Sunday, November 16, 2008

Step Eight

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."  

This is another step where it seems there is not much to "do."  Make a list.  And the big book even says that we already made the list when we did our Fourth Step.  The 12 and 12 says that we have that list and then we go back and redouble our efforts to see how many people we have hurt and in what ways.  

Becoming willing to make amends to them all is probably the trickier part.  Imagine this!  You tell an alcoholic to make a list of the people he or she resents and later you tell them to go make amends to them!  What a tricky deal this is!

I will just say that making amends is a very delicate science.  I think it is the area where we need the most help from our sponsors.  I can convince myself that I owe an amends when really I am looking for an amends from the other person.  I can convince myself that telling another person how they have hurt me is somehow a 9th step amends.  I can also convince myself that I ought to unload on them all "the truth" when they don't need to know... I am only hurting them more in an effort to feel better.  

Let me tell you about one of my most misguided attempts at an amends.... misguided in this case meaning not guided at all.  I did not talk it over with a sponsor.  I did not pray about it.  I did not write inventory or 5th step it.  I just decided one day that I was hurt by my former best friend and decided to "make amends."  I was sober all of 5 years, so I thought I knew what I was doing.

I sat down on the beach on Long Island, New York, and spent a morning writing her a letter.  I told her how she had hurt me. I detailed it out for her so she would not have any doubt about how she had harmed me.  Then I took out my checkbook and wrote a check for $10.  I guess that was my way of making it an "amends."  She had been married to a multi-millionaire (before his fraud conviction) and had given me money when I was a struggling single mother.  I figured I owed her maybe a thousand dollars.  I told her I would send her $10. a month until it was paid off.  Now please be aware that she never loaned me money, she had given me money.  I was just angry and wanted to throw it back in her face.  

Well, months went by and I never heard back from her - what a surprise!  Maybe 6 months later, I got an overdraft notice from the bank.  It seems that I had let my checking account balance get down to nothing just before my monthly check hit the bank, and this was the exact moment when she decided to cash this $10. check.  The check bounced!  Nice amends, huh?  A nasty letter and a bad check.  And then I truly owed her an amends - a real amends.  

We did later get this all straightened out.  She did make amends to me for the things I was so angry about.  I did get to make amends for this stuff and plenty more stuff too.  

But I think this is a perfect illustration of why you don't just go off and make amends.  You have a list.  You consider it carefully, adding or subtracting, with the help of your sponsor and plenty of prayer.  And then you pray some more for the willingness to do the right thing and get straight with the world.

And what a wonderful thing that is....

19 comments:

dAAve said...

Here's to an amends-free day. Unless it's necessary, of course.

J-Online said...

My sponsor and I spent a lot of time Friday night discussing the amends process because I'm so afraid of it. Then she reminded me to take it a step at a time and when the time came we would work on it together. Execellent encouragment from her. Thanks for sharing this. Jen

Banana Girl said...

I love this series. You keep reminding me and teaching me what I don't really know about the finer points of the steps. Thank you so much.

AlkySeltzer said...

Ya know, I truly, TRULY LOVE this series on our beautiful Twelve Steps, Mary. God...thank you SO much!!!

Well, I made my first "amend" to a 'son' who I had abandoned, along with his mother of course. I was sober three weeks! It was TERRIBLE! FIFTEEN YEARS it took to straighten out. God did the job, because I could NOT! (It's a long story--a "blong"?)

Mark W. said...

A beach on Long Island eh?

Yeah... been there, done that. Funny how a beach on LI can work its way into our lives in recovery. :)

Great series of posts btw.

big Jenn said...

Great story.I recently spoke to someone who had plans to tell their husband about an affair they had had in order to make amends and thankfully had a good sponser. So many, many clients in my former job wanted to do this step first, to rid themselves of shame and guilt. Thank you.jeNN

big Jenn said...

Ha, I love that we are reading each others blogs at the same time this AM! God is good. jeNN

Gabriella Moonlight said...

Dear Miss Mary Christine, thank you for your amazing blog, I thank you and have a small token of my adoration on my blog, please go and visit and know that I give it with great gratitude.
G

Mary LA said...

When I went off to start making amends, I had no idea how deeply former friends had been hurt by my behaviour.

To sit and listen to them tell me how they had felt and remind me of some of the hurtful actions I had forgotten about, was humiliating but very ego-puncturing. And the forgiveness was unstinted.

I made my share of non-amends too...

Kim A. said...

like my sponsor ALWAYS asks me when I am contemplating anything that has to do with another human being...what is my motive? Good reminder...and yes, I can screw up an amend about as easy as I screw up most stuff when I dont THINK :-)

Namaste

Heather said...

I sure as hell wish I'd had this to read about 12 hours ago. Can someone please get the knife out of my heart?

Lou said...

I'm mucho enjoying this.

Scott W said...

I recently had someone demand I make an amends to them. They contacted me by email and told me they would not read anything I sent back. I spoke to my sponsor and he advised me that I truly did not owe this person an amends. I have not read in the Big Book that we demand amends from others.

sober Chick said...

I appreciate reading and learning about your experience on this. You have so much to offer the young ones (speaking of me :) and ohhhhhh how I you give me the gift of HOPE . . . cuz I sure could not do this by myself and heal the soul from this thing that wants to kill me.

xoxo, thank you for your ESH.

Shadow said...

who'd have thought... this is something to ponder.

Kathy Lynne said...

MC: Thank you so much for these shares on the steps. I really appreciate hearing about your experiences and yes, we must consult with our sponser...I am in the process of making my amends...very carefully.

Pam said...

excellent little corn muffin..excellent

Shameful Lush said...

Hello Mary Christine,

I have followed your blog but in all honesty, in one of those drunken haze internet sessions where I somehow feel superior and all together hopeful I can conquer the world and my alcoholism, only to find the next day-it went out the window. I wanted to thankyou for your comment. It's unbelievable how just a few simple words can bring a smile to your face. My head is a mess, filled with steps and sponsors because I went to my first meeting yesterday. All these odd words are beginning to make sense. I don't want to get too wrapped up in this happy feeling because even now I feel like opening a bottle to 'celebrate' this first step. So i decided to write in my blog again.

Thankyou x

Just Another Sober Guy said...

Great story! A fine example of why we need to do it exactly as described for us. Going off and doing it on your own, unprepared & unplanned.... God had a way of letting you know, eh? Thank you for sharing this and everything else thus far....

I am catching up!!!