Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 9, Making Our Amends

Me & Lisa on Halloween, circa 2012

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

Step 9: "Made direct amends to such people, whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 9 has had absolutely the greatest effect on my relationships, more than any of the other steps. The other steps primarily focus inward and on myself, whereas this step’s actions includes others. I was extremely relieved when I learned how to make a true amends.

My idea of an amends, previous to this step, was a detailed I’m sorry, followed by begging for forgiveness. This is how I usually tried to right my wrongs in the past. Through working this step, I learned that an amends is so much more than an I am sorry. Honestly, by the time I made it to Alcoholics Anonymous, most of the people in my life didn’t even want to hear it anymore.

Powerful moments have come to pass simply through working this step.

Making a direct amends is a thought out process. It is worked very closely with a sponsor, usually because alcoholics only want to talk about themselves or blame someone else for their shortcomings. A sponsor can assist in keeping the focus on the alcoholic’s part and open the opportunity to the lessons and the blessings that come with total accountability.

I remember rewriting several of my first amends because I would have written out a shortcoming and then follow it up with, “I reacted that way because you…” or “I didn’t feel accepted by you...” etc.

 AA doesn’t have very many no no’s. However, some of the unsaid no no’s are: you don't take someone else’s inventory; own your side of the street but include theirs as well; or offer an excuse for why you made any given decision. This was difficult for me at first because I felt that people, like my father, should know why I acted the way I did. In the beginning, I truly believed it was because of how he raised me.

What I learned in this step is...I always had a choice, my side of the street was my side of the street and my choices were my choices.

I may have been helpless as a child, but I couldn’t blame anyone for anything I created as an adult, even if I had some belief that the continued behavior was due to some wrong of someone else when I was a child.

I found that many of the people I made an amends to didn’t want anything back from me; they just wanted me to stay sober and live a happy and peaceful life. It often amazed me how people would respond in kindness all because of my willingness to make it right and stand accountable for my part.

So many relationships in my life have healed because of my continued work with Step 9. Step 9 even comes with a set of promises that are absolutely true,

There are people, on my first Step 9, who have not yet crossed my path, and I have not had the opportunity to make an amends as of yet. It is beautiful how the universe works though, every now and then someone will be at the grocery store or gas station. I get to make an amends in the most random places. The universe always responds to my willingness, and I know in time I will be able to make them as needed.

Also, there are several people on my Step 9 that my amends is never truly finished. These people include God, myself, my parents, my siblings and especially my little children. Today, I make a living amends to them every day. A living amends is a committed action to behave differently and to remain open and teachable to a new way of life. It's a genuine level of humility to these people that you will do whatever it takes to keep moving forward and to give every part of you in love and light.

My family has healed me one day at a time. They were the people I was convinced had caused me so much pain and suffering and yet they are the ones, today, who stand behind me no matter what. It is simply amazing how much I have been blessed with the family I have, and as one of my beautiful sisters passed on to me, “...no matter what it takes, we ride home together.

Liz’s Response 


We do ride home together!!!

I think that if we all could chose to making a living amends to the people in our tribe, so much healing could occur. Today, I’m choosing to make a living amends to my intimates. Oh, I do love step 9. It's promise is so powerful. I particularly love, “As God’s people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone.” I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, now being on the other side of the repentance process, I can say that once I chose to take responsibility for my actions and make an amends I could stand tall on my own feet for the first time in years.

Another paradox: Avoiding the things we fear the most crushes us; owning them liberates us.

Love you!

Liz's Thoughts  

I was familiar with step 9 before starting this project. In fact, a few years ago it helped bring awareness, reconciliation and healing into my life.

In 2010, someone I was very close to betrayed me - let’s call her “Jane.” Initially, I was shocked, hurt and even angry. After the initial heightened emotions waned, I told Jane that I forgave her and asked her to never do it again. She didn’t honor my wishes. Jane continued with the hurtful behavior. Because this behavior was potentially damaging to my life, I severed the relationship.

By now, Lisa had been active in AA and was educating our family about addiction. She gave us language to use and resources to help the healing process. Jane was in active addiction. Lisa invited Jane to attend meetings with her and she accepted. Shortly, thereafter, I mentioned to Lisa that maybe I should consider reconciling with Jane. Lisa suggested that I hold off. She believed that Jane needed more time in recovery before that conversation would be beneficial for either of us. That is when Lisa told me about step 9.

I liked this step 9.  It allowed me to justify holding on to my resentment towards Jane. She was the one in the wrong, therefore she was the one who had to make the amends. Until she did, I could sit back and stew in my justification.

Thankfully, I eventually realized that in my resentment I wasn’t anymore prepared for a step 9 conversation than Jane was.

I immediately felt humbled.

I had to decide what I wanted more – to hold onto my pride and pain or to lay the foundation for reconciliation. Laying the foundation would require me to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of [myself].” Jane had long since stopped the hurtful behavior. So, I begin the process of forgiveness in hopes that when she was ready to make an amends I would be ready to accept her offering sincerely with love and compassion.

Eventually, Jane did reach out to me to make an amends. Our reconciliation was difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable, but we leaned into the discomfort and came through the other side stronger and closer.

Lisa's Response


These steps have so much power in so many lives. I have often heard in the rooms of AA that there are millions of members worldwide and just as many people who have been touched by the steps in one way or another.

I like how you pointed out that there is a process that is necessary prior to working Step 9. I absolutely know that this is because an amends requires committed action. Most people are not ready to do anything differently until the time to heal has passed for both people.

I love you!  

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