I want to come back to Step 9 this week to complete my thoughts and wrap things up. This Step instructs us to make amends when doing so won’t cause greater harm. How do we decide when that’s the case and what do we do in those instances? I return to what I said several times in the previous post. We should always journey through the 12 Steps with a sponsor that we trust. It has been my experience that the people that could be harmed by my amends are few, but there are some.
You may be aware by now that my addiction led to two years incarceration. In some instances my behavior caused great harm and the court told me I am not allowed to make contact with those people again. When I took my amends list to my sponsor, he reminded me that when we make amends there is potential for healing to take place in those we have harmed but the greater healing always takes place in ourselves. We own our behavior and recognize the harm we have caused, but the healing doesn’t end there. Through our lifelong implementation of the Steps we are changing the course of our lives. We are putting guard rails in place that can’t guarantee we will never cause harm again but will limit the harm and assist us in recognizing it. This makes it possible to begin to make amends immediately instead of allowing the damage to grow and spread.
So how did I make amends to those I can’t contact? My sponsor suggested I write letters to my victims. The letters couldn’t be delivered and I was skeptical at first but I listened to my sponsor. As I began to write I was surprised by the rush of emotion that took place. There was some guilt and shame. I owned my behavior and explained that they weren’t responsible in any way for what I did. I expressed hope that they have been able to receive counseling and help in processing the harm I have caused. I touched on several other things and became aware of the tears that were running down my face. When the letters were finished, I gave copies to my sponsor and my therapist. Both helped me to process what I had experienced as I wrote. I later read the letters in a group setting. I experienced a release in that process that I can’t begin to explain. A few months later I came across a ministry that works with women that have experienced abuse like I committed and for several years I made donations to that work.
There are a number of ways that amends can be made in an indirect way. As you work through Step 9, trust the words of your sponsor and look for God to provide opportunities for indirect amends. Amends can involve things like paying back debts or making restitution for things that have been taken. Listen to your conscience and talk with your sponsor. Early in recovery just thinking about Step 9 terrified me, but as I continue this journeying experience the freedom that comes through this Step my commitment to this process has grown strong.
If you have questions about Step 9 or recovery in general, let’s talk. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.