Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 8 can evoke some serious fear, knowing we must face the terrible things we did and the people we did them too, while we were drinking or using. It is a reckoning of sorts. It’s not unusual for Steps 8 and 9 to be discussed interchangeably, but, it’s important to note that while Step 8 does require action in identifying those we harmed, it is not the step where we actually make amends. Step 8 only asks that we become willing to make amends to those we have harmed.
This is an important distinction, because in the face of this seemingly enormous and overwhelming project, we must remember it can only be accomplished in increments.
Like many tasks in life, getting started is often the hardest part. So where we do we begin? It might be helpful to look at our 4th Step. This is not the first time we’ve thought about the people we have harmed. We spent a great deal of work identifying those people in Step 4. Now our list expands to include ALL those we have harmed – and that takes some time. We were tornadoes and our addiction had an effect on almost everyone in our lives, however small.
If you find you have writer’s block, perhaps start with the most minor offenses you, the least painful or the least hurtful offenses. Thinking of it this way can help you build momentum to face the really big ones that kept you from starting the step in the first place. If you are still having trouble, remember, you do not have to face this alone. Call your sponsor or call another member, but stay in motion.
“The secret to getting ahead, is getting started,” Mark Twain
Once you have made your list, review it with your sponsor and develop a plan of action, because the next step, Step 9 (Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others) must be carefully executed. You have to consider how to make the amends, to whom, and what, if any, possible harm could come from doing so. Take your time, and think about these things carefully. You do not want to cause more injury trying to unburden yourself or haphazardly barging back into someone’s life.
The reason Step 8 is so hard, but so important, is because it centers on the things we are most ashamed of, the things that could cause us to drink or use again. For most of us, the thought of harming others was actually driving us to drink or use more. We are not bad people, but we might have done some bad things. In order to move past those things and not to allow them to consume us again, we have to face them.
We have to take full responsibility for our actions. Step 8 is the first step in doing that, albeit uncomfortable. We don’t have to like it, and probably won’t. We just need to do it. But we don’t have to do it alone. This is truly the moment to lean on those around you. You will get through it, and on the other side there will be such freedom.