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4 Tips to Work Your Way Through Step 9

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4 Tips to Work Step 9

For many people, Step 9 is one of the most intimidating steps and often one of the most challenging parts of AA in general. However, when done correctly, it can also be one of the most transformative. Research has shown repeatedly that involvement in a 12-Step group—including actively working the steps—is associated with better outcomes among people who misuse substances. This is true for Step 9 as well. Making amends to others is very uncomfortable; we don’t know how they can react or respond or if they are  willing to forgive us. Step 9 is as much (if not more) about us than it is about the person we are making amends to. If you’re stuck on Step 9, you can learn how to work through it in a way that feels good.

Step 9 Explained

Step 9 states, “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” The purpose of Step 9 is to make amends to people that you have harmed unless it would harm them or someone else. There’s no caveat that you shouldn’t complete Step 9 if it’s going to negatively impact your own life. The goal is to do whatever it takes to make things right with the people you have harmed or pushed away.

However, because you also must take care of your health and recovery, it’s vital to wait until you’re truly ready to deal with the consequences of your amends to complete Step 9. You might attempt to make amends to someone who refuses to speak with you because of ways you’ve harmed them in the past. It’s crucial to make sure that you’re ready to handle the consequences of Step 9, even if the outcome isn’t what you’re hoping for. When working through Step 9, AA can feel scary. Do your best to conquer your fear and work through it.

What Are Direct Amends?

Direct amends are the words you speak to someone to make things right for your past, harmful actions.It’s important to note that this is not the same as apologizing.

Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

While a sincere apology often is part of making amends, this step is about much more than that. It’s about changing the way you interact with each other and reconcile with people. It’s about accepting responsibility for the way you’ve wronged someone in the past and actively working on improving your behavior and relationship as opposed to simply apologizing because you hurt their feelings.

How to make direct amends

Direct amends is typically performed in person and face-to-face whenever possible. If you broke someone’s window one night when you were angry and had too much to drink, you should try to speak with them in person, apologize, and make amends. Making amends should include fixing the issue you caused—either replacing the window or reimbursing them for what they had spent repairing the window. If you don’t have the money to fix the past problem, then talk honestly to your friend about it. Ask if there’s anything else you can do to help make it right. See if you can work out a payment plan with them. Do whatever it takes to try to fix your mistakes.

What making amends is not

Making amends is not begging someone to forgive you and pleading with them to let you come back into their life. Making amends is about trying to make things right and putting yourself out there so someone can forgive you if they are willing. It’s ultimately up to them how they wish to respond. If they don’t want to spend time with you, that’s something you need to accept. If they need to think about what role you will play in their life going forward, let them take time to think about it. While making amends will benefit you and the other person, you can’t push your agenda on them. Just because you’re ready to move on from whatever took place before doesn’t mean that they are.

Making amends is about trying to make things right and putting yourself out there so someone can forgive you if they are willing. It’s ultimately up to them how they wish to respond.

Indirect Amends

Indirect amends essentially follows our direct amends. They are the changes we make going forward after making our direct amends. It’s great to try to make things right with someone you’ve harmed, but one of the best ways to do that is to make real changes. Change your behavior, think about what you’re doing before you do it, and consider other people’s feelings before saying or doing things. While in active addiction, it’s easy to forget that anyone else even matters. Once you stop drinking alcohol and start working the steps, you hold a responsibility to yourself and others to live the right way and keep doing the next right thing. That is just as important, if not more important than making direct amends to the people you’ve harmed.

Tips for Step 9

Step 9 is critical, but it can be very challenging as well. Many people want to make amends but get stuck, either not knowing exactly how to do it or feeling overwhelmed by the feelings it brings up. The following are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re working on Step 9.

  1. Make lists of the people you can’t make amends to and people who you can.

Step 8 includes making a list of all of the people you’ve harmed and are willing to try and make amends with. Step 9 is making those amends. It can be helpful to break the list down into smaller groups of people to make it less overwhelming. You can do this in several different ways. Maybe it feels better for you to start with the “easier” amends—the people you haven’t wronged as “badly” and the ones you think will be open to hearing from you and moving forward in creating a healthier relationship.

You can make another list of people that include more difficult amends. That might involve old friends you haven’t spoken to in a long time because of how badly you hurt them or people who don’t live near you, so making amends in person won’t be possible. Finally, make a list of all the people you don’t think you can or should make amends to. If your amends are going to injure or harm someone, don’t make them. That can be an unfortunate situation to find yourself in, but do what’s right—not just what feels right for you. Breaking your list down into smaller lists can often make it feel more manageable.

  1. Take it one step at a time.

Once you have your smaller lists, keep reminding yourself that your amends don’t all have to be made in one day! They definitely shouldn’t be. You should take your time and make sure you know what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and what you’re going to do if some of the reactions are surprising and unexpected. Go through each person’s situation carefully and practice how you’re going to make amends. Take your time and take it one person at a time.

  1. Face the truth.

Another crucial aspect of completing Step 9 in a way that benefits you and your recovery is to be brutally honest with yourself. We have all done things while drinking that we aren’t proud of—things we would do anything to be able to take back if we could. Unfortunately, you can’t change the past. The best you can do is try to make things right and move forward. That doesn’t mean you can ignore what you did, though; accepting and facing the truth is the best way to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again.

  1. Forgive yourself.

Finally, forgive yourself! One of the most difficult parts of Step 9 for many people is facing what they’ve done—not because you’re worried about the other person’s reaction, but because you just can’t seem to reconcile the person you are with the things you’ve done in your past. That is common, and there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. You have to start forgiving yourself. Without forgiveness, you will be stuck with guilt and shame, which will make your recovery much more difficult. There’s no question that there is a clear link between feelings of guilt and shame and alcohol and drug use. One way to deal with feelings of guilt and shame is to forgive yourself. Once you’re able to do this, the hope is that the cycle of guilt and shame stops, making it easier to stay sober and stop misusing alcohol and other substances.

Why Making Amends is Important in Recovery

Making amends is a way to improve your life and your recovery in the following ways:

Improves self-esteem

Admitting the ways you’ve wronged someone can be embarrassing. It usually feels much easier to just move on and hide the truth, but this typically isn’t the best way to handle your past mistakes.

Owning up to your transgressions and realizing that you can deal with the consequences—whatever they are—can be freeing and transformative. It can provide you with the realization that you can handle life’s difficult situations, and it can improve your self-esteem. That is particularly important because research shows that individuals who experience alcohol misuse and addiction to other substances often have lower self-esteem than those who don’t struggle with addiction.

Teaches you to take responsibility for your actions

One of the most important parts of Step 9 is to simply take responsibility for causing harm to someone. That can be intimidating and uncomfortable, especially if you have no idea how the person will react. Many people feel that any time they make a mistake and experience a setback in their life or their recovery, this is a bad thing. For many, the opposite can be true.

Research shows that setbacks are often a normal part of recovery and progress. How a person deals with these setbacks is vital and plays a prominent role in a person’s recovery. If you’re able to take responsibility for your actions and move forward, such as what you do in Step 9, this will likely end up being beneficial for you and your recovery.

Repairs trust

One of the best parts of making direct amends is repairing trust and building a stronger relationship with that person going forward. While this doesn’t always occur, it’s really special when it does. Building a relationship based on honesty and trust is the goal in sobriety, and making direct amends is a vital piece to that.

Recovery is about more than simply not consuming alcohol. It’s about making amends, repairing trust, and moving forward. When you repair trust and create a new life for yourself, it will make it much easier to stay sober and happy.

Reduces guilt and shame

There’s a saying in AA that we’re only as sick as our secrets. Keeping secrets from others and building relationships on lies is damaging for everyone involved in that relationship. Behaving in ways we aren’t proud of often causes a lot of guilt, shame, and anxiety. Once we’re able to bring these mistakes to the surface, talk about them, and seek forgiveness for them, we can move forward with a healthy mind and soul.

Research shows that clinicians and clients believe that general involvement with 12-Step groups can help improve someone’s life and their recovery. Given that working through Step 9 is a vital aspect of AA participation, it only makes sense that working through this step would lead to better feelings about yourself and your recovery.

Whether you’re sober, looking for long-term sobriety, or you’re just curious about Alcoholics Anonymous, you’ve come to the right place. Step 9 can be intimidating, but it can also be life-changing.

If you or a loved one needs treatment or have any questions, help is available. Contact 800-948-8417 Question iconCalls are forwarded to these paid advertisers to find the treatment you need.

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