Steps Eight and Nine of AA: The Strategy of Forgiveness, Accountability and Making Amends

The nature of alcoholism causes the sufferer to think only about the chemical – using, obtaining and supporting the habit. Are others hurt in the process? Yes.

Perhaps, it would first be advisable to define what harm is, and how alcoholism injures others besides the sufferer. For instance, how many times were dates that were important to one’s spouse or children been forgotten? How many times did the sufferer call in an absence from work?

Step eight begins with making a list of all who have been harmed. It might be easier, especially if one is more visually responsive, to draw circles.

Circles of Responsibility and Accountability

In the first circle, place the names of the immediate family. If married, then this circle will include the names of the spouse and the children. Then draw another circle around this one. Place the names of the people next closest. Perhaps friends or former friends would be included here – maybe coworkers or employers. Draw another circle around this circle. Continue adding names.

The drawing will look like one circle inside of another. Continue the process until everyone imaginable that was hurt or affected by the alcoholism is identified.

Include institutions. For instance, was jail an issue due to an OUI or some other alcohol related matter? Than the court system and the community at large needs to be identified and placed within one of the circles.

Guilt Trips and Recovery

Steps eight and nine are not to pound out burdensome guilt trips, though it would be difficult not to feel guilty after seeing what the circles revealed. The goal, however, is to move beyond the guilt (since guilt and intense guilt can give rise to justification to begin drinking again) and look towards making amends and asking forgiveness. Why?

Alcoholism is such, by its very nature, a self-centered and a lonely affliction. Healing and recovery mandate looking beyond self-gratification and self, as well as any situation which can give an alcoholic a reason to drink again. Forgiveness is one exceedingly important aspect in recovery, because it moves the recovering alcoholic out of the self zone.

Forgiveness and Recovery

Self-forgiveness is necessary as well as forgiveness from and for others, as long as asking and receiving forgiveness will not cause further harm. Additionally, forgiveness is a barricade to resentments, which can serve as powerful excuses to relapse.

Making Amends

Perhaps asking for forgiveness from others and making amends are the two most difficult aspects of the AA 12-step recovery plan, because these dynamics involve facing the people who have been hurt. Not only facing them physically, but perhaps having to listen to their feedback, listening to their stories of pain.

Moving forward takes courage. It would be helpful to have a support network handy, too, prior to confronting the more serious issues.

Addressing pain, especially if it is severe pain, can be a major relapse trigger. Professional help as well as the support of sponsors would be strongly suggested.

A plan of action mapped out with a professional counselor would be strongly suggested. If there has been infidelity or sexual abuse or murder/homicide, these would not be areas to tackle alone. Again, making amends is strongly encouraged, if, doing so will not cause additional harm.

Finally, remember, that as one moves forward, a solid recovery foundation is building. The more solid the foundation, the risks for relapse are lowered. Keep moving forward…one day at a time.