Step 8 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous requires participants to have done the following:
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
The purpose of this step is to recognize that the effects of addiction aren’t only limited to the person suffering. Instead, there is an ever-expanding ripple that disrupts those closest to its impact the most, but also continues to affect people on the fringes of one’s life. Step 8 addresses this reality by focusing on the personal relationships of the individual in recovery.
Previous steps in AA asked alcoholics to look either inward or upward, toward themselves or a higher power. So far, the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have required their members to recognize their limits, accept their faults, and cultivate a strong sense of resignation. Now, the program encourages participants to look both outward and forward.
It places a focus on relationships by asking addicts key questions, such as the following:
1) How have you harmed those closest to you, and how can you make amends?
2) How have you damaged your relationships, and how can you fix them?
Recovery Is in the Details
Unfortunately, many who make it to this step are tempted to go about it like this:
“I’ve hurt a lot of people I care about. I was wrong to do that. I promise I won’t do it again.”
However, this is not good enough—it’s not good and it’s not enough. Recovery doesn’t occur solely inside a person’s mind. It also takes place in the outside world, where negative consequences follow negative actions and behaviors, and people suffer harm as a result.
Anyone who wants to make substantial progress toward long-term sobriety must take tangible steps to correct past wrongs and build new, stronger bridges. This venture means one must focus on the details.
Every AA participant who encounters step 8 must ask themselves (and also answer) the following:
1) What precisely did I do to whom and when?
2) How do I right those specific wrongs?
The answers don’t have to be written down, but doing so is not a bad idea, either. Or perhaps you feel that it is best not to commit such personal information to paper. Either way, the names of those hurt should be recorded, followed by a few notes that describe why they are there or what needs to be done to make amends.
Nothing Is Impossible
Mending relationships can be extremely challenging and seem impossible in some cases. How can any one person make amends for every wrong they’ve ever perpetrated on anyone? What if the other person won’t accept our pleas to amend the situation? What if we are rebuffed and further humiliated?
Those who are undertaking step 8 should find solace in its wording—”willing to make amends.” This statement means that you have to try to give it your best shot. That said, it’s not an excuse to cut corners. But you do have to realize that you don’t have to die trying to resolve issues with someone who doesn’t want them resolved.
All relationships are repairable, but, unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. You have to do your best and take action whenever possible. We must seize the moment when it presents itself, and if the other person does not accept our apology or plan to make amends, that is their decision. You cannot control their actions or force them to take mercy on you.
Homecoming to Selflessness
There’s no retreating back from this step. Once a person in recovery has examined the damage, they can never unsee the consequences. On the positive side, that means they can move forward with less feeling of guilt and ignorance. By cleaning up the human ruins caused by addiction, people can travel forward with open eyes and outstretched arms.
AA and its principles have undoubtedly been helpful to millions of people trying to recover from alcoholism and other addictions. However, research has shown that the best approach to addiction treatment lies in a multi-faceted plan that also includes evidence-based therapies, such as behavioral therapy and counseling.
Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Services include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Individual and family counseling
- Peer group support meetings
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Substance abuse education
- Art and music therapy
- Health and wellness
- Aftercare planning
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, we urge you to seek help as soon as possible. We are committed to ensuring each client receives the support and care they need to recover from all forms of addiction.
Contact us today if you are ready to break free from the chains of addiction and reclaim the healthy, fulfilling life you deserve!