Step 8

Step eight is a test of our newfound humility.  During this step, we seek to achieve freedom from the guilt that we have carried.  To do this, we have to do the work to repair the wreckage of our past lives.  This is not easy; it demands a new kind of honesty about our relationships with other people.  The eighth step starts the process of forgiveness, where we forgive others, are possibly forgiven by others, and finally, forgive ourselves.  By the time we reach this step, we have become ready to understand rather than to be understood.  We can live and let live easier when we know the areas in which we owe amends.  It will make us feel better to clean up our lives by relieving ourselves of the guilt.  By writing our list, we can no longer deny that we caused harm.  We admit that we hurt others and make a list of that includes all of those we have hurt.  We then face this list honestly and openly examine our faults so we can become willing to make amends. 

During the previous steps, we focused primarily on repairing ourselves and our relationship with our Higher Power.  It is during this step that we begin to involve other people in our healing process.  Specifically, this involves identifying who we have harmed, how we have harmed them, and becoming willing to make amends to them.  The eighth step is the beginning of the process that lets us feel equal to others.  Rather than experiencing feelings of shame and guilt, and a neverending feeling of “less than”, we become able to look people in the eye and finally lose the fear that we will be caught and punished for some neglected responsibility. 

It will be important to take our time during this step.  Like many before us, we may feel the urge to jump ahead and make things right.  If we do this in the wrong way, however, we may end up making things worse.  Thus, during this step, we need to come to a complete understanding of the ways in which we have harmed individuals in our past in order to ensure our list is thorough.  Once we have come to this understanding, we can then begin to make our list.  During this time we will sit down, recall all we have learned about harm, and start putting names down of the individuals we have harmed as well as how we have caused them harm.  After our list is complete we have to take the steps to become willing to make amends to each of these individuals.  During this time we will focus on the spiritual principles of honesty, courage, willingness, and compassion.  Today you can take the steps necessary to become willing to make amends to those you have harmed in the past.  By doing so, today you can become that much closer to being free!

(Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash)

Step 6

During this step, we are encouraged to come to terms with our character defects and take action toward their removal. Specifically, we examine our fourth step inventory and get a good look at the profound effect these defects have on our lives, and through a willingness to change, start to overcome them.  Willingness is the spiritual principle of step six.  How sincerely we work this step will be directly correlated with our desire to change.   

It is important to recognize that becoming entirely ready does not happen instantly.  It is a process that sometimes develops over an entire lifetime.  Being entirely ready involves many things: being aware of our defects, being tired of them, and being confident that the God of our understanding will remove them.  While working this step we will consider our fears related to the step, what removal of our character defects consists of, and what our responsibility is in this process. 

Fears related to this step can come in various forms, but almost everyone will experience some level of fear concerning change.  We have all had our defects that we are about to let go of for a very long time, and stepping into the unknown is terrifying.  What will life be like without these defects?!  By working this step, will we be transformed into dull conformists?  Am I capable of living successfully without these defects?  During this time, we need to remain willing and maintain a sense of hope and trust that the process of recovery works even on our most coveted defects.  

So what is this process, and what is our responsibility throughout it?  Well, the first thing most of us do about our character defects is to decide not to have them.  However, this is quite futile because,  much like our attempts to control our using, we may have some success for a time, but the behavior eventually resurfaces.  So, what we need to do in the sixth step is much like what we need to do in the first two steps.  We need to admit that we have been influenced by an internal force that has brought mostly pain and degradation into our lives.  Then we need to admit that we need help in dealing with that force. 

At this point in the step working process, we are typically aware of our shortcomings.  But, it takes an extraordinary amount of energy to monitor our behavior every second of every day and curb every impulse to act out.  Thus, it can sometimes be a discouraging task.  But, we do not give up.  Instead, we make a commitment to our recovery.  We maintain our newly emerging principles despite our setbacks.  We keep taking steps forward despite the step or two we have taken backward.  Ultimately, we are looking for gradual improvement, not instant perfection.  Today you can make a commitment to your recovery.  Today you can decide to keep moving forward no matter how many setbacks you have experienced.  Today you can commit to a gradual improvement in your life!

(Photo by Mark Duffel 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)