Understanding Step Nine
In Step Nine, it’s time to make amends to the people we have harmed. We have to get past the urge to make excuses not to go through with taking this important step. The only time we should avoid making amends to those we have harmed is when bringing up the past will cause them even more hurt.
We review the list we made in Step Eight, and we will find that some amends will be easier to make than others. We will take action on these as soon as we can. For some of the other people on the list, we may need more time or we may need to consider whether reaching out to them will do more harm than good.
Getting Ready to Make Amends
The way to approach making amends depends on the type of harm we have done. If we have caused financial damage to other people, we may work toward setting up plans for repayment. If we owe large sums of money that we aren’t able to repay, we often get positive reactions from the people we owe if we make an attempt to pay a little at a time.
When we have caused emotional harm to people we love or even to people who are not that close to us, making amends will require much more than just saying we are sorry. We have to commit to leading a better life. We may have to prove we are willing to take on our share of family responsibilities. Often living a sober and productive life is the best way to make amends to other people.
Reactions of Others
In order to make our amends, we may choose to sit down and talk with the other person face to face, or we may want to choose our words carefully in a letter. We start by acknowledging we have caused the other person pain because of the time we spent actively addicted to drugs and alcohol. We explain the path we are on to a sober, productive life and how committed we are to making better choices.
In working Step Nine, it’s important to remember that we have absolutely no control over how the other person reacts. While many people will be receptive to our efforts to reach out and work to correct the errors we have made, some may react with hostility or anger. They may doubt that it’s possible for us to change. We need to avoid feeling discouraged or defensive, and we especially need to avoid getting drawn into negativity.
Easy Does It, But Do It
It’s important not to rush into trying to convince people we have changed too early in our recovery. Some of us may want to shout from the rooftops that we are sober now, and we may want to make promises to our loved ones that we will never cause them harm again.
The slogan “easy does it” makes a lot of sense at this point. While we can’t indefinitely delay facing the people we have hurt, we also can’t rush into it. This is true not only for our families and close friends, but also for employers and casual acquaintances. We have to be sure we are solidly on the path to recovery before we run around announcing to everyone that we have changed.
But once we are solidly on the path to recovery, some of us may find that we want to procrastinate in taking this step. We don’t want to open old wounds, and we may put off reunions that we expect to be painful because we are afraid. Deep down we know the right thing to do. We know whether there are people to whom we owe amends, and we know whether meeting with certain people would cause more harm than good to either them or us.
Working Step Nine may take a lot of courage. We may need to work with our sponsors to figure out if we are delaying certain meetings for good reasons or because of fear. The heart of Step Nine is attaining the willingness to do whatever it takes to recover from a life of addiction.
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