Before we start to make amends we need to honestly face the impact that our addictions have had on others. This isn’t something that we can do right off the bat. In early recovery we are still in denial about many of the effects our using had on ourselves, let alone other folks. Yes, there are obvious things: financial damage, emotional damage, abandonment, infidelities of various kinds, lack of empathy, inability to fill roles in the family and elsewhere, dishonesty and so forth, but there are other, more specific and far more subtle things that may even have affected the people in our lives more than the obvious ones.
This isn’t an attempt to make a 4th or 8th Step inventory for anyone, so I’m not going to list a bunch of stuff. However, we do need to be aware that the damage we have done can be less apparent that we think. Thus, we need to be sure that we understand as well as possible our behaviors and motives, which is why we have the first seven steps.
Before we can begin to accept responsibility for our actions and their consequences, honesty with ourselves (and at least one other person) is essential. That’s the reason for the 4th and 5th Steps; they’re the ones that knock our denial for a loop. Only when we’ve come to grips with both the bad and the good about ourselves, and are able to look at our lives honestly, can we begin to work on amends.
This work is all about losing the self-justification and excuses. Amends aren’t about making ourselves look good; they’re about acknowledging what we’ve done — the fact that we harmed others — and repairing the damage. We need the clarity provided by the first seven steps in order to honestly write an 8th and carry out a 9th.
Another thing we need to consider is that, in many cases, amends don’t go so well. The step doesn’t mention forgiveness. It’s about us, not the other party. If we walk into a 9th Step situation expecting everything to be great afterwards, the disappointments that will inevitably occur in some cases can be a real blow to our sobriety — especially if we aren’t spiritually and emotionally prepared for the possibility of a rebuff. We need to understand that the step is about our attempt to make things right, not the other party’s willingness to forgive and forget. Our attempt at amends is a duty to ourselves, but we have no control over the outcome. Regardless of that, we do the best we can. If we’ve been “painstaking about this phase of our development,” we will reap the benefits, even if those we approach choose to forgo theirs.