Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others. (*)
Here the goal is to take real responsibility for our actions by sincerely apologizing to those we’ve hurt – each and every one of them! In fact, we’re to go further, and work to make the situation right. You already know who you need to make amends to because you put the list together in Step 8.
It’s a scary step to be sure. Rarely are we actually looking forward to facing a friend, a boss, an ex spouse, a child, a parent or person we’ve hurt with our actions and inactions, let alone pay the debt owed, whether it’s money or something else. But if we’re to stay free of our addiction this step, like the others, is a must.
Possible excuses to avoid Step 9
The first place people are apt to try to skip this step is because of the “wherever possible” phrase. While there may be instances where an apology in person may not be possible. We might, for example, owe amends to someone who is dead, or to someone who now lives far away. A letter to the deceased, even though not deliverable in any usual sense, can go a long way toward helping you accept your actions and move on. A phone call to those you’re not able to see in person can work wonders, if and when you pick up the phone.
If they would be harmed
The other phrase that may seem like an escape cause is “… except when to do so would injure them or others.” Notice first that this isn’t about any injury you might suffer as a result of standing up and admitting what you’d done. This truly is a no-excuses program!
And yes, there are a few situations where making amends might cause harm to the person involved or to others. In the first instance, the Big Book uses the example of a straying spouse and suggests that if they don’t know about the infidelity that amends might cause them great pain. (p. 81) The problem is that spouses often know more than we suspect – be sure of your ground.
On page 81, the Big Book tells the story of a man who, if he made amends, risked going to jail. He was advised to consult with his family first since going to prison would make life difficult for the family. In other words, his family would be harmed. As it turns out, his wife encouraged him to do what he needed to do and although he made the amends he didn’t go to jail, but by inviting his family into the decision he was within the guidelines of Step 9.
If you’re one of the few that are in such a situation, approach your amends with caution. Consult with people in the Program who have had similar experiences. But get your amends done.
Get it done
It’s so tempting to postpone this step, perhaps forever. After all, the Big Book doesn’t spell out a timeline for the steps. Old timers, however, urge that we get the steps done as quickly as we can, including Step 9.
Sure it’s scary. The idea of actually facing someone you’ve hurt and apologizing is frightening, especially since there’s no guarantee our apology will be accepted. But there’s no real reason to postpone Step 9 either. Get it done and move on – there’s so much more to life, and working Step 9 is a major part of it.
What’s been your experience with Step 9?
Love, blessings and abundance,