Step 9 is one of the most cleansing portions of the 12 step program. In this step, you take action to free yourself from guilt and shame. This step allows you to gain confidence in your ability to be successful in recovery. You are also able to repair your support system and reconnect with humanity. Step 9 is where you make direct amends to those whom you have harmed, except where to do so would injure them or others.
Making a Plan
There is a lot of work to do before you actually approach someone to make amends. First, you must weed through your list and remove those for whom making amends would cause more harm than good. You should also remove those people who would be dangerous to approach at this time. Then, organize your list into a timeline, putting those who require immediate attention first.
Start with the first person on your list, and ask yourself if you have a forgiving attitude toward him or her and if you’re ready to approach this person without any feelings of anger or resentment. If the answer is yes, make a careful plan about what you are going to say. Rehearse this conversation with your sponsor or with a counselor so you can prepare for the different ways the conversation might go. Contact the person ahead of time and ask him or her when and where to meet, so he or she is not taken off guard by your approach.
Asking for Forgiveness
State your apology to this person openly and simply. Do not assign any blame to him or her or ask him or her to be accountable for any part of the situation. You only need to acknowledge your own wrongdoings and make a sincere apology. You’re not apologizing as a means of airing your own complaints, you are apologizing to make things right within yourself. Patiently listen to the response of the other person, and be willing to keep anger away from the conversation.
This person may choose not to forgive you at this time, and you need to be ready for this response. Remember that rejection of your apology is not a reflection of who you are as a person today, but of who you were when addiction was running your life. It may take time for this person to realize that you truly have changed. They may never truly forgive you, but you can’t let this hamper your progress. Once you have apologized, continue to move forward regardless of their feelings toward you. You have accomplished something that you can be proud of, even if full forgiveness is not gained immediately, and you will find strength and support in other areas of your life.
Making amends can take other forms besides apologizing and asking for forgiveness. This is the personal side of things, and often the more difficult one to complete. Other types of amends may include paying off debts or making legal restitution for past wrongs. These types of amends can be handled as you save up money and complete community service hours, or maybe even jail time. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to make amends, even if it’s difficult if you hope to live a life free from past mistakes.