Step 8 of a 12-Step Series
Surveying your relationships is what Step 8 seemed to be all about for me. In order to dig into this step, I went back and spent some time perusing my Step 4 personal inventory spreadsheet.
Specifically columns one (people, places and/or institutions that I held a resentment towards) and column two (the actual cause of the resentment written out in plain language). Pretty big stuff.
The Big Book of AA touts that this step is about ...the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God, which I reinterpreted to read as It’s the beginning of the end of isolation from our relationships and from Love. See how I did that? I changed the wording so I could move forward with the step.
I’ve taken to heart the AA catch-phrase "take what you want and leave the rest" when it comes to all things AA-related because that’s what was suggested to me early on. As I’m working my way through the steps, I’m realizing that I don’t have to be so literal with everything I read. Bypassing some of the antiquated language in the Big Book and inserting a modern interpretation here and there is helping me keep momentum with the 12 Steps. By adopting that AA catch-phrase, I’m actually doing whatever it takes to help keep moving me forward in the steps with my sponsor. So while I have a hard time with the word God, replacing it with the word Love whenever I see or hear it has been an important part of keeping me in the program.
I think there is a lot of hope wrapped up in this step. The hope that you can be brutally honest with yourself without opting for convenient truths or old stories. Really seeing yourself as you were when you were drinking and the hope that you can do face-to-face amends with those you have harmed. There’s also a little bit of list-making, which this recovering alcoholic Virgo kind of geeks out on. I was all in for the work associated with this step and eager to get started.
“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Practicing rigorous honesty became an absolute requirement for this step. If I couldn’t be completely honest while working this step and muster up the unedited version of the truth, then I’d only be setting myself up to have to re-do this step at a later date, or worse...I might go out and drink over it. Both options seemed too expensive to me and I focused on writing an accurate, thorough, honest list.
While drafting this list and looking at each resentment, I ended up writing and answering a few questions my sponsor posed that were designed to help me reflect on this task. This writing helped lay out the reasons why this step was crucial to my own recovery and solidified my resolve to get it done. Owning my part in things and the willingness to take full responsibility for any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual harm I had caused to others in my past was just the mindset I needed to ready me for Step 9. But hold on! I’ve also learned that it’s not good for me to future-trip, so we will not even talk about Step 9. Nope. Forget I said anything about it.
Staying temporarily rooted in the uncomfortableness of Step 8 wasn’t that difficult for me. Due to all of the prior step-work I had done, I felt prepared to sit down and carefully draft a thorough list of people I had harmed as a result of my drinking. It took several hours and there was a lot to think about, but then it was done. I had my list.
Step 8 was a humbling task, but one that I know will bring me one step closer to finding some semblance of order and calm in my life.
I’ve chosen to look at my completed list as an invitation instead of marching orders. An invitation to make things right with those that I care about and love. An invitation to free myself from thinking about the things I’ve done in my past that have continued to cause me pain, mental anguish and deep regret. This is an invitation to try and right my wrongs and ask for forgiveness. This is a once in a lifetime invitation to become my higher self.
My body, mind and soul are R.S.V.P.- ing a big fat yes to this beautiful step towards owning my part in things.
Tammi hasn’t had a drink since February 3, 2015. She is a former wine bar owner, lifelong seeker and recovering perfectionist. She makes art every day and credits this practice as the path to her spiritual overhaul. She documents her creative forays and monthly sobriety milestones at TammiSalas.com Her writing here will share her story as she navigates the 12 Steps of AA.
A NOTE FROM TAMMI:
Anonymity is the foundation of AA and I respect that. However, I choose torecover out loud in order to be of service to other people still suffering.