“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” Co-dependency Anonymous (coda.org)
Many newcomers to the program are overwhelmed by Steps Four and Nine. Before beginning their steps, they see these steps as ominous monsters that they will never have the confidence to approach. I now see the program like a suspension bridge, with Step Four as the first support and Step Nine as the second. Steps One, Two, and Three prepare us for Step Four. Steps Five, Six, Seven, and Eight cradle us and support us to take Step Nine. Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve transition us into a lifetime of recovery. It’s important to remember that this is a step program, and while it is true that sometimes we accidentally do our steps out of order, each step is intended to prepare us for the next. This is why some of the workbook questions seem repetitive—we’re making sure to clean out all the dark corners.
Step Eight prepares us to take Step Nine. It reads: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” Step Eight allows us the time and space to explore who it is necessary to give amends to. When I first approached this step, I listed anyone with whom I had a tumultuous relationship with. When I sat down to do my amends in Step Nine, I realized that I didn’t owe many of these people amends—I owed myself the amends for my conduct in that relationship. I harmed myself, not them. The purpose of making amends is to (1) recognize what we have done and how it harmed someone, and (2) identify how to change our behavior so that we will not repeat this.
Many of us find that we need to circle back and do a bit more Step Four work before proceeding to Step Nine. Perhaps since covering Step Four, we’ve peeled off another layer or two of our onion, and we need to go back and process a few new things. This is all normal, and part of the process. As we work the steps, our load continues to lighten.
As I close this blog post, I wonder:
How do you know if you have hurt someone and therefore owe them amends?
How can you practice self-care and compassion as you work Step Eight and Step Nine?
How do you identify the necessary change to your previous codependent behaviors?
Please feel free to comment on the post, let us know about your journey through the steps.