M(3), 9/15: Talking Prudence While Practicing Evasion

 

And a beautiful Monday morning it is here on the Eastern side of the United States, hopefully it is equally beautiful where you sit and read right now.  This morning’s meeting was a small-ish one, 11 people total, which is amazing, because I remember a time not too long ago when that number would have been a huge turnout!

Today’s meeting read and discussed Step 9 in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous:

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

For those not involved in a 12-step fellowship, the goal of step nine is to make right, as best as you can, the mistakes you made in active addiction.  It’s about owning up, cleaning up, and moving on.

Like many aspects of the 12-step program, there is a wide and varied interpretation of exactly how one goes about “making direct amends,” who exactly are “such people,” when exactly is “whenever possible,” and, the big one, what constitutes an exception that “would injure them or others.”    The answer to personal and specific step 9 issues is typically answered within the context of a sponsor/sponsee relationship.

Certainly, you do not have to be an alcoholic or an addict to be in need of making amends; as I have mentioned on too many occasions, the steps are simply a way to better oneself, doing any or all of them, regardless of your proclivity towards alcohol, is going to lead to self-improvement.  In the case of step 9, it’s simple:  you did wrong, so go ‘fess up, and make it right.  No matter what the outcome, you will feel better for having cleared your conscience.

The biggest stumbling block I hear in meetings, and in fact heard about today, is this:  Yes, I’ve done someone wrong, but that someone has done more wrong to me that I’ve ever done to him or her, so I refuse to make amends.  The answer to this is simple, but not easy.  It may or may not be true, the grievances you are tracking, but they are irrelevant to the spirit of Step 9.  Making amends is about cleaning up your side of the street.  It doesn’t matter what mistakes anyone else has made.  Truthfully, the bottom line is it doesn’t really matter what response you receive.  It simply matters that you are taking responsibility for your bad choices, and you are willing to make those mistakes as right as you can.

Another common misconception regarding step 9 is distinguishing between apologizing and making amends.  As alcoholics/addicts, we have all said “I’m sorry” more times than we can count.  Apologies are meaningless unless you can back them up with something.  Step 9 is an honest attempt to do just that.  We admit our past faults, and we offer to do what we can to make things right.  Of course, making things right can go in a million directions depending upon the wrong that was committed, and as such deciding the when’s, why’s and how’s will depend upon individual circumstances.

Finally, the subject that typically comes up when talking about step 9:  so do you have to sit down with every person you have ever known and make a formal amends with him or her?  The answer to this, obviously, is no, but not so obvious is the selection of people to make the list, and just how specific you need to be when confessing.  Again, individual circumstances will vary, and having a trusted confidant, or sponsor, will help you greatly in sorting out the list.

One nugget of wisdom I took with me today, and will greatly help me as I go forward with the amends process, came from a gentleman with 28 years of sobriety.  He explained that making amends is the process of mending something.  The minute you arrest the bad behavior, you have started the amends process.  Quite simply, if you are stressing out about making amends, as I have numerous times throughout this process:  stop the bad behavior.  If you amends was lying to someone, stop lying.  If it was stealing from someone… you get the picture.  Not a perspective I have considered before, that the regular and honest attempt to incorporate the 12 steps into my daily life is a type of living amends to the people I love.

I would love to hear from any and all of my recovery-minded friends on what step 9 means to them!

Today’s Miracle:

Having the privilege of handing a 30-day coin to a newcomer to the Fellowship.  It’s a great way to start the day, celebrating milestones in recovery!

 

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Posted on September 15, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I find the idea of weighing up the things I have done wrong and making amends to people I have hurt truly terrifying, but I like the idea of mending the behaviour. It feels more do-able… But still so much easier said than done! Why is it that the facets of my behaviour that I like the least are the hardest to change? xx

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    • That last question is a great one, and could easily fill a post trying to figure it out, I am going to reflect on that one!

      You zoned in on the exact part of the meeting that was like the lightbulb moment, I have been stressing out so much over a process, that, generally speaking, nobody cares about except us! Changing the behavior is what people want from us, so if we’re doing that, we are accomplishing the hardest part!

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  2. I do like your summary of ‘owning up, cleaning up, and moving on’. that is a great perspective, thank you!

    from where I am at ten months sober, I can see a lot of cleaning up to do. it is really helpful to see that after we have cleaned up, moving on from that stage is also part of the process.

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  3. My relationship with my father was always difficult, to say the least. It wasn’t until my wife and I had moved from San Diego — where I was raised and had lived for basically 39 years — that he told me that he loved me… and that was over the phone in 1989. But growing up in an alcoholic family pretty much instills those boundaries fairly early on.

    It wasn’t until I flew home in 2007 to care for him in his last month of hospice that I got a grasp on some touchstones that were essential to my healing. I had always wanted the opportunity to sit down with him and walk through all the broken moments in my life when I simply felt betrayed or abandoned by him. But it looked as though I was going to be deprived of my opportunity to level the playing field for once, and on the flight home I again found myself angry.

    I arrived home Sept. 5th, and circumstances required that I remain there for the next 30 days. During that time, I bathed him, fed him, changed his bedding and clothing, and worked closely with the awesome hospice team to keep him comfortable and pain-free. Even as I write this, I am confident in the memory of meeting his every possible need during those last days.

    What I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of complete joy it brought me. On the night of the 25th, as I sat in the darkened family room watching the murmuring voices of Charlie Rose and Don Henley on television, holding Dad’s hand as he lay quietly in the hospice bed, and trying to organize my thoughts for the next day, he simply slipped away. It was 1:40 a.m. I sat there for about 10 minutes watching his peaceful face, and finally said, “Well, Dad. It’s just like you to beat last call.”

    I’m quite confident today that what God wanted for me had nothing to do with me “getting even” or “leveling the playing field” or anything else that would have presented any picture of what things had been like for me growing up. He simply created a situation where I was there to love through serving. And in doing so, I received more healing in my own heart than I could imagine.

    That was Step 9 with my father.

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    • I am finding it hard to type this reply through the sheen of tears in my eyes, and the chills running through my body. Greg, this is the most beautiful step 9 story I have ever heard, and the message is such a powerful one. I am so honored that you chose to share it on my blog!

      Thank you for starting my day on such a positive note 🙂

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  4. I like what the fellow in your group said about process of mending. I think that makes a lot of sense.

    I have found that folks were tired of hearing me say I was sorry for x, y, and z, but living into the process of amends is another story.

    My father and I had a contentious relationship from the every start. When I got sober things settled down a bit and we were even cordial on occasion. I made the 500 mile trip to see him when it was clear it would be the last time. We had banged around on the amends thing for years and I am not certain how meaningful it was to either of us. I reasoned in my head that if it were true that I was comfortable with where I was today in life and would not change a thing even if I could, then I owed some thanks to my father for whatever role he had, good or bad, in getting me from being a new born to this place in life. So when I saw him that last time in the VA hospital, I said thanks for everything and told him I loved him. He was reasonably shocked. It seemed meaningful enough that I repeated the statement.

    i think that was probably the most healing thing we ever experienced between the two of us. I had one more phone conversation with him before he died where we talked about mindless things like baseball games, the old Crosley Field in Cincinnati where I grew up, and so forth.

    So there was not really an “amends” in that hospital event but clearly some “mending” was done.

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    • Wow, two father/son amends stories, with two powerful messages!

      I got a lot out of this, Robert, and what I’m concluding at this point is the idea of turning it over to my Higher Power and trusting the process. Just because I have an idea of what a formal amends process looks like, doesn’t mean that I am right.

      I am so happy you had the courage to create that opportunity for you and your father. Great stuff, as always!

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  5. My dear Josie,
    First of all, I’m sorry that I’ve been so absent lately. Ahh…life!
    Anyhow,I just had to let you know that I just had an epiphany as I read this latest post and your beautiful words.
    This 12-step process can work for a person regardless of their proclivity toward alcohol. Alcohol is a non-factor in my life, but I’ve learned so much by following you in your sober journey. Perhaps it’s His way of calling me to walk a similar path. It makes me want to go back to the beginning of your story and start with step 1. I know nothing about the process, but I’m sure eager to check it out. Thanks for posting this today and letting me ramble on a bit 🙂

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    • If you are at all interested in that, I did at some point do a series of posts on this very subject, and gathered them in a category called “The Twelve Steps In Every Day Living.” I can tell you, as grateful as I am for my sobriety, what the 12 steps have given me is so much more that that… it has allowed me to live a life for that is so much more peaceful, and filled with so much more joy. I dislike going on like this, because I fear that someone is thinking that I have “drunk the AA Kool Aid.” I am truly just an ordinary wife, mom, daughter, sister and friend living in suburbia. But by practicing these 12 simple “things I learned in kindergarten” rules, I can stand tall and feel I’m living the life I should be leading.

      And what more can I ask than that?

      So glad you are back, you have been missed! Hopefully I will be reading a post soon telling me where life has taken you!

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      • Hi Josie,
        I will definitely read your post. In fact, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought about the application before! LOL…the Universe is patient and I always appreciate the gentle knock upside the head.
        As far as me writing where life has taken me lately. Well, I’m chuckling. I just posted something this morning–I wrote it in about 20 minutes, edited it once and hit publish. Life is good here, babe! xo

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Something about the way you framed “stop the bad behavior” as a living amends was really helpful, so thank you! I never went through all the steps formally, but every day I make an effort to do better through living amends, especially when it comes to my kids. It helps my recovery so much and there is room for improvement. Thanks for this post.

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    • This is exactly what stuck out for me too! It makes the idea of amends so much more completely attainable. When I think of it in the abstract, I think that it never really gets done… what if I forget someone? what if I forget something I did? But by stopping the behavior and living the best life I can, now that’s something I can do each and every day.

      Glad that perspective helped, it helped me too!

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  7. Greg just about made me cry at work here with his story…beautiful.

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  8. As for Step 9 – I had great experiences with it. I still owe a few amends, but I keep my amends cards with me and I pray for a chance to meet the people I need to make amends with. I need to pray for this because there is that little voice that tells me that I don’t need to make the amends…everything is cool, etc.

    I think what you say on the matter is bang on, as usual. All amends should be run past one’s sponsor or at least someone who has been there before. All situations are different. I know that there are some folks who I shouldn’t make amends to, so I amend my behaviours around those harms. Some folks try to duck under the “living amends” catch-all to avoid amends, and that can be dangerous. Although there are many circumstances which one can just live in a spiritual plane and not need to make the approach to others (like me, with my son who I drank and drove with – I won’t make a direct amend as he was only young, but my amend is to be a present and loving dad to him).

    Amends taught me forgiveness and humility. And self-forgiveness was born from that.

    Great post, Josie…awesome!

    Paul

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    • You touched on another valuable part of step 9, the self-forgiveness, about which another whole post could be written.

      Paul, I love what you wrote here, and love that if follows the post, I hope everyone reads through. It is important to make the distinction between “living amends for a valid reason,” and “living amends because I am afraid of formal amends.” The difference, like all things is life I guess, is your honest intention.

      Great stuff as always, Paul!

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  9. You’re so gracious, Josie. Three years later when my mother was close to passing and I got the call to come quickly, I dropped everything and headed back to San Diego. When I got there, she was sleeping deeply and very comfortably, so I leaned closely to her and said softly, “It’s okay, Mother. Your favorite son is here. You can let go now and go see Jesus.”

    Now… to appreciate the humor in that comment, it helps to know that my older brother Steve has two PhDs and designed the guidance system for the space shuttle. He’s been retired for a few years and now designs spy satellites for the defense department. Moi, on the other hand, barely finished high school because I was in Los Angeles playing in a rock band. As soon as I got out of school I hit the road and it was some years before I got that out of my system enough to go to college.

    All that to say my brother and i are as different as night and day, and I’ve always carried a profound inferiority complex, largely because my folks always wondered (if) when I was ever going to grow up and get a (real) job.

    So at the time of that comment, Steve was somewhere doing something top secret and I was at home to care for Mom. I went out in the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, briefly looked through the mail, and then went back to sit with Mom… to simply be with her.

    She had slipped away.

    Not more than 15 minutes after I got home. So I like to think she was just waiting for me to get there. And the crack about her favorite son? I used to joke with her about that all the time, sort of a “Mom always loved you best!” line from the Smothers Brothers. I’m just grateful that, as with my father, she ended so peacefully, and God gave me so much peace in the middle of that.

    One last thing: I have a photo of the two of them from WWII I’ll post sometime on the Club East website. I keep it in our front room at home where I see it every day. And I’m blessed by it. And since I’m smiling as I type this, my heart is telling me they’re in a place I can only imagine but where my heart longs to be, as well. After all, we’re only visiting this planet. And these things we struggle with are ultimately just so, so small and very temporary.

    Okay, I’m done. Have a blessed day, kiddo. You rock.

    Liked by 1 person

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