Let’s talk about Step 8 in Alcoholics Anonymous: “Made a list of all the people we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all”.
What does this step mean? What is my experience with this step? How may I help you in your path working this step in Alcoholics Anonymous?
I’m Jerry Banfield, I’m an alcoholic and I’m grateful today for five years of sobriety, and I am listening to people in a meeting say how much things like Joe and Charlie tapes have helped them. Therefore, I thought —Well, why don’t I share my experience working Alcoholics Anonymous with you here?
What is our purpose in Step 8 and how do we get here?
In Step 7, we “Humbly asked God to Remove our Shortcomings” , with our shortcomings removed, especially our selfishness and our self-centeredness, we see that our drinking behavior causes a lot of harm, a lot of hurt, and a lot of trouble for other people.
In Step 8, we get ready and willing and start being specific about which people and we get this willingness to say —I’m going to make things right wherever I can— Now, Step 8 is not going and doing any of it.
Step 8 is just making a list. Looking around. Ideally, this can work with a sponsor, or with an experienced member of Alcoholics Anonymous, where we can talk and say —Well, which of these people did I really hurt? And help get some perspective on it.
A lot of us leave off of our list until we get farther on in the program as ourselves.
We often do a great job at saying —Well, yeah, I hurt my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my children, and my friends, my employer, and random people, in my case on Xbox screaming, whenever they join my zombies lobby, screaming at people for no reason, trying hard to insult people, and hurt feelings.
We often are very good at identifying once we get through that self-centeredness and work in Step 7, we’re often really good at saying —Wow, it really hurt a lot of people— The question is…
Who really was hurt the most that we can help? How can we live in a way that we can get to work making living amends right away? Are we willing to make those changes? What do we need to identify?
That is the most pressing thing a lot of us miss about ourselves. We look out and see what we’ve done outside, but we don’t see the hell we’ve put ourselves through.
We don’t see torture, and we don’t look around and see what we’ve done. But then for me, like a year or so into sobriety, I realized —Wow, I left myself off the Step 8 list.
Nobody suffered more at the hands of my alcoholism than me and it’s up to me to make some amends to myself.
I’m willing to make amends to myself, I’m willing to be kind and gentle with myself today.
The next time I don’t do something perfectly, to make an amends by being nice to myself about it, to make an amends to myself.
If that means reading books, seeing counselors, getting massages, whatever that amends, looks like, I’m willing to make amends to myself and we see that a lot of hurting other people, when we start making these lists was a function of our own hurting ourselves and not forgiving those that had hurt us.
For me, the big people on my Step 8 were the people closest to me, my wife, my parents, my in-laws, my friends, then those are the key people I need that were on my list.
There’s no need to go into every single slight. I remember one day, I just realized that all my ex girlfriends and girls I dated and I tried to date really those were on my Step 8 list to and I became willing to make amends for them all and that’s good.
When you look back at your relationships and see —Wow, I wasn’t very nice to date. I wasn’t very nice in a relationship. In fact, I would have hated to have been in a relationship with somebody like me— and when we see all these people that suddenly we had forgotten about or we’d been thinking how wrong they were, we see — Wow, that was rough what I put my ex girlfriend at college through her, that was rough what I put this girl through that I dated, and I’m willing to make amends tour.
This is where we really need the guidance of a sponsor or other members of Alcoholics Anonymous with experience.
As soon as all my exes and girls I dated appeared on my Step 8. One morning, I just realized, Wow, look at all these girls that I’ve just been harmed by. I need to make amends to them.
Let me call them all up today, I’ll call all these girls I dated up and tell them how sorry I am and thankfully, I went to a meeting and shared that idea before I went forward on it. Because in Step 8, we’re just making a list and becoming willing.
It doesn’t mean we need to immediately jump in and start swimming.
If Step 9 is a pool, Step 8 is looking around and seeing how the waves are moving and says seeing our willingness that I’ll jump in that pool.
But it’s good to ask for advice, especially about how to make amends because when you just jump in, I jumped in and a lot of places with my Step 8 amends, I just jumped in immediately, as soon as I saw —Oh, I was really mean to my wife. Let me go tell her some of the things she doesn’t know about that I did. Let me just go dump it all on her.
A lot of that brought out a lot of pain in our relationship and the first couple of years of my sobriety. In fact, my wife says my early sobriety was more difficult than my drinking.
Because as soon as I started working the steps I blasted into them so fast, that in traffic terms, I ran red lights.
One of the red lights is not to just dump everything you’ve done on to somebody and think that’s making amends. It’s important to be honest and if you’ve done things that have violated the terms of a relationship that’s damaging, and that’s hurt and I think that needs to be addressed completely with honesty and not swept under the carpet because it’ll hurt them.
However, these amends need to be addressed with loving kindness as well. That means the timing needs to be right. That means the explanation needs to be honest, and kind.
With our Step 8, it really helps us to talk with the sponsor, and talk with experienced members of Alcoholics Anonymous when I raised my hand, an open discussion meeting and said that I had just identified all these girls on my Step 8 and I was going to send them all messages and call them up and tell them how sorry I was.
The stories that people told about rushing from Step 8 to Step 9 were amazing.
One lady said that someone she knew had done a really quick —Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Let me tell you what I did and they ended up going to prison— an amend is to fix a relationship and sometimes the nicest thing you can do is leave someone alone.
I figured and many other members of Alcoholics Anonymous have shared the same sentiment with me. If an ex girlfriend or a girl I’ve dated needs more than me leaving her alone, she will appear in my life. Without me stalking or doing anything like that she will appear in front of me somehow and I shall have the chance to say -Wow, thank you for not calling the police when I started yelling and screaming and saying I didn’t want to live anymore. Thank you for helping get me fired once I cross the boundaries that were set at work.
If I need to make an amends like that, the person will be placed in front of me without me hunting them down.
There’s on our list, we will have lots of different types of people, for example, for living with somebody, often these amends, one more willing to make them we will see these need to be made soon and we can ask for advice on how to do those
Other amends that we just need to be willing and the eighth step is nothing more we need to do with that person unless they show up.
I recall a lot of people saying in meetings that just not bothering someone that you’ve hurt before is a nice amend.
I remember hearing somebody in a meeting say one day, they tried to make an amends too soon, the amends were totally rejected and then when they tried years later things went really well.
Another guy said that he tried to make amends to his family and they wouldn’t even acknowledge he was living and then after working on the program six months later, he was able to move home.
The key was for Step 8 to just stick to making the list and focus on the amends that are making the biggest difference in our lives today.
That means for me living with my wife in early sobriety, getting to work on those amends right away was very important. It means being a good husband, when you’re willing to make amends to me, you’re open to making the most helpful amends.
Step 8 is not about making a list of people we need to say we’re sorry to. Step 8 is about starting to get a vision in our head as to how we can be a better person.
Living amends are the most powerful. For example, I don’t need to go grovel to my mother and apologize for every nasty thing I said to her while I was drunk or every time she didn’t hear from me because I was drunk.
What I do today is I think of my mother and I accept my mother’s choices, the way she accepted my choices when I was drinking.
She didn’t call me up and nag me that I had to get sober and she didn’t bother me and try and change me she let me be how I was choosing to be and my amends to my mother today is to give her the same room, the same trust that -look, I love you as you are you don’t need to be different in order for me to love you- That’s a big amends, especially with people we love and that can be started immediately. You don’t need to talk to your sponsor about that one.
That’s one of the best things you can do is to be motivated to be the best person you can be today.
I read self-help books and I read inspirational positive books every single day, I read Alcoholics Anonymous literature almost every day, I go to AA meetings almost every day, I go see a hypnotherapist once a week, I go see a massage therapist once a week, I go see personal trainer who I have lots of personal discussions about during our training together twice a week.
I put a lot into my self care, because that’s how I make amends to everybody else and especially to me.
When I really want to do the best job with my family, it’s about being the best person I can be today. Being prepared the next time, one of my family members or friends says something I don’t like to just love them through it.
I love my sassy wife, I love my sparky daughter, I love my son who is very good at communicating when he wants something and when he’s unhappy that he’s not getting it. I love the people in my life how they are.
Now that doesn’t mean I need to go live with anyone in particular, it means that when I love them as they are I accept their choices and how their choices impact me.
If that means some family members aren’t allowed to come stay with me, then that’s fine.
It doesn’t mean by making amends that I just need to forget about everything I want, it means that I’m willing to be free of my defects of character to be the best self I can be and to really see what I can do to make up for all that I’ve done before and to really make the most out of all I’ve been through.
When I’m free of all my defects of character in Step 7, I see that as I’m making this list in Step 8, that I may not be able to make direct amends to some of these people, I am not going to be able to go to every kid on Xbox that I screamed at and taught new cuss words and tried as hard as I could to in some cases to make them feel bad.
I’m not going to be able to make up to every single kid and make direct amends and say — Look, I’m sorry, you don’t deserve to be treated that way— or to go to their parents —I am sorry for teaching your son these cuss words that he heard from me for the first time.
What I do is I take very good care of any children I come across today that I love and listen to, and don’t teach children today new cuss words.
I just am the best person I can be with every person I come across and that’s how I make my amends today. Therefore, as soon as I’m willing in the Step 8 to start making my amends, I see that just being the best I can be today that loving myself today is the biggest amends I can make, then I’m ready to immediately start Step 9 on the person that matters the most, myself.
That the biggest possible amend I can do is to love myself as I am to remember God didn’t make any trash that I am perfectly created in this universe with all of my limitations and assets.
That Step 8 ideally reveals to me that I am one with God, then in fact, you are God and I am you and the biggest amends I can make is to remember who I am and to go forward with each person in my life. Really love them, really see them, really listen to them and really be available to help them or, in some cases, really be available to set healthy boundaries to respect their choices, and allow them to live the life they want to without getting in their way.
This is how I see working Step 8. I’m grateful you shared this experience with me. I imagine this is helpful for you.
I’d love to read your comments, your suggestions, and your thoughts to help anyone who’s reading the comments with you to get some experience from you. I read almost every comment on my YouTube channel.
I’m grateful that through working the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I’m able to love my life today. I’m able to love who I am and consistently be willing to make amends wherever I make some new hurts and some new wrongs.
I love you. You are awesome. You are God and I am you
I appreciate the chance to carry this message to you, to be a part of your journey and to carry this message to everyone else in your life today.