Step Nine of the Twelve Step process can prove to be the most daunting on the recovery path: the step of making amends. The Big Book says, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” An apology cannot be a selfish act; apologizing just to relieve yourself of your guilt does not take the other person’s feelings into account, and it may make them feel even worse about the situation between you. Step Nine revolves around making amends, which means fixing the damage you have done simply because it is the right thing to do.
Know When to Approach Step Nine
Step Nine is one of the most difficult of the Twelve Steps, and there is a reason behind the Steps’ placement. It takes time to build up to handling Step Nine. Virtually every addiction case involves a trail of destruction in one way or another. Some people borrow money and never pay it back or steal to support their habits. Others commit crimes or violent offenses under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. Some destructive acts result in tangible, measurable damage while others destroy personal relationships and trust.
Everyone will face a different road toward making amends in Step Nine. This is the reason for Step Nine’s late placement in the Twelve Steps; it takes time for a person to be able to honestly examine his or her past actions and fully assess how his or her behavior hurt others. Making amends should follow the previous steps, but it’s vital to seek professional counseling or the guidance of a sponsor in your Twelve Step program before attempting Step Nine.
Stick With Your Program
Step Nine is ninth for a reason; you must handle the previous steps honestly before you can hope to succeed with Step Nine. This is by far one of the most challenging steps for anyone in a Twelve Step program. Dredging up past wrongs against others can cause intense feelings of shame, remorse, and regret. Some people working through the Twelve Steps may struggle to imagine repairing broken relationships with some loved ones and friends.
Take time to fully explore the previous eight Steps before attempting Step Nine. If you have a sponsor or counselor in your program, maintain close communication and keep him or her informed of any updates. Most Twelve Step programs will require you and your sponsor to sit down and review your past, exploring all possible potential areas of your life to make amends for past misdeeds when you were under the influence or maintaining a past addiction. Drug and alcohol abuse can cause people to act irrationally, dangerously, or completely out of usual character, but this does not excuse the behavior, and you must take ownership over your past if you want to fix the damage done.
Understand The Different Types of Amends
It may be impossible to make amends to some people. Others may refuse to speak with you at all, while some may appreciate your offer to repay past wrongs but insist that seeing you on the road to recovery is repayment enough. Many people who work through the Twelve Steps find they have much more support than they realized, and many may find that overcoming past wrongs can be much simpler than expected. However, this isn’t always the case, and some past issues will take a long time to overcome. Ultimately, you must understand there are several ways to make amends.
Direct amends apply when you caused some kind of tangible or measurable damage to someone else due to your addiction. Indirect amends apply when direct amends are impossible. Perhaps a loved one passed away before you could speak again, or illness makes a conversation impossible.
When you cannot make direct amends to the person you harmed, making indirect amends means making amends to someone else instead of that person. For example, donating to a charity in the person’s name or volunteering for a charitable cause that resonates with that person’s values would be forms of indirect amends. Living amends is essential for everyone in the recovery process. This entails living a better lifestyle and making positive changes in the world to make up for any damage done during an addiction.
Use Effective Methods of Apologizing
Maybe you borrowed money you never repaid or stole from a loved one. Carefully review how much you have taken from that person and offer repayment. Explain you are on the path to recovery and want to fix the damage you’ve done. Do not assign blame for your actions to your addiction, instead take ownership of them and express your sincerest apologies. You may also need to weigh whether to tell someone of something you have done if learning of it would cause them more harm. Every situation is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to Step Nine.
Remember, Step Nine says to make amends “unless doing so would injure them or others.” Some people who have suffered because of your past choices may not want to hear from you, and this is something you must accept. You should also ensure that making amends remains a priority until you complete Step Nine. This requires a somewhat delicate balance of avoiding procrastination while also refraining from impulsive or careless apologies that do more harm than good.
Getting Through Your Step Nine Challenges
The best way to handle Step Nine is to be realistic with your expectations. You and your sponsor or counselor should carefully examine how your addiction has harmed other people in your life and look for ways to restore those relationships and fix what you’ve broken. This may require confronting issues with no clear resolution, so do not expect to complete Step Nine fully in a short time. Ultimately, living amends and leading a better life work the best toward restoring the damage done by addiction, regardless of how long it takes to settle affairs amongst the people in your life.
Learn to Forgive Yourself
Just like you cannot really love another person until you love yourself, you cannot start repairing the damage you have done to others until you learn to forgive yourself. Your addiction cannot be the scapegoat for your past actions; you must realize that you own those mistakes and then commit to a conscious, ongoing effort to be better and to do better. The core of your apologies to others should be humility and personal responsibility, and for those to manifest you first need to carefully examine yourself, the damage you have done to yourself, and forgive yourself so you can move on and repair your relationships with others.
At Windmill Wellness Ranch, the 12 Step process is an integral part of our recovery program. During your time here, you'll get the opportunity to go through these steps in your own time with the help of our clinicians and certified therapists, as well as, with others who are going through similar struggles. Contact us today to learn more about our program and begin your steps today.