What the Big Book says about Step 9 | 12 Step Meetings and Anonymous Groups - Part 2

What the Big Book says about Step 9

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    Directions for the ninth step 76:16-84:12

    Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes. Remember it was agreed at the beginning we would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.

    The debris caused by our misapplication of self-will blocks us from God, hinders our progress, and chains us to the past. We must clear up these matters to be free to live our new lives. Not dealing with the harms we cause in a timely manner allows them to build up. This piling up of neglected responsibilities makes the load we carry in life unbearable. In the Eighth Step we learn how to right our wrongs and in the tenth Step we learn how to prevent them from beginning to pile up again.

    Asking in prayer for the willingness to face up to our past will work if we do it. Remember, we are no longer operating solely on our own limited power and courage, but we now have access to the limitless power of God. God can do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.

    “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it—then you are ready to take certain steps” (58:9). Victory over alcohol and a spiritual experience (79:5) are the “it” we are willing to go to any length to get. Step Nine is one “length” we must go to if we are to realize these goals.



    Probably there are still some misgivings. As we look over the list of business acquaintances and friends we have hurt, we may feel different about going to some of them on a spiritual basis. Let us be reassured. To some people we need not, and probably should not emphasize the spiritual feature on our first approach. We might prejudice them. At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. It is seldom wise to approach an individual, who still smarts from our injustice to him, and announce that we have gone religious. In the prize ring, this would be called leading with the chin. Why lay ourselves open to being branded fanatics or religious bores? We may kill a future opportunity to carry a beneficial message. But our man is sure to be impressed with a sincere desire to set right the wrong. He is going to be more interested in a demonstration of good will than in our talk of spiritual matters.

    We have decided to abandon self-seeking as a path in life. We are not seeking the satisfaction of our desires, but rather to find our place in God’s plan. We practice these principles and thus expand our capabilities. By the repeated practice of making amends, we expand our personal experience with a spiritually based way of life. We develop skill through repetition. We learn how to be useful to God and other people by trying. We prove to ourselves that this way of life works.

    Specific and clear-cut direction for the Ninth Step begins here. We should study these instructions carefully prior to beginning our amends so that we may avoid making matters worse. We can gain from the experience of those who have already begun the practice of making amends.

    “The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it” (83:7-8). When we demonstrate our willingness to admit our wrongs, ask forgiveness for them and (if appropriate) to repay, we make a powerful statement about the benefits of a spiritually based life. Our actions speak far more powerfully and persuasively than our words.



    We don’t use this as an excuse for shying away from the subject of God. When it will serve any good purpose, we are wiling to announce our convictions with tact and common sense. The question of how to approach the man we hated will arise. It may be he has done us more harm than we have done him and, though we may have acquired a better attitude toward him, we are still not too keen about admitting our faults. Nevertheless, with a person we dislike, we take the bit in our teeth. It is harder to go to an enemy that to a friend, but we find it much more beneficial to us. We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret.

    We look to serve rather than to gain by our actions. When our motives for announcing our convictions are to be helpful to another person rather than to bolster our own confidence in our new way of life, we are applying our tradition of attraction rather than promotion. When we seek to give rather than take, our message will have a depth, weight, and power unavailable to us when our motives are self-seeking.

    We take these steps voluntarily. This act of surrender frees us of the bondage or pride. The effect of making amends for our wrongs is that the chains that bind us to our old way of living are broken. Their control over us is removed. We are set free to become the people we most wish to be.

    It is easier to life a small weight, but only by lifting a heavy weight do we grow. It did not take much spiritual effort to stop drinking when we saw that it was killing us. It takes a great deal more effort to develop the humility required to fully recover from alcoholism.

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