Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Working Step Nine"

I'm working Step Nine right now, making amends. This time through feels different than the last. I think part of it is I have a deeper level of honesty. I feel a greater willingness, too, to make things right with those I've harmed. Some of my amends in the past were made very grudgingly. This time, I feel a lot more honest regret about things. I'm becoming less stubborn. I'm learning more humility.

Making amends can be a long process. My list isn't obscenely long, but it ain't short neither. Some are easy; some are going to be really hard. There are several that I'm writing letters, and those are the ones I'm working on right now. I write each one, go over it with my sponsor, and follow his suggestions on making changes (if needed). I've sent three off so far, and have actually heard back on one of them.

A lot of people talk about what a freeing experience this step can be. When they make their amends, the other person responds well, and they are overcome with gratitude for God's grace. That hasn't happened for me yet. In fact the one guy I have heard back from responded almost professionally. He said he was glad to hear that I'm sober and he wished me well, but said there wasn't really anything I could do to make up for my past actions. Such is life. I found myself feeling sad about the loss of our friendship, even though it had been years ago. The experience was humbling, but at the same time, I'm glad for it.

A lot of these amends are things I hadn’t had taken care of before, and the reasons why have a lot to do with being unwilling to admit my part. Almost always, even with people who have harmed us, we had a part in what happened. Figuring out what that is can be a difficult, soul-searching process. I remember having a really hard time with it on Step Four, doing my list of resentments. But we always have our part.

I remember an old-timer talking about making amends to the step-father who had molested her. She’d had a lot of anger at him for her whole life. For a long time, the idea of making amends to him was a flat-out impossibility. In time, though, she came to realize that she had had a part in what happened, that she had egged him on, dared him to do worse. She tried to control, and made things worse for herself. In the end, she made amends to his gravestone.

When we talk about this step, we use different metaphors. We say we're cleaning house, or sweeping up our side of the street. We don’t know how the other person will react to us. They might accept our amends or tell us to go fuck ourselves. They might embrace us; they might reject us. We don’t have any control over that. Instead, we do what we can and then leave the rest up to God.

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