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Getting Ready For the 8th Step

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This blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Elana Clark-Faler, LCSW, CSAT-S, CGP.

I believe the hardest steps range from the 1st through the 9th steps.  Our August theme is on the 8th step. The 8th step focuses on preparing to make amends to those you have hurt when you were acting out in your addiction.  This is a powerful, yet humbling exercise.  Many individuals feel shame and fear when exposing themselves to those they have harmed.  What if this person rejects my amends?  What if this person yells at me or says nothing?

While writing your list of people you harmed, you will come up with defenses.  You might justify your actions or you may feel that you wouldn’t have behaved this way if only the other person didn’t make me go there.  You know you’re using a defense when you are rationalizing, justifying, minimizing and etc.

Defenses are normal reactions when someone feels threatened.  It’s important that you let go of defenses during the amends process, because it could backfire.  You have worked too hard to get here to begin allowing defenses to take over.

Yes, this other person has done things to hurt or provoke you.  You aren’t there to take this person’s inventory.  You are there to clean up your side of the street.

The first step is make a thorough list of people you have harmed.  Start from as early as you can remember while you were you in your disease.  Identify the event(s), and what you did specifically (in behavioral terms).  Then you will decide with the help of your sponsor how you will conduct these amends.  Some of the amends aren’t appropriate to make, because it could hurt the person and their relationships currently.  You and your sponsor may decide on conducting, what we call, a living amends.  You may write a letter and read it out loud.  You may conduct volunteer work to make your amends or other types of amends that don’t involve you speaking directly to the person you harmed.

You will have a list of people who will be appropriate to make your amends face-to-face.  You will schedule a time that is convenient for the person you’re making an amends to.  It’s important this person knows you are scheduling to make an amends and ask if he/she is willing to accept it.  Once this person gives you the green light, it’s important to be prepared with an amends letter that has been reviewed by you and your sponsor.

I think it’s a good idea the person you’re making amends to has a support network and someone to talk to after the amends.  Obviously, you can’t control what someone will do after an amends.  It’s important you only make amends to people who are stable and have the ability to ask for help from someone other than you.

Here are some areas to focus on in your letter:

1)  Make an apology. Own your side of the street.

2) What did you specifically do (in behavioral terms).

3) Did you blame them in the past?  Did you cause this person to doubt themselves.

4) Acknowledge this person’s possible feelings and validate.

5) Take responsibility for the wreckage of your actions.

I hope this is helpful to support you through a powerful and healing process for you and others who have been effected by your addiction.

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