Eliminating Limiting Beliefs in the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step groups

- 36 Tips
for working the
12 Steps

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Step 9 - Confronting the Past

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

With Step 9, the goal is to apologize, sincerely, to every one we've hurt. It's a way of continuing to take responsibility for our actions. Taking full responsibility for the damage we've done is  a necessary step if we are truly to let go of the past and move on to our new, empowered future.  

Step 9 is also one of the most difficult to actually do. It's one thing to make a list of the people we've hurt as we did in Step 8 – but quite another to go to those people in person or in writing, and actually admit what we've done and work to make it right – with an apology and, if warranted, restitution.

"Whenever possible" isn't an excuse

It's so tempting to skimp on this Step! We want to believe that, for example, our children were too young to be affected by our addiction, or that we had been successful in hiding our problem at work. Of course, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll see that this just isn't true. Even if the people we harmed didn't actually realize we were addicted, we still did cause problems and we need to make amends.

It's also tempting to use the 'wherever possible' as a way out. There are times when we can't apologize – the person may be dead or we may not know how to find them. A close look, however, will usually reveal these instances are few and far between. If we truly don't know how to reach someone, or even how to find out there's not much we can do but stay willing in case they surface. But staying willing is a must.

There are a few cases where making amends can be skipped – and that's when an apology on our part would harm the person we're apologizing to or someone else. Note, however, that this is not about if such an apology would hurt us – only someone else. The classic example of this involves love affairs – you know, if a confession of regret would let a wronged spouse know about a liaison that they had been unaware of… that sort of thing.

These instances need to be approached with caution and, preferably, in consultation with a sponsor or other advisor that can help us be honest. Usually we'll find there is a way – it just takes more work.

Sooner is better than later

Finally, although the Step doesn't spell out a time frame, it's important we get on with this chore as quickly as we can. Even if we don't relapse behind a delay, we get stuck if we don't do Step 9. On a practical level, this usually means getting the bulk of our amends done as soon as possible. Family, friends, co-workers and bosses can be approached in a relatively short period of time.

Once we've handled these, we may have a small collection of amends that end up on hold for one reason or another. For example, with the advice and consent of my sponsor, I postponed returning the money I'd siphoned from the Girl Scouts for a couple of years. Then my income settled down, my bills were caught up and I send the national office a check with a brief explanation and apology.

Confronting and making amends for our past is a powerful action, propelling us toward the full promises of the Program.

Love, peace and abundance,


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