Step Nine is an action step in which we become humble enough to verbalize our regrets, if appropriate, to the people we’ve harmed. Identifying the persons we have harmed in Step 8 took courage. Because of our thoroughness, we build character by calling upon our Higher Power for the courage to change the things we can. We cannot undo our past and we cannot expect those we approach to respond positively, but we can admit our part and do whatever is possible to mitigate the consequences of our past errors.
In making amends, we need to understand that we’re not necessarily making an apology. There are differences between amends and apologies. In making an apology, we usually say, “I’m sorry” expecting a response of acceptance, pardon or forgiveness. In making amends, we may state our errors, our role in the incident and that we will correct their behavior for the future. We may or may not ask for forgiveness, and we may or may not experience a positive response. In many cases our changed behavior indicated stronger amends than words can ever be. If we have any expectation of the response to amends, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Which people on my list do I need to make direct amends to first? What’s stopping me? All of my prior spouses and a few girlfriends. With the exception of my daughter's Mom (we are divorced and have remained close friends because of our daughter) it would open old wounds to re-establish contact and, while it may soothe my soul, it would harm theirs. To much water has already flowed under the bridge. I never was physically abusive nor was I verbally abusive. I suffered control and approval issues and took it out on them emotionally. I did step 9 once before while going to therapy to fix myself and direct contact hurt them more than I intended. Even though my daughter's Mom and I are friends, I will tell her again I am sorry for all the distress I caused her.
How can I plan what I am going to say in my direct amends to be clear and concise and to avoid blaming any other person? I already have during my therapy to fix myself to be a better person. I do not blame the people I have harmed
What doubts do I have about my amends injuring someone? Can I discuss these doubts with my sponsor? Pray to be guided? Write about them? I have already written about them in my journal and in my books
What are my motives for making amends? Am I willing to accept the outcome, whatever it may be? My motive is to acknowledge my faults so I do not make the same mistakes again. I have already accepted the outcomes
What is the difference between an apology and making amends? Which amends will be best done by changes in my behavior? An apology presumes some sort of reaction from the other person...either a rejection or acceptance. Making amends is the change in me that makes sure I don't ever make the same mistakes again; that I no longer possess those defects that caused harm to others again.
How can I be sure I am not just ducking an embarrassing situation? I trust this step study and I have already dealt with this question in therapy. The harm I have caused in others is greater than my potential embarrassment.
What amends am I putting off? Why? I am putting off the actions I would like to do for others at the shelter and the soup kitchen because I am too busy taking care of my ill wife. So my amends, at the moment, are ridding myself of the negative emotions from this task. I made the choice and so it's wrong of me to do to her what I have done in the past just because of her alcoholic behaviour.
Do I have any amends to make that could result in serious consequences for my family, like loss of employment or a prison term? How can I use my sponsor or a trusted friend to help me sort these things out? No
Who on my amends list will never be available for direct amends? Can I make amends in another way? Can I do something for another person? I can take the mistakes of my past to be a better person to my wife today and myself
What harm have I done to my children or immediate family? Can I make some amends by respecting them now as adults? I have already made amends to my daaughter. We have a wonderful relationship now. She is 29 years old.
Am I willing to pray to become willing to make amends in the future?
How can I forgive myself for all the difficulties I have caused myself? What can I do this week to begin my amends to myself? I can continue with loving detachment.
Could I write an amends letter to myself? I already have
When I have finished this action step, what can I do to celebrate? Have I remembered to appreciate and reward my good deeds? The good deeds of others? For the first time since I arrived here, I smile every day. I look within myself knowing I am doing the best I can. I am my daughters greatest cheerleader. When the alcohol is talking to me I remember that there is a wionderful person behind that demon and I am the husband of that wonderful person. "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
(The Shawshank Redemption 1994)