The weakness of the words “I’m sorry” – the strength of step 9
Step 9 in the 12-step recovery program says, “made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”
Steps 8 and 9 in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous are so important in the recovery process. in May of 2021, Mike and Glenn covered step 9 in a long yet powerful session of sober.coffee. You can hear that session here.
For years we wreaked havoc in the lives of people we knew and those who loved us most. Post havoc, we carried the heavy load of guilt, shame, and remorse. Making things right with the relationships we have damaged is essential to achieving a genuinely sober existence. Now, we can do that on our own, with our own thinking, but that “own thinking” got us to exactly where we were. So we look to the 12-step recovery process to bring recuperation into our reality.
According to Google, The traditional dictionary definition of making amends is to “correct a mistake that one has, made or a bad situation one has caused.”
This is not a very popular concept for Alcoholics, or for that matter., non-Alcoholics. Most people tend to live in the sphere of the blame game. At least we found that true for us. “He did that; she did that, they did that - which caused this mess.”. Sometimes, but rarely, we say, “sure, maybe I had a part in that bad situation. The weight of this dishonest mindset has been the perpetrator of many a drink or drug. Unfortunately, the weight of that wake of destruction causes unneeded stress and leaves us vulnerable to relapse.
Successful step 9 execution is really about honesty, openness, and humility.
We suggest honesty starts in step 8 when we list all the persons we had harmed and state that we were willing to make amends to them all. For those of us who took a searching and fearless moral inventory of our lives (steps 4 and 6), the making of “the list” flowed fluently. Honesty carries over in step 9 as we verbally take responsibility for our previous actions that obviously caused harm and genuinely try to correct that situation or mistake. A reflection of honesty would be found in one’s apology and in their earnest desire to make things right.
Openness would be found in one's discipline to listen and not defend -- or worse, to accuse. We found that the instinct of most is to do the least for the best result. In the case of step 9, we should be open to the fact that if we are there to listen and truly understand the pain we caused, then and only then can we begin the amends process. This approach would take the “do the most” for the best results. Indeed, we suggest that earnestly listening should be 90% of the conversation. Listening is the best separation repair tool we know of. We believe that listening is where the healing begins.
Humility comes in many forms but plays out explicitly in step 9. It is found in our ability to accept the responses we get from the people we harm. Humility, in our opinion, is at the root of our strong desire to make sure that the person that we had harmed has found relief in both our words and our actions, understanding that how they respond is not in our hands, only the making of the amends is in our control.
This may not be the best coverage of step 9 that you have come across, as it is just one view that jumped out to us as we discussed this most important step. The real point is to believe in the process and the program. And that program teaches us that we need to clear away the wreckage of the past so that it doesn't weigh on our ability to stay sober.
Many have reported that the most potent results of the 12-step program have come and properly working steps 8 and 9,
Lastly, words matter (and they matter deeply to so many), but actions trump conversation, as what we DO builds more trust than what we SAY.
Ready to take these important steps?
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #10 Step 9 - Made Direct Amends.... The podcast dropped on 6/9/2021. Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own