re-doing.
Being free of resentment is an amends in and of itself.
Amends are our pure truth without blame, distraction, justification or manipulation; we are taking responsibility for our experience. We understand that making amends also means we are truly committed to changing with the help of our Higher Power.
What most of us wanted in the way of amends from another was to have that person acknowledge their part in harming us. We also wanted our feelings and our perception of the incident acknowledged. And if we were to continue in a relationship with this person, we wanted them to behave differently towards us. And so we arrived at a method of making amends - to acknowledge our harmful behavior and the other person’s feelings in the matter and to follow that with a change in our own behavior.
We use simple, direct and specific communications. We approach God, ourselves and others with compassion, respect and understanding, maintaining our humility, spirituality and boundaries to the best of our ability.
Amends are not about getting things off our chest at the expense of others. They are not simply about clearing the air. Rather, they are spiritual exercises in humility whereby we are watchful of our attitudes and actions. Healthy behavior can be our most powerful amends; it is a testament to our recovery. This can be the greatest gift of Step Nine.
If our motives for our amends and changes are based on expectations that others will now like, forgive, accept or become available to us, we are likely to be deeply disappointed.
Some of us expect personal accountability first from those who have harmed us. We believe our pain will be relieved if other people make amends too. We risk failure if we approach this Step with expectations of how our amends will turn out.
As we outline our inappropriate behaviors and amends, other people may react angrily. They may be hurt or understanding. Our job is to listen and acknowledge their feelings. Some people may see our codependent behaviors as normal and want to discount them and our amends. Accepting that this is their view, we can restate our amends to help keep our boundaries and recovery perspective in order. We remember we are cleaning up our part in each relationship, no matter how others may see it.
Some people to whom we owe amends may not be living or can’t be found. Sometimes someone may refuse to hear an amends that we would like to make. When there is no possibility of making direct amends, being of service to others is our amends. In giving, we receive and gain peace in a spirit once filled with remorse and pain.
Examples of Living Amends
Writing letters and reading them to our Higher Power and our sponsor.
Bringing good into today in ways we either could not or did not in the past.
Saying “no” in order to take care of ourselves.
Expressing differing opinions & letting go of our fears of what others may think.
Letting go of our belief that everyone needs to be and feel the same.
Allowing others the dignity to live their lives in their own way.
Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
There were times it seemed we were being nagged by feelings of fear, rage, hurt or shame with no clear explanation. During these situations we put the first three Steps into action. We acknowledged our powerlessness over this condition and affirmed out belief in God’s power to bring us to balance. Then, we asked out Higher Power to reveal what we needed to know about this situation. Usually the answer came and we could take whatever action we thought appropriate. If it seemed slow in coming we asked for patience and faith.
… And when we were wrong promptly admitted it
This action did not come easily. Many times we looked for excuses for our behaviour. Attempting to rationalize or justify our actions and motives became a defense against facing the shame we feared we would feel by appearing to be less than perfect.
“ I can’t possibly acknowledge my wrongdoing to that person. I’d look like a fool”
The agony of exposure seemed overwhelming. We were helped by listening to stories told be those who had already worked this Step and we learned that our fear or confusion was not unique.
I was hard enough to acknowledge our misdeed to another without hesitation, but what about promptly making amends to ourselves? Trial and error taught us first to admit that we were not yet experts at supporting and nurturing ourselves. Many of us needed more practice in defining and accepting our boundaries. Some of us still hadn’t learned to say “no.” For most of us simply stopping berating ourselves for every real or imagined mistake, would be a major self-amends.
A method we found valuable in this “self-amends” process was to plan some fun. So much of our lives had been spent taking care of others, controlling others and being serious that the playful side of ourselves had become neglected and ignored.
The results we obtained by working the Twelve Steps never ceased to amaze us. In those moments when fear, shame and self-criticism ceased, we discovered the freedom of our new found vulnerability. Life took on the joyful expectation of an exciting adventure.
In this moment, I live my life in a new way.
As I continue to open my heart and mind,
little by little, one day at a time, I reveal my True Self,
mend my relationships and touch God.
What is my motive for each of my amends?
What SELF-AMENDS can I practice?
How will I let the playful side of myself out?
How do I take care of myself when making amends?
Do I need to ask permission of the other person before making any direct amends?
Why is it important that I let go of expectations? What helps me to do this?
Do I have to be understood?
When is an amend complete? When have I done enough?
“I love and accept myself. I have taken responsibility for my behavior with ………, and I am now free to let the past go”
Forgiveness of Others
“I have dealt with my feelings towards…….., and I have forgiven him/her. I have let go of my feelings towards him/her and I allow peace and love to settle into our relationship.”