Making Amends – Moving Through AA Steps 8 and 9

People holding hands during serious discussion

You have come so far in your recovery. Through diligent work, you have made steady progress in admission, accountability and surrender of the power addiction once held over you. 

There is much for you to be proud of as you approach the three-quarter mark of your recovery steps, but these can feel like precarious steps. Spending time cataloging wrongs you’ve done and the harm you’ve caused may feel like a one-way street toward grief and risk, but it is not. Making amends is a key to releasing the emotional shackles of the damage you carry, whether you own it or not. 

AA Step 8 – Make an inventory

In pursuit of healing, you must take a critical microscope to the examination of your life before you give it to your higher power. Your loved ones and relationships felt the ripples of your addiction, so now is the time to consider that impact on them. Make a physical list of the harm you caused (whether intentional or not) and categorize it by impact. 

Use this list to reflect on the impact of the things that occurred and the accountability you are now capable of owning. For your own good, spend time considering how you would handle it differently now. Then, think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes. Consider those things carefully as you move through the inventory of your loved ones. 

This list is Step 8, and it’s an imperative prerequisite to Step 9. 

AA Step 9 – Amends are more than apologies 

Making amends means more than saying you’re sorry. While the exact steps of the amends process will look different for each item and relationship on your list, there are a few constants that will be key in creating lasting peace in place of pain. 

Some keys to making healthy amends are: 

  • Be specific in what you are apologizing for 
  • Own your responsibility 
  • Listen to what they have to say
  • Make space for those responses
  • Choose grace no matter the outcome 

Accept the outcome

It’s important to note that not all actions are forgivable, and not all amends will be accepted. Sometimes, we hurt people beyond the repair of that relationship. While we can offer our apologies, we cannot demand their forgiveness. When you have taken ownership of the harm you caused and given a genuine apology, you must let go of that responsibility if it is not accepted. 

You cannot strip someone else of their agency to choose any more than you can eternally carry the pain of a decision you can’t change. You may be able to find a way to make indirect amends—like utilizing the momentum of old harm and new accountability to make a fresh connection with something that means something to that relationship. Alternately, you can choose to make living amends by actively choosing not to repeat past mistakes in your present world. 

Don’t forget yourself

While guilt or shame can be a helpful marker to call attention to the wrongs that need righting, once that purpose is served, it’s time to let go. You cannot criticize yourself into perfection. Holding on to those emotions will catch you in a storm you cannot outrun. You deserve the same consideration of amends as you are giving to your loved ones, so, without releasing your accountability, give yourself the gentle compassion of acknowledging the harm you’ve caused yourself and forgiving you too. 

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