This daylog is ninth of a series chronicling my path through the 12 steps of Al-Anon. I’ve been recording my personal journey because it helps me to clarify my thinking to write it all down. This entry marks Step 9.
Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
I went to an Al-Anon meeting the other day, a noon meeting that I’m particularly fond of, full of strong women who are courageous and honest and funny. They tell their stories and share the pain, frustration, and confusion they’re facing in their lives, but they also share the lessons they’ve learned. They’re able to cry when they need to and they make each other laugh. The day’s topic was detachment and many of the sharings involved mother/daughter relationships. Two things that were said hit me on a gut level. The first was a woman describing the power of being able to truly let go of an issue and say to the other person, “Can you forgive me?” I found this so striking because asking that would be so incredibly hard for me—scarier than saying “I’m sorry”, because it on some level puts my fate in the other person’s hands. The other statement that resonated with me was a comment from another woman about to what a great extent she is still seeking her family’s approval.
Ohhhhh, Step 8 and Step 9 have been hard for me. Saying I’m wrong is hard for me. One of the things that annoys my significant other the most about me is how strongly I feel I have to be right, and how hard it is for me to admit when I make a mistake. I don’t blame her; it’s an obnoxious character defect.
More than two years ago, another woman in another Al-Anon meeting told me that I had to let go of my expectations for what type of responses my amends would receive; that the important part of performing Step 9 was that I was offering a sincere amends, recognizing my part in the situation and taking responsibility for it. The other person’s reaction was not my concern. That’s much easier said than done; I’m putting off some amends that I know I owe to people because I’m afraid of opening those cans of worms.
Step 9 is a put your money where your mouth is step; it’s an action step. Unlike Step 5, where you’re choosing a sympathetic, loving confidant, this time around you’re talking to people about the hurt you’ve caused them. I know that it’s supposed to make me healthier in the long run, that making amends gives me an emotional clean slate, free of past regrets and feelings of guilt or shame, but it’s far from easy.
Here’s the progress I’ve made so far on my Step 8 list :
- I have made direct amends to three people (in person, on the phone, in a letter)
- I’m considering my changed/changing behavior as amends to two more
- I’ve at least thought about what amends I want to make to another person
- I’m dreading the whole process with the remaining two.
The amends I’ve made have been well received, but more importantly, I was able to make them because I had reached a point where I felt absolutely sure that I was ready, and that it was the right thing to do. And making amends did bring a feeling of relief.
Progress, Not Perfection
One Day at a Time......................Easy Does It
Don't quit five minutes before the miracle happens
I’m impatient. I’m used to being an over-achiever and accomplishing goals quickly. It took about a month apiece for me to take (and write about) the first three steps, and just about a year to do the next four. (We’re not supposed to be keeping track of such things; I’m just not enlightened enough yet to let go of my own yardstick.) Anyway, it’s taken me almost a year and a half to take and write about Steps 8 and 9, and I still can’t help but feel that they’re incomplete.
I've tried my best at making amends over the years with one person on my list, but they've not always been well received. My sponsor reminds me every now and again that the reception is not my concern, but somehow I feel if I did them right, (completely, contritely, sincerely enough), they would go over better. Ahhh, did you see that? Needing to be right. And up above I talked about "the right thing to do". Yup, there's a theme here.
"Sometimes pain is just a part of life. And sometimes we contribute to the problem...We cannot undo what has been done in the past. We can express our regrets and make a commitment to try not to repeat past mistakes, but what's done is done." 1
I'll keep trying. I find that if I keep going to meetings and talking to Al-Anon people and reading the literature, slowly over time new ways of doing things occur to me, and more space appears in places where I had felt trapped or stuck. It must be happening in God's time, however, because it certainly ain't my timetable. on the other hand, some of these changes are undoing years of familiar, family-established patterns of behavior, so maybe the only way to do it is with glacial speed.
“With this Step, we have an opportunity to choose the kind of person we would like to become and the kinds of relationships we would like to be involved." 2
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to change.
1 How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics
, © Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1995, pages 58-59.
2 How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics
, © Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1995, page 60.
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step five |
step seven | step eight
The Twelve Steps