RA offers hope, sanity, and recovery, especially to those who, despite their best efforts, have yet to find full recoveries, no matter what their problems or behaviors may be and their family and friends.
V Broaden and Deepen Your Understanding of the Twelve Steps
9) Step Nine
Broaden and deepen your understanding of Step Nine.


“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

1. It was suggested that you pre-read all the pages devoted to Step Nine from the12 & 12.

2. Please remember that we don't want to convince you of anything. R.A.'s experience has been that if you read this material, you will come to the same conclusions that we have. We want to endorse your conclusions, not convince you of ours.

3. In the 12 & 12, please turn to page 83, the first page of Step Nine.

4. In the second paragraph, in the fourth line, starting with the second word, it says:

“…we will see that the making of direct amends divides those we should approach into several classes. There will be those who ought to be dealt with just as soon as we become reasonably confident that we can maintain our sobriety. There will be those to whom we can make only partial restitution, lest complete disclosures do them or others more harm than good. There will be other cases where action ought to be deferred, and still others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all.”

5. Please notice that they break it down into four categories.

6. The first category says that there are those who should be dealt with as soon as possible. This refers to people with whom we're confident, people who are close, people with whom we have an ongoing dialogue. We can, in the course of a conversation, make amends to them.

7. The second category says that there are those to whom we can make only partial restitution, because we may do more harm than good. For instance, once again, telling someone, “Hi honey, I hate to break this to you but I've been having an affair for the last five years,” would probably do them and yourself more harm than good.

8. This second category causes problems because some people use it as a rationalization to avoid making the amends. For example, we may say: “I'm one of the people who’s going to be harmed. If I tell him that I stole $10 from him, he's going to think less of me.”

9. That's not what they mean. What they're really referring to is the harm our making amends might cause the individual we're approaching or to other third parties, not to ourselves.

10. The third category explains that there will be other cases where action ought to be deferred. For instance, if one of the people on your list is in China, no one expects you to rush to an airline office and buy a round trip ticket. If you know you're going to be there soon, then you can defer that amends until you are there.

11. However, if you don't expect to see this person soon, you can write them a letter or make a phone call, depending on the situation.

12. The fourth classification refers to still others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all. In some cases, for the moment, direct personal contact is not possible.

13. For example, it may seem impossible to make amends to someone who has died, or to someone that you have no idea of how to find because you haven't seen or heard from them in many years. It says “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible….” In these cases, it may not be possible.

14. In these cases, based on R.A.'s experience, writing a letter is sometimes very helpful, even if it can't be mailed. Some people sit down and pretend the person is in a chair and have a conversation with them. Other people may go to the graveside. The point is that these amends can be made.

15. Where we owe financial amends, but the person is no longer available, for example, if you owe money to someone who has died, you can make restitution to their heirs, if you can locate them. With a store that is out of business, it is permissible to send a donation to charity. If somebody else owns the store, you can send them an anonymous check.

16. The thing to remember is that it's willingness that's important. That's what the step calls for that change in attitude from “No, never!” to “yes” or, “maybe.”

17. If it were possible for someone to get to China to make those amends, ideally the willingness would be there. But, money and circumstances may not allow it for now.

18. Experience has shown that it is beneficial if you make the hardest amends first; you may have more willingness in the beginning.

19. What may happen is that if you start with the easier ones, and consequently start feeling better, you won't have the incentive to go on.

20. We suggest that you assign a “NUMBER 1” to those amends you feel will be the most difficult to do, a “NUMBER 2” to those you consider the next hardest, and a “NUMBER 3” to the easier ones. We then suggest that you start with the amends that you've rated as the hardest.

21. In the 12 & 12, on page 84, in the bottom paragraph, starting with the eighth line from the top of the paragraph, it says:

“Then we are ready to go to these people, to tell them what A.A. is, and what we are trying to do. Against this background we can freely admit the damage we have done and make our apologies.”

22. You might, for example, say, “I'm part of a program which suggests that I need to look at the harm I might have done others while I was ill.” Or, you may want to say, “I was not in a very good place a number of years ago; if I had been, I really wouldn't have done what I did.”

23. In the 12 & 12, on page 85, in the second full paragraph, on the third line, starting with the last two words, it says:

“The temptation to skip the more humiliating and dreaded meetings that still remain may be great.”

24. Some of us rationalize that we are not recovered enough to make these amends.

25. One way some people use to avoid the more humiliating and dreaded meetings is to try to make indirect amends. You'll notice that the step says, “Made direct amends.” It doesn't say indirect amends.

26. Here is an example. Somebody inadvertently walked out of a store with a piece of apparel. Direct amends would be made by returning this piece of apparel to the store it came from, either in person with an apology, or anonymously by mail.

27. What this person did gives us an example of an indirect amends. They didn't really want this item anyway, so they thought they made amends by giving it to a friend. That did not restore the situation to what it would have been had they not done what they did.

28. Many people feel that merely the act of forgiving someone can be the amends. But that doesn't restore anything. That doesn't fulfill the three elements of the amends: the expression of sorrow, making restitution, and the expression that, God willing, it won't be repeated.

29. There are ways we can anonymously make direct amends. The act of forgiving or the act of being sorry isn't enough. Direct amends requires a direct action of some kind, even if it's anonymous. For instance, setting up a fund that will eventually allow us to pay off a debt. Just saying, “Well, I'm willing; whenever I get the money I'll do it,” is not enough. It requires a direct action now, such as setting up a bank account, and to making an effort to get the money together.

30. In the 12 & 12, on page 85, starting with the end of the fourth line from the bottom of the page, it says:

“These conversations can begin in a casual or natural way.”

31. We don't necessarily have to make an appointment to make amends. As we just read, we can start the amends in the middle of a casual conversation: “Hi, honey what's for dinner?” “We're having roast beef and, by the way, do you remember about five years ago when you were missing that $10 from your wallet? That was me. I'm really sorry that it happened and here's your money back. I hope that in the future I don't do that anymore. And by the way, we're having mashed potatoes with dinner.”

32. Or you can say, “Remember several years ago when you were missing that $10 from your wallet? I'm the one who took it. I'm sorry about that. Is there anything I can do to make it right? And, God willing, I'm really going to try to not do it again.”

33. That can be the entire amends. Just a few simple sentences. Perhaps that's what you've been afraid of. It really can be just that simple.

34. In the 12 & 12, on page 86, the first full paragraph, says:

“There can only be one consideration which should qualify our desire for a complete disclosure of the damage we have done. That will arise in the occasional situation where to make a full revelation would seriously harm the one to whom we are making amends. Or—quite as important—other people.”

35. We don't want to have to make amends for making amends. We are careful about what we say, and how we say it. We don't bring up the other person's contribution or their faults. We talk only about our part, our contribution to the problem.

36. For instance, if we robbed a bank with a partner, it may not be appropriate to go to the police and tell them about the robbery, and about John Doe who helped with the theft. In a situation like that, the program suggests that we go to the other people involved and ask their permission before we admit our wrong. We have no right to incriminate the partner without consulting them. We may be prosecuted and deprive our family of their financial security. We have no right to do that.

37. What we suggest, for someone who has a similar case, perhaps where they may have a large debt from shoplifting, gambling, prescriptions, or other expenses, is that they set up a fund—a separate bank account—and contribute to it. Not to the extent that they deprive their families, but if they can put a small amount of money each week into that fund, they'll be surprised at how fast it will grow.

38. And when it's enough to cover the debt or even a part of the debt, they can send an anonymous check or money order to whom it's owed. If it's somebody who knows that they're owed the money, it may certainly be given back to them in person.

39. An important aspect of this is the demonstration of the willingness to move forward, even if you don't currently have the resources. And another aspect to remember is to move forward in a way that's not going to hurt any of the other people involved.

40. In the 12 & 12, on page 87, in the top paragraph, the last sentence of the paragraph says:

“But all of them do require a complete willingness to make amends as fast and as far as may be possible in a given set of conditions.”

41. The Ninth Step is the beginning of a lifetime process, the amends process. You need to make amends to those on your list as fast and as far as may be possible under present conditions, while simultaneously beginning the practice of Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve.

42. It's important to work all of the steps of this program in co-ordination with one another. The steps were not designed to be taken as separate entities.

43. The analogy of a recipe is a very good one because the ingredients of a recipe are not meant to stand-alone. In a recipe for a cake, a cup of flour has a certain value, but it can't stand-alone. When it's an integrated part of the recipe, it has a totally different value. It's the addition of the rest of the ingredients that allow that cup of flour to fulfill its function.

44. And it is the same thing with our Ninth Step. It's vitally important to immediately start to work the Tenth and the Eleventh Steps as an aid in the process of doing the Ninth Step.

45. In the Multilith Big Book, on page 26, the second paragraph, the second sentence says:

“If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it—then you are ready to follow directions.”

46. In the Multilith Big Book, on page 35, the first paragraph, the last sentence says:

“Remember you agreed at the beginning you would go to any lengths for victory over alcohol.”

47. On page 36, the second paragraph, the second sentence says:

“Remind yourself that you have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience”

48. Please note that they first ask if we want what the pioneers had, then they equate what they had, the victory over alcohol, with a spiritual experience. That's why we're here. As we've read over and over and over, there is a solution, there is only one solution, and it is a spiritual solution, a point at which God will literally do for us what we have never been able do for ourselves.

49. And that spiritual solution gives us victory over our problems and behaviors. It's not that we are suddenly able to control something that we've proven for our entire lifetimes that we can't control. It's not that we suddenly have a self-awareness of what the problem is and then act on it. Most of us have been aware our entire lives of what the problem is and have been unable to act on that awareness.

50. It's not that we're given the power back to make choices. It's that we have come into contact with a Higher Power who, as it says again and again, will literally do for us what we could never do for ourselves. And this step is the beginning of the direct action in living our life to produce that spiritual awakening that drastic psychic change that brings about the attitude changes that enable us to stop hurting ourselves, or others.

51. If our own efforts to control our problems and behaviors had been successful; we wouldn't need to be going through this process now. The chapter The Doctor's Opinion discusses that.

52. In the Multilith Big Book, on page 3a, in the first full paragraph, starting with the last word of the sixth line, it says:

“After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.”

53. For us, the Twelve Steps are those few simple rules. Going through Step Nine, and working it to the best of our ability, knowing that we're not going to do it perfectly, is a vital part of the process that brings about the entire psychic change that has produced sobriety, serenity, and recovery for countless thousands.

54. We can't take what we need and leave the rest from the steps. All of the results of the program come about as the result of all of the steps of the program.


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