Step 8 of the twelve steps of AA asks participants to do the following:
“[Make] a list of all persons we…harmed and [be] willing to make amends to them all.”
The purpose of step 8 is to recognize that the effects of addiction aren’t confined to the individual who suffers. Instead, this disorder produces an ever-expanding ripple that disrupts the people closest to its impact the most and continues to affect others on the fringes of one’s life. This step addresses this reality by concentrating on the personal relationships of the recovering individual.
Previous Alcoholics Anonymous steps asked members to look inward or upward toward themselves or a higher power, respectively. So far, AA’s twelve steps have required alcoholics to identify their limits, admit and accept their faults, and develop a robust sense of resignation. Now, the program urges members to look outward and forward.
It places a strong focus on relationships by asking members key questions, such as “how have you have caused damage to those closest to you, and how can you make amends?” and “how have you harmed relationships, and how can you fix (or at least repair) them?”
Recovery Is in the Details
Unfortunately, many individuals who make it to this step might be tempted to go about it like this: “I’ve hurt many people I care about. I was wrong and I swear I won’t do it again.”
However, this line of thinking, although a good start, is not going to be sufficient. Recovery doesn’t occur solely inside an individual’s mind. It also takes place in the external world, where adverse consequences follow negative behaviors, and people can incur harm as a result.
Any person who wants to make substantial progress toward indefinite sobriety must take steps to correct past wrongs and forge new, stronger bridges. This venture means one must place a focus on the details.
Every AA member who encounters step 8 must ask themselves and answer the following questions: “What did I do to whom and when?” and “How do I right those wrongs?”
The answers don’t necessarily need to be written down, but doing so may not be a bad idea, either. Or perhaps it’s easier not to commit such personal information to paper. So instead, only the names of those we have hurt should be recorded, followed by a few notes that describe what needs to be done to make amends.
Remember That Nothing Is Impossible In the Living Years
Mending relationships can be highly challenging and seem impossible in some instances. How can any one individual make amends for every wrong they’ve ever done to anyone? What if the other person in question is not willing to accept our pleas to amend the circumstances? What if we are rebuffed and humiliated even further?
Those working step 8 should find solace in the wording—”willing to make amends.” This statement means that you have to give it your best shot and that you don’t have to die trying to resolve problems with a person who doesn’t want to work having them resolved.
In theory, all relationships are potentially repairable, but, unfortunately, this is not everyone’s perspective. You must do the best you can and take action whenever possible. We must seize the day when it presents itself, and if the other individual does not accept our apology and plan to make amends, that is their choice. You cannot control their actions nor force them to have mercy on you.
Homecoming to Selflessness
There’s no retreating back from this step. Once an individual in recovery has assessed the damage, they can never unsee the potential outcomes. On the positive side, that means they can move forward with less feeling of guilt and ignorance. By cleaning up the wreckage caused by addiction, people can begin to move forward with open eyes and outstretched arms.
Finding Professional Treatment
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.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer comprehensive programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats. Therapeutic services we feature include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Individual counseling
- Family counseling
- Group support meetings
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Art and music therapy
- Health and wellness education
- Aftercare planning