Intro Step 8 | 12 Step Meetings and Anonymous Groups

Intro Step 8

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    This is an online Step Study. Each of the 12 steps will have its own thread, so you can participate at whatever level you are comfortable and discuss your own experience with concepts in each step. It’s a combination and compilation of step studies – some from Al Anon, some from Nar Anon and some from CODA.

    Sources include Paths To Recovery, Al-Anon’s Steps, Traditions and Concepts ©1997and How Al Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics ©1995, along with some readings from Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al Anon II ©1992.

    Each of us works the steps in our time, and in our own manner. Most often, step work is done by those who attend face-to-face meetings and have a sponsor. That doesn’t mean that you MUST, it’s just a suggestion. Please don’t feel as though you must rush thru these steps… it took some of us a few years in the program before we began, and we found ourselves stuck on at least one of the steps for a year or more. The questions and postings here will be an outline, a framework from which you can begin your journey. If nothing else, the questions will provoke some thought and self-reflection, and some great discussions and dialogue.

    Others who have worked the steps before may find that they wish to do the steps again. Many people who work one step per month every year – 12 steps for 12 months. The more you learn about yourself, the more you know, and the more you wish to learn!

    Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

    Step eight From Al Anon’s Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions
    1991, 9th printing

    It was sometimes difficult for us to determine how something we had done could have hurt someone else – or what hidden motives we might have had for what we had done – or even why we should make amends.

    We needed to do something specific, take pencil in hand and write down the names of certain people.

    Accepting this discipline with complete honesty, may have caused us some pain, but we found the result well worth it, for it promised us nothing less than a clear conscience and better understanding of ourselves. Taking this step helped us get rid of guilt. Although the guilt may have been deeply hidden in our subconscious,
    Step Eight gave us courage to bring it into the daylight and, later, to do whatever would free us from the pain inflicted on us by our past actions. By doing our courageous best with this Step, we began to feel more comfortable with ourselves.

    There were questions to ask ourselves: What did we do that hurt someone? Why did we do it? What were the consequences? Did it do permanent damage? Were there single instances in which we were unfair, unkind, deceitful, selfish, or hurtful? Or, could it be that we were putting too much weight on something the other person wasn’t even disturbed by?

    One answer sufficed. If something we did in the past had left us with a feeling of gnawing guilt, then the name of the person we had hurt was added to our list helping us to keep in mind the purpose of Step Eight, which was to relieve us of painful and embarrassing memories which generated this guilt. This could be done only by being willing to make amends in some way.

    We may have been tempted to justify what we did by thinking, “but I did that only because of what she did to me,” or “I really only meant to help him get sober; how could I know it was going to turn out that way?” We could not let ourselves take refuge in excuses, or Step Eight would not have done its best work for us.

    We might have imagined that a wrong we did was due to some character flaw in us, but this wasn’t always so. Much damage can be done by those richly endowed with kindness, love, sympathy and tolerance. Many a person with all of those beautiful qualities and with the best of intentions has wreaked havoc on the lives of others and themselves.

    One area in which most of us found ample opportunity to put this Step into practice was in our family relationships. Here again, love and concern for husband or wife, children, or parents, did not always assure our being good to them. Over-protection might have deprived them of opportunities for growth. The trials and stresses of living with an alcoholic certainly may have distorted our perspectives.

    Loud, bitter quarrels may have done untold damage, undermining feelings of security and generating hatred for others. Where such a situation existed, we may have had a good deal of amending to do. It is often the non-drinking parent the children resent most bitterly. If they have heard angry reproaches, if we have made them suffer for our frustrations, they may have felt an even warmer relationship to the alcoholic than to the other parent, whose behavior seemed to them even more irrational. Moreover, if we have set a poor example to our children, we need not be surprised if sometimes they behaved badly.

    Such things, too, had to be taken into consideration when we made a list of those to whom we owed amends.

    If we were inclined to think back to the wrong we did to the alcoholic and others before we embraced the Al Anon program, we could take comfort from all we were learning about acceptance, detachment, understanding—and how to love without demanding conformity from others. This armory of personal improvements gave us the strength we needed to make amends, not only to the living, but to the departed, by being kind to others and forgiving of ourselves. The wisdom and confidence we gained from our study of Al Anon principles helped us avoid repeating our past mistakes. That, in itself, was a kind of amending for past wrongs.

    There was, yet, one more way: to teach ourselves to be aware of others’ needs, by being compassionate when they hurt, allowing them to build self-esteem and sharing our strength with them

    Finally, what about the harm we had inflicted on ourselves through the years, our suffering because of errors of judgment, our willfulness and other shortcomings? Most of us had many amends to make to ourselves now that we had found the way to improve our lives.

    From How Al Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics pp 57-59

    Most of us come to Al Anon with a distorted sense of responsibility. At first, some of us are unable to name a single person we have harmed, feeling that we have been the victims of other people’s cruel or insensitive behavior rather than the perpetrators. We are so focused on others that we miss the fact that our own behavior has not always been so wonderful. No matter how pure our intentions, our actions have consequences, and sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, we hurt those around us. At the time, we may have rationalized our poor treatment of others, feeling that we were only reacting to the way we had been treated or that we had no choice. But if we set all self-justification aside and keep the focus strictly on ourselves, we must admit that we were responsible for causing harm.

    Others of us carry an unwarranted burden of responsibility, believing ourselves to be the source of most of the pain and suffering in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We feel that we have harmed everyone with whom we have come in contact. This is just as much as distortion of reality as thinking we have done no harm. Sometimes people’s suffering is of their own making. Sometimes pain is just a part of life. And sometimes we contribute to the problem. Step Eight provides an opportunity to learn the difference between what is and is not our responsibility and to take a more realistic look at the effects of our actions.

    Nowhere does this Step say that we listed the harm others have done to us. Although we do not have to accept unacceptable behavior, it is not our job to pass judgment upon what others do or to punish anyone for their wrongs. Our job is to concentrate on our part in our conflicts with others and what we have done to cause harm.

    Usually there is one person upon whom we have inflicted the greatest damage – ourselves. Most of us have been crueler and more negligent to ourselves than to anyone else. By our reactions to the disease of alcoholism and our desperate efforts to survive in difficult situations, we have harmed ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually. So before any other names are added to our Eighth Step list, most of us need to write our own names.

    Once our list is made, we face the task of becoming willing to make amends. It is not enough to simply admit to ourselves that we have been at fault. Taking responsibility for our actions means making amends for the harm we have done. We needn’t concern ourselves with the form our amends will take at this point – that comes in Step Nine. For now, our only concern is finding the willingness to do what is necessary to right past wrongs. This willingness may not arrive all at once. In fact, some of us find it helpful at first to divide our list into three columns: those amends we are willing to make, those we may possibly make, and those we cannot imagine ourselves ever making. As time and healing progress, most of us find ourselves gradually becoming willing to make even those inconceivable amends, because we learn that we owe it to ourselves to do so. As with the rest of recovery, becoming willing to make amends is a process that takes time.

    In considering the Eighth Step, it is important to remember that, until we can take this Step in a spirit of self-love and healing, we may not be ready for it. Step Eight, like the other Steps, is a step toward healing. It is not about humiliating ourselves or making others feel better at our expense. It is about owning up to what we have done and becoming willing to free ourselves from the guilt and shame our actions have caused us.

    Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

    Have I resisted making a list? If so, WHY?

    Did I use my Fourth Step as a tool in preparing my list? How?

    Did I consult with my sponsor or others in Al Anon on how they made their list? What suggestions did they make? How can I learn from them?

    Am I willing to make amends? If no, why not? If yes, am I willing to write about my experience?

    How have I used rationalization or justification to block me from being willing?

    Do I understand that willingness is different than making the actual amends? Describe the differences.

    Have I considered praying for the willingness to become willing? How patient am I in allowing myself to grow into the willingness for making difficult amends?

    How willing am I to be completely honest?

    Which people on my list am I willing to contact first? Why?

    Have I included myself on my list? Why or why not?

    How does the God of my understanding play a role in this Step?

    Can I share with my group my thoughts, feelings and challenges with this Step?

    How can I encourage those I sponsor to begin working this Step based on my own personal experiences?

    As I work Step Eight, how do I envision it helping me in my relationship with the alcoholics in my life? My co-workers or friends? My extended family?

    In reviewing my list, is there a pattern reflecting new defects in my character? Can I see how those defects harmed those on my list? Is this a pattern I identified in working Steps Five and Six?

    Do I recognize when my minding someone else’s business may have harmed them or others? Am I willing to recognize the need for my amends?

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