Step 8 says, “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Where does this list of persons we have harmed come from? If we have worked Step 4 as directed in The Big Book and with a sponsor, then we have reviewed our resentments, fears, sexual conduct and people we have harmed. This process should have given us the start of what could turn out to be a lengthy list of people we have harmed. Occasion ally someone will tell me they don’t believe they have really harmed anyone. The first part of Step 8 is recognizing that we ave harmed others. Were you married or in a relationship while you struggled with addiction or compulsive behavior? Odds are very high that you harmed someone. Did you have children? Odds just jumped higher. Were there days on your job where you weren’t firing on all cylinders? Did you struggle with anger or frustration? I’ve only asked a few questions and I’m guessing a few more people may have come to mind that you harmed in some way by your actions or attitude. My sponsor helped me prepare my list as I worked through Step 8 for the first time. My list included friends and family members I had lied to and used. Random cashiers and others that I had snapped at. It included the assistant prosecutor that handled my case when I was arrested. I heard that while I was in prison she quit her job because she struggled with dealing with people that committed crimes like I did. It hurt her emotionally as she witnessed the damage done to the victims.
The second half of Step 8 says that we became willing to make amends to all that we had harmed. It’s extremely important to have a good sponsor as you work through the 12 Steps. The thought of making amends terrified me! I went to prison because of harm that I caused. My daughters suffered because of my actions. Some of us have stolen from family or from work and they don’t know what we have done. Maybe in a fit of rage we struck our spouse or our son or daughter. What about people we have harmed and we don’t know where they are or how to contact them? A sponsee once told me about an affair he had with a married co-worker. Is he supposed to be willing to make amends to her? What about her husband and children? Her husband had divorced her when he found out what they were doing. As I struggled with these kind of questions in my Step 8, my sponsor encouraged me to take a deep breath. He reminded me that Step 8 says that we become willing, it isn’t telling us to do it.What about people that I harmed but they harmed me in worse ways? Surely I don’t have to be willing to make amends to them! My sponsor explained that the process is about me taking responsibility for the harms I have caused. I can’t control anyone but myself and I often struggle with that. I later began to understand that freedom is experienced as I am able to make peace with myself.
Step 8 wasn’t something I was able to come to grips with overnight. It was a real struggle. In a couple weeks we will talk about Step 10 where we continue to take inventory and promptly admit our wrongs. This is called keeping a short list. I refuse to let things build up and accumulate again. I choose to take care of things while they are still fresh and before they fester.
If you have questions about the 12 Steps, let’s talk. Shoot me an email at email@example.com.