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M(3), 5/16/16: Better Late Than Never!


Oh boy, this will, of necessity, be short and sweet.  Time (and fundraising snafus) have gotten away from me today, and a track meet is an hour from now!

Today we read Step 8 from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Step 8, for those unfamiliar with the 12 steps of recovery, reads:

Made a list of all the people we harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step eight can be challenging to discuss in and of itself; it is tempting to mention it as a passing reference to a more substantial discussion of the meatier step 9 (the actual making of amends).

For my part, I shared how creating my eighth step list was much easier than I anticipated, because much of the work had been done in my fourth step moral inventory.  I also shared that considering the harms I had done to others gave me a deeper gratitude for the relationships I held dear.  In that deeper gratitude came an easier time accepting the character defects in others, since I could so clearly see how they had been accepting of mine.

We had an interesting mix of people in today’s meeting.  The first group that shared had a significant chunk of sober time.  The kind of time that can be measured in decades, as a matter of fact!  From that group I heard a lot of wisdom that I honestly cannot hear enough:

  • Step 8 has 2 distinct parts to it:  the first is making the list, the second is finding the willingness
  • Step 8 is truly a lifelong process, and there is no need to add stress by imposing deadlines
  • It takes time to discover that for which you need to make amends
  • The heart and soul of step 8 is forgiveness:  forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others, and God willing, others’ forgiveness of you
  • The longer one stays sober, the more clarity one gains in the amends process
  • If the amends process is overwhelming, start simply, and stop doing that for which you need to make amends.  If you’re sober, chances are you’ve already made a step in the amends process with many people in your life

The next group to share was the group with a relatively small amount of sober time (2 months, 3 months, 10 months).  Their take on step 8 was just as fascinating, because they’re reading it and wondering at how such a thing works:

  • Do you list someone if you can’t get in touch with them?
  • What do you do if you made amends for something but you were not in recovery… do you do it over again?
  • How can you even think about these kinds of things when your brain still feels likes it not clear?

Of course, the great thing about having a meeting with a mix of people is to share wisdom, and the long-timers were able to give out advice that they had been given in earlier days.

One really interesting and new bit I was able to take away came from a question from a newcomer:  what if you want to make amends to someone who has died?  The standard advice I have heard in response to this question is to write the deceased a letter, visit the gravesite, or visit your place of worship.

But today the advice given was to find a living substitute.  Let’s say, for example, that you were selfish with your time and thus missed out on the last years of your grandfather’s life because you were too busy drinking.  Now you’re sober and you want to make amends to him, but he is not around.  Find someone meaningful, either to you or someone who would have been meaningful to your grandfather, and give the gift of your time and attention to him or her.

I had never heard that particular piece of advice, but it struck me as a wonderful way to pay forward the blessings of sobriety.

As always, tons of good stuff.  For all my fellow 12-step readers, please share any nuggets of step 8 wisdom in the comment section!

Today’s Miracle:

Having to wrap this up to watch my son run track is a miracle on every level… he is doing what he loves, and I get to witness it!




M(3), 8/31/15: Searching for the Willingness

For the record, I am sitting and typing this blog with the quiet hum of an air conditioner as my only background noise.  I actually forgot the air conditioner made a noise, since it’s been drowned out by endless re-runs of Malcolm in the Middle and various Xbox games.  Oh and the occasional sibling argument!  Back to school = Golden Silence.

Today’s meeting centered around Step 8 in the 12 steps of recovery:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

I had a few people groan aloud when they realized we would be reading and discussing step 8… August, the eighth month in the year, is a popular time to discuss this step, and it is the last day of the month.  Therefore, regular meeting attendees have had their fill of this topic.

Note to self:  it might be time to switch up my literature rotation.

Despite the moans and groans, the meeting was an interesting one, in that the conversational focus was on a different part of the step than usual.  Typically a Step 8 meeting focuses on the question, “Who exactly should make the list?”  This conversation then winds around to what exactly do we mean we say “Harm?”  And then, inevitably, the shares will turn into stories of the following step, which is the actual making of amends.

Today, however, the focus was on the second part of the step, the part where we actually become willing to make the amends.  Because you can know you’ve harmed a person, but you can also not want to right that wrong for a whole bunch of reasons.  Some people think, “why bother?  that person is out of my life?”  Some are unwilling due to pride or ego:  “No way am I making amends after all that person’s done to me!”  The list of why not’s could go on for awhile.

But it’s important to realize, for those deciding to use the 12-step program to recover:  you are not ready to tackle the often challenging step 9 of making amends until you have finished the entire of step 8.

And how best to become willing?  Pray for the willingness, meditate, whatever you do to calm and center yourself, do so specifically around this issue.

A second theme of today’s discussion:  why it’s important to do such a thing in the first place.  Who the heck wants to sit around and think about all the people you’ve ever hurt in your life?  Knowing all the while that the list is then going to turn into an even worse job… going around and making amends to these people?

The why is simple:  to untangle the relationships that you’ve complicated with your addiction.  Even in the case of the person not realizing it, the point is if they’re making your list then you realize it.  Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule of making amends, and those exceptions are covered in the following step, but overall the reason to create a list is to clean up your side of the street.  It has more to do with you than it does with the person harmed.

The last point of discussion was another interesting one:  there is something to do while you’re waiting to become willing to make amends.  And it’s a simple one, and in most cases goes a long way towards the amends process:

Stop doing the behavior

If your habit was to drink too much and then… fill in the blank:  stay out too late, drunk dial/text, pick fights, become a crying drunk, fail to tuck in your kids, ad infinitum.  Stop doing it!  Come home on time, call and text positively, be there for your friends and family, spend extra time with your kids.

By the time you are actually ready to tackle the amends process with the list you’ve made, I would bet the vast majority will say that your amends will be to keep doing what you’ve been doing since you got sober.

There will be more to discuss on the topic of amends in a couple of weeks when we read step 9.  Until then, any 12-step readers with insights to share on step 8, I’d love to hear it!

Today’s Miracle:

I am proud to say that I’ve written an article for the website  Check it out if you are interested in a little more of my backstory than I usually write about here!

M(3), 8/18: Crazy 8’s

Is it Monday again already?  Recap for the format of my Monday meeting:  it is the third Monday of the month, so this week’s reading literature in the rotating literature format came from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Since it is August, the 8th month of the year, we read Step 8:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

The chapter in this book does a fantastic job of dispelling any of the preconceived notions we alcoholics have regarding making amends.  Some of the topics covered include:

  • forgiving people for the harms done to you
  • dealing with the embarrassment of facing up to people you have harmed
  • combating the argument “what someone doesn’t know won’t hurt them”
  • getting over the notion that as alcoholics the only people we hurt is ourselves
  • defining the word “harm”
  • the importance of the step in terms of personal growth (in other words, the motivation for getting the gumption up to actually do it)

In other words, a short chapter that covers a lot of territory!

For me, this chapter (and the upcoming month’s selection from this book, which talks about actually doing the amends) hits a nerve on two fronts.  First, it reminds me of how lax I have been on even looking at the step 8 list I created, and, more importantly, checking names off that list by actually doing the amends.  When I shared with the group this morning, I was quick to tell on myself, and gave some details on why I believe I am hung up on getting this job done (it could possibly be a separate post, but for simplicity’s sake let’s call it the deadly combination of fear and pride at work).

The second reason this hits a nerve, and will most definitely be an upcoming post, is a commitment I made, to be completed by summer’s end:  I am going to sit down with each of my children and “the talk” with them.  I joked this morning that “the talk” for the rest of the world, and “the talk” for alcoholics are different animals!  My husband and I decided a while ago that this transition summer for both kids (one heading into high school, the other into middle school) is the perfect opportunity to give them this important information.

Perfect for them, maybe, not so much for their mother.  It’s August 18th and I’m desperately searching for a reason to put this off.  Which (sigh), I won’t, although I’m sure I’ll wait until the Last.  Possible.  Second.  I’m thinking maybe as I’m driving them to the bus stop?  I’m kidding (I think).  Either way, I believe I will be in need of some writing therapy as soon as I finish, so you will know as soon as I’ve finished.

So those are the things that came to my mind as I read the chapter.  The following shares that took place were so amazing, they had my head spinning with how much what is going on with other people, and the lessons they’ve learned, is able to help me.  Again, it might be easier to bullet point:

  • The first person to share this morning talked about how much he dislikes these two steps (8, making the list, and 9, making the amends, for non 12-step readers these two steps are generally discussed hand in hand).  His professional life is a religious one, so when he considered making this list, he was instantly overwhelmed:  so many people he has impacted, how to possibly sit down with them all?  His sponsor gently but firmly advised:  how about you start with just stopping the behavior for which you need to make amends?

Easy enough, right?  But here’s the trick:  you have to know what the wrong behavior is in order to stop it, and that’s where the real work in step 8 lies.  He actually rocked my world a bit when he talked about this subject.   I wrote my step 8 list based upon my step 4 inventory, which is certainly a common way to do it, but I’m thinking perhaps I could go a bit deeper, and look at my behaviors a little more closely.  Up to this point I have thought about amends in more superficial ways:  did I do someone wrong in a fairly obvious way?  But in this light I need to look beyond the obvious:  if I lied to someone, why did I lie?  What was the underlying reason for the misbehavior?  Deep stuff, that’s for sure.

  • The next several people who shared talked about failing to make amends in their first go-round in recovery, then ultimately making the decision to drink again.  In each of these cases they are quick to say  that other factors led up to the relapse, but they now realize the importance of feeling as if they have done each step to the best of their ability.  Some of the stories shared were sobering (pun intended) wake-calls:  stay the course, this is a process from which there is no graduation.
  • Some shared confusion on if and how to make amends in special circumstances, such as a person passing or not having current information on a person’s whereabouts.  This kind of sharing is rewarding for everyone, it gives each of us a chance to give and receive wisdom.
  • Finally, and most importantly to me personally, a friend shared the experience, strength and hope she has gained in her 23 years in our fellowship.  Her words, while having nothing whatsoever to do with me personally, spoke to me so directly, it was as if she was mind-reading.  She actually even gave an example at one point of the futility of beating herself for losing something, an activity I have repeated quite a bit over the past 5 days!  Here’s what she said that made a light bulb go off in my head:  “the most important work I neglected in my earlier years of sobriety was forgiveness; not of others as they talk about in this chapter, but of myself.  Until I could forgive myself, I was incapable of making a sincere amends to anyone.”

Right between the eyes, that one got me.

Then:  “If I struggle with making an amends, beating myself up over it is making a bad situation worse.  My job is to become willing to make the amends.  If I am not willing, then my job is to ask God for the willingness.  When he gives me the willingness, I will do it, and it’s as simple as that.”

She said those words, and I had to look down to hide the tears in my eyes.  A true God moment there, that’s for sure, and a clear-cut set of directions for me.

There was loads more great stuff shared, but I think I hit the high notes.  Hope everyone is having as excellent a Monday as I!

Today’s Miracle:

This one was inspired by MamaMickTerry.  I wrote last week of my despair in losing my wedding ring.  As I have been lost without something on that finger, I searched through my jewelry and found a ring one of the kids gave me for Christmas, which they purchased at their holiday school store.  Its financial worth is negligible, but the reminder that it’s not the material goods, but that may family is happy and whole… well that’s priceless.  Here it is:



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