Monday, November 17, 2008

Step Nine

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." 

Let me first say, the category of "others" that you may hurt with amends never includes yourself.  Let me also say, that in my experience, those who start their amends list with their own names (because, after all, they mainly hurt themselves with their drinking) seldom move beyond their first amend.  

The first time I did this step, I asked my sponsor where I should begin.  I had a lot of names.  And a lot of stuff.  She said to start with the hardest one.  So I did.  I called my sister-in-law, explained that I was an alcoholic practicing the steps of AA,  and told her that I was the one who knocked over her Christmas tree.  That I was the one who set her curtains on fire.  That I was the one who broke her son's rocking chair... etc., etc., etc.  All drunken stupidity.  She was not too keen on hearing from me (I can't imagine why!) and didn't really want to talk about it.  I asked her what I could do to make it right and she really just denied that I could have ever done these things.  But I had.  I was very confused about what to do about this.  My sponsor said that I am only in charge of my own side of the deal, that I cannot make the other person respond in any particular way.  My amend to that was just to never again show up at a family function drunk.  I would endeavor to be someone you could invite to Christmas dinner without worries.  I think I have been mostly able to do that over the years.  

There are so many amends stories over the years, I don't know where to begin.  I just know it is vital to sobriety that you get the amends made... and that you continue to make them.  We cannot live with guilt, shame, and fear.  Getting straight with the world gets rid of these things.  I know that when I was sober for a year or so, the thought of calling GMAC and talking to them about my alcoholism seemed like a stupid idea, but I did it. I was behind on my car payments.  I needed to make arrangements to get that cleared up.  I did pick up that phone and do that. I thought at the time that I was being ridiculous, but by the time I got off the phone, I knew it wasn't ridiculous at all.  I can't remember all the details, but I do know that I did get that straightened out and I know that I had cooperation from a huge company like GMAC, which totally surprised me.

It took a long time to get some other things cleared up.  When I was sober 14 years, I was buying my first house.  Suddenly it became necessary for me to clean up all the financial wreckage of my sobriety in order to qualify for a mortgage.  Thankfully I was able to do that.  

It took longer to pay off all of my child support, but that finally got paid too.  Can you see a trend here?  This takes a long time.  The main thing is that we be willing to do it, and then we will get the opportunities.  It just does not happen overnight.  

Let me tell a happy 9th step story.  One of the people on my list was a friend from high school.  I had no idea where he was.  One day I decided that I was going to find him, come hell or high water.  In those days there was no internet, so you just called area code+555-1212 for long distance information.  I tried all the major metropolitan areas of the US.  And then I started trying smaller places.  I finally found him in Madison, Wisconsin.  He was a professor at the University there.  I called him.  I sheepishly told him that I was an alcoholic - somehow I always expected that people would argue with me about that, but no one did - I told him I was sober in AA and, he said "Thank God."  I told him the other things I needed to tell him.  It was received the way you hope an amends will be received.  The happy part of that is that we have remained in touch since then.  He was in town 2 years ago, and we got to have a lovely dinner.  I am so grateful to be in touch with someone I have known for so long and who has known me.  It is a good thing and it would never have happened without me making that amends.

The Ninth Step is wonderful in that it gives us the ability to clean up the past.  We begin to walk with our heads up.  We are not afraid to look the world in the eye.  We begin to experience real freedom.  What we now lovingly call "the promises" are written about the 9th step.   

This is the cha-ching step.  This is really where we get the most bang for our buck.  It is amazing what happens as a result of this, but you will not know until you do it.  So, if you haven't already, please get to it!

13 comments:

Scott W said...

...we will be amazed before we are half way through.

Shadow said...

i can almost feel your light spirit in this post...

AlkySeltzer said...

Mary, even though you may not enjoy my quoting your own blog in a comment, here goes:

" My amend to that was just to never again show up at a family function drunk. I would endeavor to be someone you could invite to Christmas dinner without worries. I think I have been mostly able to do that over the years."

Thank you for bringing it forward, that "Amend" means to CHANGE my behavior, my attitude. 'Sorry' is fine, but the action here is CHENGE! (Amendment to the Constitution, e.g.)

Thank you for another wonderful discourse on a beautiful (but not easy!) Step Nine.

Cat said...

Beautiful and inspitational post.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

It's those living amends that have really shown me that this is a step that will reveal itself more deeply in my life and that as you said I can no longer live with fear, guilt, shame, remorse. Thank you for this post and for reminding me of the concept that it cannot be you first in your amends, I did it the way your sponsor sugessted, the hard one's first!

thank you for your brilliant light,
G

dAAve said...

It changed my life. And sent me to the next level of recovery.

Lou said...

Being able to walk with one's head held up is no small accomplishment.

Syd said...

It is a great step. I've made my amends, both to the living and the dead. As you said, it's for me to do and in no way can I predict the outcome. I have made my peace where it needs to be made. Thanks for sharing the story of your amends.

Banana Girl said...

You have made new the realization of unfinished business and the need to finish it. Thanks. It was just what I needed today. J.

♥Shann♥ said...

it is so amazing what happens when we work this step, and really hopefully we have worked the steps previous to this one, for you to get that effect.

big Jenn said...

My parents died before I formally did this step with them. I regret it to this day.I am always too much in charge, driving my own bus, and miss oportunitys because of it. jeNN

Kathy Lynne said...

Thank you for saying what I have felt uneasy about when people say make amends to yourself. I mean, aren't we already doing that by working the steps to achieve sobriety? I have begun the amends process...and so far it has been a relief. Hard to start but once done, as you say, cha-ching!

Just Another Sober Guy said...

I am just coming up on this area very soon. I am already amazed and I find it hard to imagine life and my attitudes getting better. You have shown me that so much more is possible if I just keep moving. Thank you again!
PEACE