For those working through the 12-step program, each step is designed to make you pause, think and act. In some situations, you may feel as though each step is a challenge, but that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. By challenging yourself, you’ll learn and grow within yourself, creating the sober lifestyle and mindset you need. Step 9, though, can make many people think twice.
What Is Step 9 of the 12-Step Program?
According to AA.org, Step 9 of the program is to “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” It’s perhaps one of the most difficult steps for those who are struggling with feelings of guilt. Yet, as difficult as it is, completing this step can help to provide an incredible sense of relief and promise for the future. At the heart of this step is the need to focus on forgiveness, but there’s also importance in looking inward here. Forgiving yourself, forgiving others and making amends is an essential step forward in caring for yourself on your journey through recovery.
Where to Start with Step 9
Before you can complete Step 9, you must make the inventoried list of Step 8. This is a list of all of the people in your life that you believe you have harmed. It can be a challenging list to write, even for those who want to embrace forgiveness and inner peace. That list is important — it represents many of the feelings and struggles you’ve had. By working through that list, a piece of yourself is restored with each conversation or moment.
With the list in hand, it’s necessary to be willing to make amends. In Step 8, you learned how important this was and how to do so. Now, it’s time to practice this. One of the most important words within this step is the word “direct.” In some programs, you’re encouraged to forgive others or to work through the guilt regarding others on your own. Yet, to be successful here, you need to go directly to the individual you’ve hurt or otherwise let down. When you go directly to the person, true change and improvement can occur.
When you go directly to that person, you also face the problem head-on. That is, you can’t push it to the side or become too embarrassed to talk about it. It’s there. That person is in front of you right now. You cannot (and should not) avoid the pain.
When Should You Approach a Person to Make Amends?
There are many situations in which individuals taking this step will encounter receptive, willing individuals. These are often the people you feel you hurt or let down the most. They listen to you; they want to work with you. They’re also willing to accept the amends you make and work through healing to rebuild your relationship. In some cases, this rebuilding takes time, but they don’t push you away or tell you no.
This is what happens for many people. When it does, it feels fantastic and allows you to move forward.
There are other situations in which the person you’re speaking with wants nothing to do with you. This is when it becomes challenging. They may not be willing to speak to you. Or, they may not be willing to forgive you after hearing what you said. That’s okay. That’s an instance in which you do your best and then move on.
When Should You Step Back?
A component of Step 9 is to not try to make amends with people who could suffer from that action. This can be very difficult for some to determine. Some individuals in recovery want to simply say they’re sorry, no matter the pain or hurt they caused. Yet, by approaching some people, you may make things far more painful. It’s important to face the truth. Here are a few examples of when it’s best not to seek out these individuals:
- You’ve caused physical harm to them; they’re afraid of you
- The individual has been traumatized by your addiction or actions
- Instances of any type of abuse
- Instances in which your actions destroyed your marriage, such as having an affair
- Any instance in which someone tells you they don’t want to see you
To make this decision, ask yourself why you’re taking the step to contact this person. For example, if you had an affair for three years during your addiction, visiting your ex to admit this and say you’re sorry for this isn’t going to help that person; it’s going to hurt them. Are you taking the step to clear your conscience at the expense of another person? If so, then you should avoid approaching that individual.
Don’t Hold Back — It’s Too Easy to Get Out of This Step
On the opposite side of the street are those individuals who simply say, “All of my amends would hurt people. I’m just not going to speak to anyone.” You don’t want to try to get out of this step. Rather, recognize the value of Step 9 to yourself.
When you make amends, you’re taking a step towards resolving a problem so it doesn’t come back to hurt you later. If you don’t make amends, the issue will rise down the road. When that happens, it could trigger a relapse. Amends help you avoid those situations for good.
It’s also an important healing journey. When you make amends, the way you look and feel about situations changes. You can gain clarity of what happened and what should have happened. You also gain some relief from the guilt you feel. Letting go of that guilt can help encourage true healing within your mind.
You cannot simply forget what happened. You have to face reality and the long-term impact of your actions. However, confronting your actions by making amends to those you hurt is an important way to move forward.
When you work through recovery at FHE Health, you’ll learn more about how to approach people in Step 9 and how to handle even the worst experiences. For many, this is one of the most important components of your recovery because it allows you to work on rebuilding your relationships or letting go of those you cannot repair. Our team works closely with you throughout this process to ensure you achieve the goals you have.
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