Thursday, August 19, 2010


Step 8, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”

In the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book”, Bill W. writes, “At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way but we could not “(p.58). Step 8 would be the step most addicts/alcoholics balk at upon learning about it. This where so many of them have to face a laundry lists of harsh words spoken, evil actions taken, and self-humiliating situations that must be accounted for and explained. And this is no easy or pain-free task!

Often times when people hurt someone else they will say, “I’m sorry for doing x, y, and z.” At face value, there is nothing wrong with that statement. It is important to let the person you have hurt know of your sorrow regarding your poor behavior choices. However, this can often be used as a cop-out. It can reek of insincerity. For many people, hearing “I’m sorry” from people repeatedly is the equivalent of hearing, “Have a great day!” from a department store clerk as you exit the building with your new purchase…a nice thought but not personal nor life-changing! This is where Step 8 comes in to play.

The essence of Step 8 is the admission of doing wrong. That is, the addict/alcoholic admits, without excuse, their behavior that had a detrimental impact on another human being. That is not to say one cannot also tell the victim you are sorry. However, sorry must come after an admission of guilt and the exact nature of the crime. After all it is hard to admit being sorry about something if you don’t first admit what it is that you are sorry for! This is the hardest thing to do because, through this process, the addict/alcoholic comes face to face with himself or herself.

Many addicts/alcoholics shy away from this step because they are really focused on the following step, Step 9. They get trapped in their heads wondering how they can make amends, if they can go through with it and make amends, and will they be successful. However, Step 8 only invites the addict/alcoholic to make a list of all persons they had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. There are two actions in this step: 1.) Make a list. 2.) Become willing. Nowhere in the step does it talk about the mechanics of actually making the amends. So, it is wise for addicts/alcoholics to remember this as they write out their 8th step list. It is broken into two steps for a reason, namely, both can be overwhelming!

The list of persons that have been harmed due to the addict/alcoholics behavior usually comes from the 4th step inventory. It is here where the names are drawn and prepared for the future task of making amends. But for now, the only task is to make a list. So, get to it. It’s not hard. It’s worth it. What does humility require? A willingness to write down a list of people you hurt and not making any excuses for your actions!

Chris Newcomb - Aftercare Coordinator

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put! Thank you! I am forwarding this to all my sponsees.