9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
This Step is about "making peace with ourselves and others. That is the purpose of amends."
"This Step takes us a major leap forward in establishing boundaries - the difference between us and another person, the difference between our behavior and another's. It also grounds us in what will become a new way of life: allowing other people to have their paths and issues and learning to have our own. In this Step, we learn to own our power to take responsibility for ourselves and our conduct in relationships."
"A fringe benefit of this Step is that we can now feel good about our conduct in relationships and can set ourselves free from conduct we feel uncomfortable with."
"If you have done your work in the other Steps, you have a list of people. If you have done the work as suggested in Step Eight of this book, you have three lists: people who have harmed you; people you have harmed, and the person you may have harmed most - yourself."
"You may not have a written list, but if you have been relating to people, you have a list. Any relationship, past or present, you don't feel good about; any person, including yourself, you're harboring troubled, unresolved feelings about; any relationship that brings discord to mind or heart; all are on this list. These relationships are blocking your heart and your ability to love."
"Denial does not count here. If you have strife or unresolved issues, even if you are denying the feelings, they are on the list. Let's take a look, now, at what can be done to shred the lists."
"The first category of amends we'll discuss is amends to people who have harmed us. I know, I know. This sounds peculiar and a bit codependent. Bear with me."
"If someone has harmed us and we have not dealt with the incident, we have discord in our hearts. So how do we approach this list? Not, my friends, with denial."
"Our goal in this list is to forgive each person who has harmed us, but first we must do something important. We must work through, and experience fully, our feelings. We must clearly identify and accept the abuse. We need to figure out what our new behaviors and responses to others need to be, so the abuse or mistreatment doesn't continue. And then we will be led into forgiveness."
"This is a grieving process done in stages that begins with denial and moves us into anger and sadness."
"An important part of this process is figuring out what we need to do to take care of ourselves in the future with this person or anyone else who would inflict similar abuse or mistreatment on us. We cannot avoid all loss or all mistreatment in recovery, despite our intentions. But most often, when I look back over incidents where I have been mistreated, there is an important lesson there for me. The process isn't complete until I open myself to that lesson and resolve to practice it in the future. Often, the lesson is learning to own my power to take care of myself with people."
"Sometimes the lesson is establishing boundaries. Sometimes the lesson is learning to say no. Sometimes the lesson is learning our power and respect and trust our feelings, wants, and needs. Sometimes the lesson isn't clear, and all we can do is accept that the incident happened."
"Sometimes, as part of this process, we may want to confront a person on a particular issue - not to blame, shame, or extract an apology from them, but to state clearly our new boundaries with them and to let them know we've been violated. Sometimes we're wasting our time by opening our mouths. We may want to ask for guidance here. Our friends, our sponsor, and our Higher Power can help us determine what course of conduct is right in each situation."
"Forgiving a person does not give them permission to continue treating us poorly. If we are trying to forgive someone, and instead we feel angry and mistrustful, we may not have explored our feelings sufficiently or done the lesson work necessary for forgiveness. Occasionally, when we do this kind of work, ideas about our part in the incident may become clearer. If that happens and we realize we have had a part in the incident for which we need to make an amend, we can add that name to our second list."
"Our goal is to forgive and forget the incident, when we have accepted and healed from it. We strive to remember only our lesson from the experience. We learn we can be grateful, for many have come into our lives to help us learn and grow - sometimes through opposition, sometimes through love, sometimes by reflecting to us what we need to work on in ourselves."
"It is now time to take out the list of people we have harmed by our behaviors. Now we are approaching some direct amends. We are getting ready to say, "This is what I did, and I'm sorry," in word and behavior. These are the people to whom we did something inappropriate, people we need to take care of ourselves with because we did something wrong. We may have lied, manipulated, used, abused, controlled, or inappropriately expressed anger to these people. In some way, these people suffered from our code pendent behaviors, and now we are trying to make things right. We are on our way to freeing ourselves from guilt, taking responsibility for ourselves, removing ourselves as victims, and restoring these relationships."
"Sometimes an amend requires direct contact with the person. We say what we did and then apologize for our conduct. We do not talk about what the other person did. We do not justify or rationalize what we did. If we need to explain briefly, we may. The fewer words we use, the better. The most important ones are, "This is what I did, and I'm sorry."
"Sometimes our amends are immediate amends. They are amends that can and should be made right now."
"Sometimes these amends are "future" amends. For a variety of reasons, it may be better to let some time pass before going to that person. Maybe feelings are at an all-time high; maybe we are not yet clear on exactly what our part was; maybe we are not yet entirely ready. For whatever reason, the timing is not right. So we wait, but we have a reasonable deadline in mind."
"Sometimes saying "I'm sorry" isn't enough. We need to make restitutions by changing how we behave toward someone. Of course, we cannot and do not need to promise perfection, but a sincere desire to handle ourselves differently helps. We may decide we need to change our behaviors with children, a spouse, a loved one, or a friend."
"Sometimes our amends are financial amends. We need to make restitution in more than words or changed behavior. We need to pay back money. Many of us begin recovery from codependency strapped with huge financial burdens."
"The debts are usually the result of our participating in a dysfunctional relationship, getting in over our heads, then finding ourselves - not our partner - strapped with the financial burden when the relationship ends. Sometimes we borrow to help the other person out. Sometimes financial unmanageability becomes part and parcel of the codependent package."
"The willingness to take responsibility for our current financial problems is critical to recovery. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be terribly financially victimized by another. That's a hard blow to take, but if we are going to recover, we must begin now to bring reparation and healing to that area of our lives."
"We do whatever we can to bring fairness and equity to the situation. If there is any way to relieve ourselves of financial responsibility that belongs to someone else, we take steps to do that. That is part of making amends to ourselves. As much as possible, we take steps to insure that each one of us is financially responsible for himself or herself. We no longer allow ourselves to be further victimized or martyred."
"Sometimes, in order to take financial responsibility for ourselves, we do end up biting the proverbial bullet. Sometimes our credit is shot. Sometimes we are stuck with another's debt whether we like it or not."
"Financial responsibility is an important part of recovery. We can faithfully and responsibly do what we can as we are able."
"There are some amends we cannot make. The person may be deceased or simply unavailable. We can discuss those amends with our Higher Power, then let go of them."
"Attitude, honesty, openness, and willingness count here. In peace and harmony, we can strive to clear up our discord in making amends. We quietly go about facing people and taking responsibility for our behaviors - understanding that we are not diminishing our self-esteem by making amends but improving it."
"We don't grovel to make amends. We don't have to let someone abuse, manipulate, or mistreat us in the process of making amends. We quietly go about the task of taking care of ourselves with people in an attitude of self-respect. This is a program of forgiveness, not penance."
"We can make our amends clearly, directly, and cleanly. Making an amend to someone doesn't mean we have to allow ourselves to become hooked into them again. It doesn't mean we surrender and submit to mistreatment from them."
"Often, the shorter the amend, the better. The cleaner and clearer, the better. The more direct, the better. The more it comes from the heart, the better. The more it is led by Divine Guidance, the better."
"Once we make an amend, the other person isn't responsible for clearing away our residue of fear, guilt, or shame. It is our job to let go of the incident, not theirs. On the other hand, we are not responsible for feelings the other person may have about the incident. That isn't our job. Our part is to make a direct amend, then do whatever work we need to do on ourselves to be done with our shame and guilt."
"We can forgive ourselves and let go of the incident."
"We can be gently with ourselves."
"After taking this Step, we can consider the issue resolved and let it go. If the process involves changing behavior, we do not need to punish ourselves by feeling guilty until we have changed completely or "perfectly". We can identify what we have done, make an amend, and be finished with our guilt."
"We also don't want to apologize when we haven't done anything wrong. For many reasons, we may get into the habit of apologizing when it isn't necessary. A sense of shame can keep us apologizing for being alive, being here, and being who we are. Some of us many feel like a bother and apologize for nearly every interaction we have. This is not the purpose of this Step."
"But we don not have to get "codependent" about our apologies. We don't have to apologize for our anger - only the inappropriate behaviors surrounding our anger. We don't have to apologize for taking care of ourselves, dealing with feelings, setting boundaries, having, fun, feeling good, or becoming healthy. We don't have to apologize because people are trying to control us and induce guilt in us. We don't have to apologize for being, for being here, or for being who we are."
"We don't have to apologize for not wanting to be abused or mistreated. If we're doing all the apologizing for other people's behavior, it doesn't leave room for the people who truly need to apologize to do that."
"We don't have to repeat our apologies. That's annoying. If someone wants to keep extracting an apology from us for the same incident, that's their issue, and we don't have to get hooked. If we feel like we need to continue apologizing, we may want to go back to the drawing board and figure out what's really going on."
"Sometimes, we don't live up to our own expectations. That's human. That's why we have the words, "I'm sorry." They heal, and bridge the gap."
"But we don't have to say we are sorry if we didn't do anything wrong."
"We've talked about our amends on the first two lists. Now let's move on to the last list - the amends we owe ourselves. It can be difficult to approach others and apologize. It can be quite a task to forgive others for what they have done wrong to us. But making amends to ourselves, forgiving ourselves, can be the hardest part of our program."
"All of recovery - all of what we are going through - has to do with making an amend to ourselves. Giving ourselves permission to have our feelings is an amend. Giving ourselves permission to be alive and be happy is an amend. Taking gentle, compassionate, loving care of ourselves is an amend."
"Learning to set boundaries, be direct, and stop defeating and victimizing ourselves is an amend. Learning to stop expecting perfection of ourselves, own our power, and be who we are is an amend to ourselves."
"Learning to listen to and trust ourselves is an important amend. Learning to trust our instincts and value our feelings and needs is an amend."
"We may have many amends to make to that frightened, abused, or neglected child within us - amends for being so critical, negligent, and shameful. We owe ourselves an apology and changed behavior for not allowing ourselves to receive the love and nurturing we need, especially from ourselves."
"There is a frightened, vulnerable child within each of us, but there is also a powerful healer, protector, and nurturer within that can take care of that child and help it and ourselves heal."
"We need to begin addressing ourselves in a loving way, a way that will enable us to heal, a way that is self-respecting, self-trusting, nourishing, and nurturing - and a way that is respectful of others."
"As with our other amends, the process begins with willingness, with doing what is obvious, and with asking for and receiving Divine Guidance in the process."
"We will be shown all we need to do to take care of ourselves with others and to begin taking loving care of ourselves, if we are open to that. We will be set free from our anger and resentments toward others and ourselves. We will be healed. That is the miracle of this process. Everything we need will come to us when we are ready for it."
"This is the Step where we apologize to ourselves and others, but we do more than apologize. We clearly own and take responsibility for our behaviors toward ourselves and others. This Step gives us permission to be who we are now and to be who we once were. It gives us permission to forgive ourselves and feel good about being who we are - regardless of what we have done."
"It wipes the slate clean and gives us an alternative to feeling guilty and ashamed. We can now experience self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-acceptance - based on self-responsibility."
"We have been given a gift in all of the Steps, but we've been given a special gift in Steps Four through Nine. The gift is a clear process for freeing ourselves from guilt and shame, for forgiving ourselves, and for correcting those behaviors that need correcting."
"These Steps mean we no longer have to punish ourselves. We no longer have to feel terrified or ashamed about our behavior - whether it is a minute slip or a major indiscretion. We have a special formula, now, for freeing ourselves from mistakes and imperfections and for creating harmony in our relationships."
"We cannot control the other person and how he or she feels about us. But a powerful chain of healing is set in motion when we take responsibility for ourselves. When guilt hits, when shame hits, when an old belief or an old behavior we visited on ourselves arises, we now know we have a choice."
"We can repress or deny, which for many of us is our old way of reacting. We can become defensive, we can run, we can hide. Or we can embrace this formula of looking within, identifying our part, talking to another person and God about the incident, admitting it to ourselves, becoming willing to make an amend, then actively making that amend."
"Then, we can let it go. We can let go of the largest and smallest guilts we have. We can forgive ourselves and we can forgive others."
"These Steps tell us we don't have to be perfect. There is safety and comfort in this formula for self-care - these Steps. They tell us we can love and accept all of ourselves and accept our pasts - as long as we are willing to take responsibility for ourselves."
"Denying a wrongdoing toward ourselves or others doesn't make the wrongdoing or the guilt go away."
"This Step does."
"Take it. Trust it. And let guilt go. When we have taken the actions called for in these Steps, we are free to do that. It is not a punitive Step. It is not a Step to be feared. Like the other Steps, when we make a human effort to work it, we will be rewarded with a spiritual bonus. As one recovering man said, "We will receive the grace we need to live comfortably with ourselves, others, and our pasts."
"Now we have finished with what many in recovery call the nuts-and-bolts Steps. Often we will find ourselves instinctively returning to the Step we need. Go there freely as often as necessary."
"Go there whenever you need the healing that this, or any Step, has to offer. There are many things in life that can't be trusted. But we can trust these Steps, and they are always there for us. Do not worry about working this Step too soon: It will find you when you are ready. You will find yourself in places, with people, in circumstances, and it will be time to begin taking care of yourself with people."
"We will begin to see how we have been treating ourselves inappropriately, too. Often these insights are gradual. We receive the insights, the direction for change, and the opportunity to make amends, as we are ready to handle them. Trust timing. Trust the process. Trust the Steps. Trust what will happen if we work them."
The Source for this Step Nine outline: Melody Beattie's: "Codependent Guide To The Twelve Steps"