Step Nine: Clearing the Wreckage of the Past

“We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory. We subjected ourselves to a drastic self- appraisal. 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.”

-A.A. Big Book pg. 76
“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” (A.A. Big Book pg. 59)

I have found six steps that are very helpful in my life in the amends process.(Reference bottom of page 77 in the Big Book).

1. We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit. (Do you see that statement in the sentence, right above the words “Under no condition”?)
2. Confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret. We say something like; “Because of what happened between us, I didn’t like you very much and I regret feeling that way today.” Next the book tells us what we should not do.  The book says: “Under no condition do we criticize such a person or argue.” Then it tells us what we are to do.

3. Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past. We can say something like: “Today I am doing my utmost to straighten out the past. I recently admitted to myself that I am an alcoholic and that has nothing to do with the issue in the past between you and me, but I will never get over drinking until I have done everything I can to clear up my past mistakes.” The book says: “We are there to sweep off our side of the street, realizing nothing worth while can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do.”

4. We tell him we forgive him for what he did to us. The book says: “His faults are not discussed. We stick to our own.”
5. We tell him how we felt and about the faults we discovered in ourselves in that incident and admit this was our wrong thinking. We ask for forgiveness for thinking ill of him. The book says: “If our manner is calm, frank and open, we will be gratified with the results.”

6. We remain calm, frank, and open to input from them, when we ask if there is anything else that we need to do to make things right?

At the bottom of page 83 through to the middle of page 84 , the authors of the AA Big Book list a series of promises that are often read at the beginning of many AA meetings. What I noticed about these promises is that they only begin to materialize after I have completed my ninth step. It states in the basic text of AA that; “If we are painstaking (showing care) about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.”

I use to wonder why so many in AA never enjoyed this freedom. Well after many years of membership in this fellowship it became obvious to me. Those that don’t work the steps; don’t get to enjoy these promises. Time in the program has shown me over and over again that the program of AA doesn’t fail. It is perfect and complete of itself. Failure comes when those who claim to be involved in AA half measure their recovery.

P.S. Step Nine – Described on pages 76 (The directions for taking Step Nine are on page 76, paragraph 3, lines 6- 11)
I welcome your questions, your ideas for recovery topics or perhaps a personal story or two. Don’t forget, a dose of good humor about recovery or addiction is always welcomed…it has certainly helped me and many others through some tough times! Please send your submissions to: Council on Chemical Abuse, Attn: Recovery & Me, 601 Penn St., Ste. 600, Reading, PA 19601. You may choose to remain anonymous by including only your first name with your submission, as it may in part be reprinted in a future article.

Leave a Reply