Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
This should be a practice in everyone’s life but for the addict in recovery, it’s crucial if they want to remain clean and sober. There are varying degrees of “crucial” but this is important.
I heard sinning referred to as doing something that you know is not in line with your moral code or compass (something like that). When we stop the substance abuse or whatever your addiction of choice is, we start to get these lingering thoughts and re-occurring memories that make us cringe… stuff that happened to us and/or things we did to others. Sometimes it is clear as day and front of mind, other times we completely bury it and don’t even remember who or what we wronged. Either way, it is important that we dive into this thoroughly even to the extent of blindly asking people from our past and/or in our present if there is anything we did that needs to be made right. I asked a friend of mine, after a year or so into my recovery, if I had wronged him in any. He wasn’t the first and it was typical to get the old “Nope, just keep doing what you’re doing” or “yeah, but don’t worry about it, just stay at it”. I was taken back, I must
Sometimes it is clear as day and front of mind, other times we completely bury it and don’t even remember who or what we wronged. Either way, it is important that we dive in thoroughly, even to the extent of blindly asking people from our past and/or in our present if there is anything we did that needs to be made right.
I asked a friend of mine, after a year or so into my recovery, if I had wronged him in any way. He wasn’t the first and it was typical to get the old “Nope, just keep doing what you’re doing” or “yeah, but don’t worry about it, just stay on track and we’re good”. I was taken back when this particular friend said “yeah! you owe me 600 bucks!”.
He explained the logic and I did not fully agree with it but I remember a like scenario being presented at a men’s retreat earlier that year and the question was posed “what is the relationship worth”. This friend was well worth $600.00 and I paid him in full, incrementally, holding back my argument on how I did not owe it. It’s worth pointing out that this friend makes a very good living so this was not about needing the money but more principle than anything. Regardless, I’m glad I did it.
There were several amends that were horrifying to me. Some of the financial amends specifically. Facing and correcting wreckage from the past takes guts, guidance, and patience. I worked through all of the amends on my list with my sponsor and slowly but surely checked them all off. Some required a living amends (making things right karmically in other ways if no other option is available) and others were pretty straight forward. But there was that one… that BIG one.
I was advised not to hurt someone else in order to clear my conscience. For example, if you have an affair with your friend’s spouse, maybe it’s not best to openly admit that to both of them and destroy their marriage so you can feel better…. you get the picture.
So… with that in mind, I had my biggest, largest, worst regret yet to deal with. It was something that happened when I was a teenager and had haunted me since. I wasn’t sure how to deal with it and did not want to cause more damage to the person I had wronged. The guilt and shame that I harbored were almost unbearable at times but I decided it’s better for me to feel it than cause any more damage and I was willing to go my entire lifetime with that pain if it was the requirement for my atonement.
I made a deal with God and agreed to do whatever was necessary to make things right when the timing was right…. IF it ever would be right. Years went by and nothing. I stayed willing and open to anything that would complete this amends accompanied by acceptance that it may never be resolved.
Then, among many other life events, I met a wonderful person that I’m convinced God put in my life. This person explained to me a very like scenario and how the perpetrator made their amends…. how free they both felt after 20 plus years of suffering. That was the permission I needed! I went to it and drafted an amends in writing. It was easy enough to track down the person I had harmed on social media and I hit send.
9 months went by……. nothing. I would think about it often, curious if they received it or not but hey, what’s 9 months after 20 years right?. Then, finally! Two days ago I saw the person accept my request on messenger. A few hours later I got a message asking if we could talk on the phone.
The conversation was mildly awkward at first but quickly went to brutal honesty. Several tough questions were asked and equally difficult answers given. With tears streaming and overwhelming emotions to mixed and heightened to put into words we completed our miraculous action of healing and recovery through forgiveness. We said our goodbyes and just before hanging up I said: “thank you for letting me be free of this”. Nothing I could ever write will explain the sensation of emotions in that moment. I am so grateful for the process of forgiveness, for the 12 step program and the opportunities we get for “feedback” in this life.
We all make mistakes. It’s part of the human experience. What is important is how we deal with them. Do we acknowledge them and take full accountability so that we can grow and become better people? Or, do we run from them.. hiding behind things like pride, ego, deception, and lies. Do we reside in humility because we seek it and understand how valuable it can be or do we live in fear using tools like deception, projection, or manipulations to avoid the temporary pains of self-actualization?
Growth is painful… no way around it. Growth also requires honesty… brutal honesty with yourself and your peers. You must seek truth with a deep hunger and understand it’s value! Ask God for guidance and promise that you will be fearless and thorough when opportunities for growth are presented to you. Ask for your path and that anything getting in the way of your path be removed from you…. that the obstacles preventing you from your true potential be lifted so you may gravitate toward that which seeks you also. Everything and everyone you need will appear during this process and you will be amazed at how powerful and beautiful it is.
With God, some good guidance and a fearless desire to be better (so you can better serve others), you will understand what a fulfilling life is.. You will experience it, as I am.