“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”
Step 9 is the part of our journey where we try – to the best of our ability – to clean up the messes that we have made. In this step we make amends to those who we have harmed. We have done a thorough self-analysis (steps 4 – 6) and asked God to remove our defects of character. Now, it’s time to do our best to make up for the wrongs we have done. For many of us, we have harmed a lot of people by our actions and the amends process could take weeks, months, or even years. But we will never have true or lasting serenity until we make our best attempt to make up for the damage we have done.
Before making amends to anyone, I highly recommend discussing the amends with a sponsor, a therapist, or both. This person should be able to give guidance on the most appropriate form of amends and provide clarity about harm that could come to others through the process. Remember the phrase “except when to do so would injure them or others.” We are not doing a very good job of cleaning up our side of the street if we cause more harm in the process.
For those closest to us, our direct amends will be “living amends.” The changes they see in our life – the way we treat those around us, the way we handle difficult situations, the new outlook that we carry – will begin to heal the harm we have caused. This healing comes over time through our words and our actions. It is not easy because often trust has been lost as a result of our actions. But a day-to-day life that is committed to change through recovery from addiction, can heal many wounds.
There are also people that we have harmed who we do not see on a regular basis. For many of these, we need to make “direct amends.” This typically involves a conversation where we acknowledge the wrong that we did and ask what we can do to make it right. This may result in the healing of a friendship, but it also may result in that relationship being over. We don’t have any control over how the other person reacts – but if we believe that the amends will do no harm, we should do our best to make a direct amends.
For much of the harm caused by sexual addiction, making direct amends is not appropriate or even possible. Doing so could very easily cause harm to our family or to another person’s family. In these cases, my sponsor recommended making “indirect amends.” Some suggestions for indirect amends include:
- Writing a letter to the person and sharing it with your sponsor, but not sending it
- Volunteering at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse
- Donating money to a charity which helps victims of human trafficking
These are a few of the suggestions that I have heard and I am sure there are many other great ways to make these indirect amends.
The key to the whole step is being willing to do what we can to make things right. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite passages from the Big Book of A.A. – the 9th step promises:
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us-sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
May you find this new freedom and new happiness today!
-A grateful member of the Awaken community
Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!