Step Nine: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Step 9 of A.A. is a biggie. It is the culmination of all the previous steps, which have guided us through the process of admitting our character defects and taking responsibility for changing them.
In Step 8, we were tasked with creating a list of all those to whom we had caused harm as a result of our substance use disorder. Now, with Step 9, we take that next step and actively begin the process of making amends to them.
As scary as this might seem, to possibly face rejection by those unwilling to forgive us, Step 9 is an act of courage. This step will help us break the chains of guilt, shame, and remorse that would otherwise hold us back on our recovery journey.
Working Step 9 in Alcoholics Anonymous
As flawed humans with our prideful natures, it isn’t easy to come clean about how our bad behaviors had hurt people that we care about. It takes courage and humility to push through thick layers of guilt and make a sincere apology to someone.
But the rewards of Step 9 are immense. One study out of the University of Miami reported just how powerful making amends is in healing both parties. The study shows how immensely positive the resulting psychological effects are following conciliatory gestures.
When approaching Step 9, it is important not to rush the process. It is not a step you want to just cross off the list so you can move on to Step 10. No, Step 9 is a step you will want to carefully, methodically work through. Each human being that you have identified as deserving of a heartfelt apology is worthy of a sincere effort.
Before setting up the meeting, take the time to think about what you want to say. Make sure you are specific and thorough when making amends. Issue a humble, heartfelt apology, including an offer to do whatever you can to make things right.
Step 9 is a next step in the process of arriving at a spiritual awakening. Completing Step 9 doesn’t just end with a simple apology. It requires you to move through your life in a different way, one in which you take swift responsibility for your shortcomings and missteps. As these new attitudes and commitments take hold, relationships with everyone in your life will improve and strengthen.
Note that not everyone on your Step 8 list should be contacted. There are some situations where making amends could result in more pain or damage. Your sponsor can help you discern whether making amends might be harmful or ill-advised in certain cases.
Now, let’s hear from Louis M., Ashley Alumni Coordinator, about his Step 9 experience:
After I completed my Step 8 and relied on my higher power to help me become willing to make amends to those I had wronged, it was time for the rubber to meet the road. I started the Step 9 process with my close family, making sure I explained the 12 Step process and where I was at that moment. I told them about my wrongs (being careful not to over-share in front of my mother) and other actions that I needed to make amends for. I was careful not to say “sorry,” as many people in my life had heard me say that over and over again. I asked them what I could do to make those situations right, and then promised to take that action. When work started on Step 9, my perspective on life also started to get exponentially better.
Benefits of the 12 Step Program
Anyone who has ever attempted sobriety after a lengthy substance use disorder knows firsthand how daunting the challenge is. When you enter recovery, you truly need whatever helpful support sources you can find. One of the most powerful sources for recovery support is Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12 Step Program.
The 12 Step program is designed to lead you through the benchmarks that will incrementally free you from your past. By thoughtfully working the steps, it is possible to make fundamental changes in your attitudes, behaviors, and choices. Through this process, with the help of your Higher Power, you will be able to carve out a new, better, version of yourself in recovery.