As We Give to the World

Step 8

'Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.'

Probably no other Step has changed, or brought about a willingness to change in, me more than Step 8.

When I came to Step 8 I was rather worried, mainly because I was looking at Step 9 which I didn't like the look of. Thankfully my sponsor and other homegroup members reminded me, as they had before, to concentrate on the Step that I was on and that with each completed step would come an understanding and willingness of the next. This was certainly true of Step 8.

I had already changed so much during my time in Alcoholics Anonymous. From arriving feeling suicidal with no strength or fight left in me at all, after getting a sponsor and reading the first few chapters from the Big Book, along with some other suggestions from my sponsor like reading the Just for Today card, writing a gratitude list, working with others and prayer, I became hopeful of staying sober and enjoying life.

After completing Steps 4-7 I began to have a spiritual experience. I had already begun to try and change my attitude and behaviours since arriving in AA. By reading the literature and the Just for Today card and from spending time with recovered alcoholics, I could see just how maladjusted to life I was, trying to run the show on self-will. I began to try and adopt new attitudes and behaviours, to move away from my old way of living and into a new way.

So arriving at step 8 I sat down with my sponsor who told me how he had done his Step 8. I had kept the list of names from the first column of my Step 4 which I could use. I was asked to write a Step 8 in a similar way to the column system used in Step 4. In the first the name of the person, in the second the harm caused and in a third column I was asked to use descriptive words of how I would feel if someone had harmed me in the same way. Just hearing how to take my Step 8, I knew the significance of this Step was immense.

So I started when I arrived home from my sponsor's and got to work. What struck me most at first was that I couldn't think of the words to write into the third column. It wasn't an intelligence issue, I seemed to lack all empathy. I was looking at first at how it made the other person feel and I couldn't find the words. The level of my selfishness ran deep. I wasn't given any advice or words to use so I had to search for them, which at first I couldn't find from within myself so I turned to the dictionary and thesaurus. My lack of humanity astonished me. I was reminded to ask myself how I would feel if someone had done the harm to me and so looked again. When I did this the words seemed to flow much easier as did the remorse, guilt and shame.

What struck me most wasn't the physical or financial harm but the emotional harm I caused others. Those who loved and cared for me. I had treated these people disgustingly. I momentarily hated myself for my behaviour, actions and pain I'd caused, so much so that when this was completed the willingness to change and make amends came strongly.

I could see clearly for the first time that as I treat the world so the world treated me. I had treated people so terribly its no wonder I arrived in Alcoholics Anonymous feeling so terrible myself. I became more willing to help others and to try and treat others as I would like to be treated myself.

Overall Step 8, like all of the Steps, I knew nothing about before I began to take it and and it changed me deep down once I had. I continued through the 12 Steps and have had a transformation in thought and attitude. I am now 4 years sober living a happy and contented life, trying the best I can to practice the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous in all of my affairs.

August 2009