The Twelve Steps in Everyday Living: Part Nine

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

There is a lot of debate among members of the 12-step fellowship about which step is the hardest to complete.  If I was the deciding vote, it would be step nine.  Full disclosure:  I am not even halfway through this step yet, I am procrastinating for all sorts of reasons.  Here is what I can tell you about this step:  it does give a real sense of freedom.  For me, when I have completely and thoroughly made amends to someone, I felt like I could, once and for all, stop hanging my head in shame regarding my addiction.

So, let’s break it down:  what does it mean to make direct amends?  Here is how I was taught to complete a step 9 amends:  first and foremost, it should be a face-to-face encounter (the “direct” part).  Next, it is very important to explain what you are doing to the person with whom you are making amends.  After explaining the process, you should dive right in, and list out the harms you have caused, being as direct as possible.  It is critical when doing this process to focus only on the harms you have done… this process is about cleaning up your side of the street, not pointing out the failings of others.  After you have listed out the things for which you wish to make amends, tell them the regret you feel, and ask what you can do to make things right.  At this point the dialogue can vary, depending upon the response you receive.  Finally, ask if there is anything you left out that is still hurting the person, something you may have forgotten, or not realized you have done.

The difference between step nine and an apology is the part about making things right.  As alcoholics/addicts, we have all apologized too many times to count.  An apology is regret for a past action; an amends is a commitment to rectify the past action to the best of your ability, as well as an honest effort not to repeat the mistake.

So why, if it’s so liberating, have I not completed it yet?  Because, and here’s the bottom line:  it’s damn hard!  It’s hard to sit down and write out for each individual everything you need to make amends, it’s hard to muster up the courage to approach the person, it’s hard to explain to someone not in recovery why you must dredge up the past, and it is really, really hard to look someone in the eye and admit your past mistakes.

Another stumbling block for me personally is the second half of step nine:  except when to do so would injure them or others.  This portion has stopped me in my tracks with many of my amends.  Dredging up the past in order to “clean up my side of the street” sometimes feels as though I am doing it at the expense of causing those closest to me pain, which seems contradictory to the process.  How I have handled this conflict so far is: when it doubt, hold off on the process.  I believe when the time is right, I will know it.

Everyday life can prove equally as challenging in the application of this step, but the payoff is just as rewarding.  You don’t have to be an alcoholic to have life-long resentments, hurt and anger you hold on to way longer than is necessary, and ultimately hurts you more than it hurts anyone else.  Making amends, doing what you can to right your wrongs, has a way of releasing that negative energy from your life.  Step 9 is not something that you can just pluck out of order, do and expect instant results… you need to do the prior steps in order to have the right perspective to make a proper amends.  But if there is something in your life… a relationship, a past incident, anything, that just keeps resurfacing, then in all likelihood it is something you need to examine, and find your responsibility in it.  If you can do that, and clear up your part in it, then you are the best possible position to let that pain go, and what better payoff is that?

I can tell you this, even with the limited number of amends I have completed… when I finished each one, I felt freedom unlike anything I have felt before.

Today’s Miracle:

In honor of my friend Christy, today’s miracle is five badass days in a row of exercise!!!

Posted on June 7, 2013, in Twelve Steps in Everyday Living and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. You brought back a memory for me. I remember one amends rather clearly. I was beyond scared to make it and almost talked myself out of doing it. It changed my relationship with my brother-in-law. We have never been closer. I would have missed out on a lifetime of enjoying my family had I not done it. I love posts (and shares) on Step Nine. We are really stepping into life when we get through these. Good job!


    • Thanks, Lisa, I pray for you every morning, and I hope you are doing well! I, too, am blessed, any of the amends I have completed went beautifully, and each relationship is the better for it. I just need to get moving with the rest of them!

      Great to hear from you, as always!


  2. I so agree, step 9 is so difficult!! It took me forever to get through it too. And there are still a few people I haven’t made a face to face amends to. There is also this concept of a “living amends” that I like as well. If we aren’t able to make direct amends, we make amends by living our lives in a different, healthier way. This was an awesome post, thank you. 🙂


    • Michelle, thank you so much for saying this. I wanted to talk about living amends, because they are such a big part of this for me, I might have to do another post! I couldn’t agree more, and I do appreciate your reading, and your commenting!


  3. runningonsober

    Good stuff! 9 is much scarier than 4 to me!

    I love the concept of living amends as well, like Michelle. It’s almost like righting our karma.

    Oh, don’t forget your miracle today. How about 5 badass days of exercise in a row?!? Woo-hoo!


  4. Oh interesting post.. I really appreciate you sharing all of this because I am not in AA. I can only imagine how hard it must be. Good on you… and thanks so much for the honesty xxxx


  5. So true! Step 9 is my favorite step. I never thought I would say that, but the freedom I feel afterwards is like no other! Simply amazing and extremely humbling. I’ve always thought it would be great if everyone could do a ninth step regardless if they’re an alcoholic or not!


    • I have NEVER heard anyone say step 9 is their favorite step, I am very impressed! I believe that everyone should do all 12 steps, alcoholic or not (and all my family members are sick of hearing me say it!)

      Thanks for the feedback, Chenoa, it’s great to hear from you!


  6. My sponsor basically told me i had one week to do my amends for the people that live here in Yeaman. i was so stressed about the logistics required to do it, that i didn’t have time to secodn guess or over-think the step!

    This summer, though, i’ll do my amends for family in the States during my summer vacation… i think i’ll try the ‘you have one week approach’ and see how that works there.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!


    • And, Al, thank you for sharing yours. I have told the story of your amends to the insurance company quite a few times in the meetings I attend. It is, hands down, the most courageous step 9 story I have ever heard. You are my step 9 hero!


    • runningonsober

      J reminded me… Did you ever hear back from the insurance folks Al? Just curious. My guess is no (they probably had no idea how to handle or reconcile it).


  7. You’ll have to excuse my absence here in this wonderfully refurbished blog (awesome – can smell the new paint still) – life’s been keeping this alkie busy.

    Step 9 – oh dear. What to say? You laid it out pretty clear, as the BB would have us do it, and for the reasons we do, and you do a great job in the nuts and bolts of it. I too haven’t finished mine – have a handful left (have had a handful left for a very long time now…ugh). Ego, comfort, fear…pick one, pick more, pick em all – they keep me from being even freer. BUT, the amends I have made…oh man, how cool have they been? Very, is the answer. I have had nothing but great experiences so far, and yet, it’s sometimes just difficult to bring yourself to yet another table to make the amends. But it works, and wish that even non-alcoholics and addicts could do it. Very refreshing.

    I wouldn’t say it’s my fave step, but it has brought about dramatic changes, in terms of seeing things from the past and just making things right. I have to be careful to not lump things into a “living” amend so that it’s easier for me. There are certainly some that I cannot do because of harm, so I choose to live a life differently than I used to, in terms of specific things. But I found myself sometimes trying to squeeze a direct amend into a living amend, and finding myself uncomfortable doing it. So I have to make it direct. Blech. ha ha. But that’s how it is…and can’t wait until all my conscious amends are done and I can move on. But it’s a good thing, and I know that when I do get the next few off my plate, I will be a happy camper. happier, that is.

    Great post…loved it!



    • Paul, thank you so much for your always insightful comments. And if you ever do this series on your own blog, you can just come back to mine and read your comments… it will practically write itself!

      Thanks for noticing the change… I am so blessed to have a media manager for these mundane tasks (I am completely kidding about the mundane task, and I am forever grateful for my husband for keeping me even marginally relevant in this blogging world!). I noticed you changed it up as well… once again, we are in sync!

      Hope the stuff keeping you busy is also keeping you happy!


  8. Thanks for the inclusion in your blog!


  1. Pingback: My Fifth Step to Harvest Life Gracefully | Manage your life

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