Step 9

We take action by making amends to the individuals we have harmed in our past during this step.  We do this by overcoming the barriers of embarrassment, pride, fear, and procrastination and becoming ready to accept the reactions of those people we have harmed.  By doing this, we will begin to overcome the guilt we experience and assist the people we have harmed in overcoming any anger or resentment they hold toward us.  This is a tremendous opportunity for continued growth and is extremely necessary for our quest to restored sanity. 

However, it is important to remember that there is a reason that the steps are to be carried out in the order they are listed.  Without the spiritual preparation we experienced in the previous steps, we would not be prepared to make these amends properly.  If we had not developed a relationship with our Higher Power, we would likely lack the trust and faith required to carry this step out.  If we had not done our fourth and fifth steps, we might be confused about our personal responsibility or what it is we are making amends for.  If we didn’t develop the all-important humility that steps six and seven entail, we would probably approach our amends in a self-righteous or angry way and end up doing more damage.  The willingness we gained through the acceptance of personal responsibility provided us with the ability to make our eighth step list.  And that list was our practical preparation for working this step. 

It will also be important to remain mindful of how we approach and carry out our amends.  For instance, we must be cautious that having completed our eighth step list, we don’t approach it like we would a shopping list, crossing off completed items as soon as we can.  Some of our amends may never be completely finished, and we will continue to work on them throughout our journey of recovery.  Although it is best to make direct amends wherever possible, some of our amends may need to be made indirectly.  In these instances, we need to consider what good purpose we will be serving by making our amends.  Will the information we share with the person we harmed cause damage?  Ultimately, we need to accept the consequences of our behaviors, bearing in mind the part of the step that says, “except when to do so would injure them or others.” 

In such cases that we cannot make direct amends, the way in which we make indirect amends will only be limited by our imagination and level of willingness.  In the process of making our direct and indirect amends, we will be working on the spiritual principles of humility, love, and forgiveness.  Today you can practice these spiritual principles.  Today you can begin the process of overcoming the guilt you have carried around with you for so long.  Today you can choose continued growth in the process of recovery! 

(Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash)

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Step 7

We have experienced humility in previous steps.  In fact, the humility it takes to admit to powerlessness in the first step is often where we begin to experience humility as a necessity.  However, this is only a beginning.  To gain a vision of humility as the avenue of true freedom of the spirit takes most of us a long time.  After all, a whole life geared toward self-centeredness cannot be overcome all at once.  To be truly humble is to accept and honestly try to be ourselves.  It is as much a part of remaining clean and sober as water is to staying alive.  Ultimately, step seven is our opportunity to willingly try humility in seeking the removal of our other shortcomings, just as we did when we admitted that we were powerless over our addiction. 

Since we humbly admitted to our powerlessness in step one, the following steps have served to sow the seeds of humility in our spirits that will begin to grow in this step.  Specifically, in the first six steps, we began to learn our part in things.  Where we used to believe situations happened to us, we now see how we often created those situations.  We stop blaming others for our lot in life and begin to realize that where we have ended up has been determined mostly by the choices we have made.  But, humility is a sense of our own humanness.  By grasping it properly, we are better able to realize that we and others are truly human and make decisions both good and bad, with the hope that things turn out well. 

In previous steps, we also worked to form a relationship with the God of our understanding.  In step two, we first began to think about a Higher Power that could help us find recovery.  In step three, we made a decision to trust our Higher Power with the care of our will and our lives.  In step four, we leaned on our Higher Power to get us through and then shared with our Higher Power the most intimate details of our lives in step five.  During step six, we realized that our Higher Power can do more for us than simply help us to remain clean and sober. 

That work we did to build our relationship with the God of our understanding in the previous steps will pay off as we proceed with step seven.  During this step, we are encouraged to humbly ask the God of our understanding to remove our shortcomings.  This involves honest communication with our Higher Power in whatever way we deem acceptable (prayer, for example).  During this step, we are also encouraged to take action in the form of inviting our Higher Power to work in our lives.  We cannot keep a distant relationship with our Higher Power and expect to experience change through their presence.  This action will take the spiritual principles of trust, faith, patience, and of course, humility.  Today you can remain patient during the process and incorporate humility into your everyday life.  Today you can trust that your Higher Power will work in your life and have faith that you will experience change. 

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

Step 5

During step four the work of creating a searching and fearless inventory was the goal.  In Step five, we clean house.  We do this by admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  Specifically, we are dealing with the contents of our inventory.  During the inventory process we examined our wrongs and behavior patterns, which revealed deeper aspects of our disease.  Much of the time, these revelations are not pleasant; however, acknowledging them and bringing them to the surface makes it possible for us to deal with them constructively.  After we share the shameful aspects of our past, we can be free of them.  In so doing, we can live a life of freedom in general. 

During the fifth step, many of us have and will face many fears.  The fear of being judged, the fear of taking up another person’s time, and fears related to trust.  But, it is essential that we know what our fears are and move forward despite them so that we are able to continue with our recovery.  Thus, courage and a sense of trust in the process of recovery are essential.  If we have both of these things, we will be able to work through our specific fears and handle the admissions that need to be made during this step. 

Admitting to each entity involved in this step is important.  True recovery involves a life where the spiritual meets the everyday and the ordinary meet the extraordinary.  When we admit the exact nature of our wrongs to the God of our understanding, our admissions become more meaningful.  However this admission takes place is fine, as long as we are aware that we are making an admission to our Higher Power.  The admission to ourselves is important as well.  This is important because change will not occur until we admit to our innermost selves the exact nature of our wrongs.  Once this admission is made we are more willing and better able to choose a different way of living.  Finally, admitting to another human being, no matter how uncomfortable, is important.  This is important for many reasons.  First, the therapeutic value of one addict helping another has been proven to be unparalleled within twelve-step programs.  Second, in the past, it may have been hard for us to decipher between what we are responsible for and what others in our lives are responsible for.  Hearing another person’s point of view related to such situations often proves to be helpful in this domain.  Third, by sharing our inventories with another person, we are demonstrating the trust it takes to make healthy relationships thrive.  Ultimately, this helps us in terms of developing honest relationships.  We tell the truth about who we are, then we listen to the response. 

By working step five, we will recognize patterns of behavior that have lead to negative consequences. During this step, we focus on the spiritual principles of trust, courage, self-honesty, and commitment.  We begin to learn to trust ourselves and others.  We develop the courage to acknowledge our character defects, admit to them, and remain committed to overcoming them.  By doing these things in step five, we begin to experience spiritual freedom and overcome the shame and guilt of our past!  Today you can begin your quest for spiritual freedom! 

(Photo by Basil James on Unsplash)

Step 2

The first step strips us of our illusions related to addiction.  It leaves us with a need to believe in something that can help us with our powerlessness and the unmanageability we have recognized in our lives. Step two gives us hope for our recovery and is necessary if we expect to achieve ongoing recovery.  Many people may have avoided this step due to the religious connotation associated with “a Power greater than ourselves”.  However, to complete this step the founders of AA remind us that all we really need to do is “keep an open mind” (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., 2001).  You will come to find that this “Power” can be almost anything, and doesn’t necessarily have to be related to a religion at all.  Like the first step, there are several concepts within the second step that we will address.

For example, “hope” is one of the great concepts to be found within the second step.  Specifically, the hope that replaces the desperation we came in with when we admitted our lives were unmanageable.  Many of us will have tried a variety of options to overcome this unmanageability in the past (medicine, religion, psychiatry etc.).  However, by working the steps of AA we begin to feel a sense of hope in realizing that there are others, just like us, that have managed to stay sober by working these very same steps.  In the second step we now believe, or at least start to believe, that our lives can be restored to sanity, even in the most hopeless of times.  If our lives need to be restored to sanity in this step, that must mean that, at least aspects of them, are insane right?.  Albert Einstein is often credited with the definition of insanity as “doing something over and over again and expecting different results”.  For purposes of addiction, we will describe insanity as “indulging in something externally (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food, money, power, etc.) with the belief that it will cure the issues we are facing internally”.   Sound familiar? 

In the second step we also “come to believe”. Perhaps the biggest issue to face here is that this is typically a process that takes time for most people.  As humans, we are prone to want, and even expect, for things to happen instantly.  That is typically not the case with the 12 steps.  Most of us don’t just wake up one day believing that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  It is a process that often takes time and patience. So, what is this Power?   Not everyone will consider their Power to be the same.  I call my Higher Power “God”.  Other people consider their 12-step group to be their Higher Power.  Others believe that nature is their Higher Power.  Whatever you choose to be your Higher Power is fine, as long as it is more powerful than your addiction.  Afterall, it is our addiction that has led us to this insanity in the first place!

In the second step we realize that a restoration to sanity is possible.  We are no longer controlled by our addiction or the choices that we made in active addiction.  We begin to slow down and consider the consequences of our decisions before making them.  It is during this step that we truly begin to mature and grow as healthy sober individuals.  “How?” you might ask.  By focusing on the spiritual principles of open-mindedness, willingness, faith, trust, and humility.  Each of these spiritual principles are highlighted during this step and will help you in your quest for a return to sanity.  You can find hope in the second step.  Today you can dare to believe.  Today you can live a life that has been restored to sanity!

(Photo by Ahmed Hasan on Unsplash)

Trust

“It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust”. – Samuel Johnson.

  • Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. 
  • Psalms 125:1- Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
  • Isaiah 50:10 encourages those who walk in the dark to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God.
  • Romans 15:13-  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What an empowering thought.  To live life thinking everyone is out to get you is more stressful than it is to trust people and maybe get cheated once and a while.  It is extremely draining to live a cynical life.  To always think people are out to get you.  Yes, we should use our best judgment and consider the negative things that could arise from an encounter or a relationship, but it is also equally as important to consider the positive things that could arise. 

Even more importantly, we should do our best to trust the Lord with all of our hearts.  It is hard to trust in His plan for us at times, but there is solace to be found in others who have put their trust in the Lord.  Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They faced being burnt alive and overcame their fears by putting their trust in the Lord.  They not only survived, but flourished.  Consider Daniel as well.  He was thrown into a lion’s den and came out without a scratch because of the trust he placed  in the Lord.  Those who trust in the Lord are said to be blessed, kept safe, and made to prosper.  Let us, like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego become full with peace hope, and joy, let us become as unshakeable as mount Zion, let us put our trust in the Lord.  Today you can do just that!

(Photo byMartin Adams on Unsplash)