Back To The Basics of Recovery Amends: Steps Eight And Nine

By Wally P.

The Basics of Recovery Amends

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In our journey through the Twelve Steps, as they were taken during the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous, we have followed the ”Big Book” directions for our Surrender (Steps One, Two and Three) and our Sharing (Steps Four, Five, Six and Seven). As I mentioned in an earlier article, this process was usually completed in one sitting and took a couple of hours.

We are now ready to make our Amends (Steps Eight and Nine). Amends is a two-part process: making restitution to those we have harmed and forgiving those who have harmed us.

We start by reviewing our Fourth Step inventory. It contains our Eighth Step amends list. The “Big Book” authors confirm this in the third paragraph on page 76:

“. . . Let’s look at Steps Eight and Nine. We have a list of all persons we have harmed and to whom we are willing to make amends. We made it when we took inventory.”

If we used the Assets and Liabilities Checklist described on pages 64 to 69 of the “Big Book”, we have inventoried our resentments, fears and harms. Although there are no hard and fast rules, the “Big Book” authors explain that we overcome our resentments with forgiveness (page 67), our fears with faith (page 68), and our harms (selfishness, dishonesty, inconsideration, jealousy, suspicion and bitterness) with amends (page 69).

In order to forgive those we resent and to walk through our fears, we need to
pray. The resentment prayer is at the top of page 67, and the fear prayer is in the third paragraph on page 68. These prayers are identified by the word “ask.”

The Ninth Step is described on pages 76 to 83. On page 76, paragraph three, the “Big Book” authors tell us what we need to do:

“. . . Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past. We attempt to sweep away the debris which has accumulated out
of our effort to live on self-will and run the show ourselves. If we haven’t the will to do this, we ask until it comes.”

If needed, the sponsor and sponsee once again pray together. This time they pray for the sponsee to have the courage and conviction to approach those he or she is presently unwilling to face.

The “Big Book” authors provide us with detailed information on each of the four types of amends. They are direct amends, living amends, amends-in kind, and amends to those who cannot be seen. The sponsor and sponsee together decide which amends to make. They do this with a back-and-forth roleplay until the likely outcomes have been thoroughly examined.

There are “Big Book” passages that describe each of these amends. Direct amends to those we dislike and to those we owe money are explained in the first paragraph on page 77 and the second paragraph on page 78.

In the first paragraph on page 83, we learn about living amends. This type of amends is straightforward. We start acting like a person in recovery, someone who is living a life based on “humility, fearlessness and honesty.” This is one of the greatest amends we can make, especially to family and friends.

The amends-in-kind is described on page 82, paragraph one. Some examples of this “in lieu of” or “indirect” amends are taking a meeting into a halfway house or prison; volunteering at a homeless shelter or assisted living facility; or serving a Twelve-Step group by accepting and fulfilling a service commitment.

In the third paragraph on page 83, the “Big Book” authors give directions on what we do if we can’t make amends to someone face-to-face. Here, the sponsor and the sponsee sit down and write a letter to the person on the amends list. Then the sponsee reads it aloud and puts it into an envelope. Together, they go to the post office and mail it. The envelope has no name on it. It also has no address, no return name, no return address, and no stamp.

Another way to send the letter is to burn it. This is a relatively new phenomenon, but again, this is something the sponsor and sponsee do together. What is amazing is that the letter goes exactly where it needs to go in order for us to heal.

Taking the Steps is all about healing–healing the pain, remorse, shame and guilt associated with our past behaviors and actions. We heal as the direct result of making amends to those we’ve harmed and forgiving those who have harmed us. As we heal, we improve our conscious contact with the “One who has all power.”

In the next article we will take Step Ten, the first step of Guidance. We will learn how to enhance our “vital sixth sense” by practicing Steps Four through Nine on a daily basis.

Wally P. is an archivist, historian and author who, for more than twenty-three years, has been studying the origins and growth of the Twelve-step movement. He is the caretaker for the personal archives of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith. Wally conducts history presentations and recovery workshops, including “Back to the Basics of Recovery” in which he takes attendees through all Twelve Steps in four, one-hour sessions. More than 500,000 have taken the Steps using this powerful, time-tested, and highly successful “original” program of action.

On March 16, 2013, Wally will be conducting a “Back to Basics” workshop in Fort Myers, FL. For more information, please go to