Step Nine – Jamie’s experience

Step 9

This was the one “I really didn’t need to do!”  Reading my step 4 to my sponsor was hard enough, I thought! But making amends to all those I’ve harmed? That was too scary!

When I arrived in A.A. after my 6 years of alcoholic drinking, I was in a real bad way. My emotions were completely ‘off the wall’, and they had a mind of there own. I was very afraid of society and its people. My disease really badly affected the social side of my life. ‘People were my problem!’ I felt very inferior and worthless compared with other people.

As my drinking progressed, so did the severity of my inability to be able to ‘do people'. Communication, trust, friendships, bonding; these things were unheard of for a scummy, chavvy alcoholic like me.

I always relied on alcohol for a social lubrication. I couldn’t handle the feelings of life when sober. The ups and downs of life were just too much for me, so I sought escape from these things through drink.

I never engaged in life from a young age. Not in school, or in the work place. Consequently I had no formal education, and no work experience, all I did was drink.

My drinking was done mostly on a council estate and in the local pubs of my area. I was one of these teenage yobs that used to cause havoc on the streets. As a result of this I accumulated a lot of what I was later to know as step 9s, people who I had harmed through my drinking. Bearing in mind my main problem was with people and communicating with them – when I discovered I had to go back and face these people sober and ask them for forgiveness, well I just never could have believed it possible.

I refused to do this step – up to 10 months sober. My experience, then, was that I went back to being severely mentally ill. All the social inability – that had been reduced as I was working through the Steps – was flooding back as I balked on my amends. Nervousness and anxiety, and when people looked at me my head would tremble and shake uncontrollably. It got to such an extent that I had to walk out of college, as I thought everyone was looking at me and things were closing in on me again. The severe self-centeredness which I once knew so well was returning because I wasn’t progressing with my programme.

I had two choices. I was on a knife-edge. It was either go and drink again to take this pain away, or do the actions that the 12 step programme requires, namely my step 9. The torture got so bad; I just had to do it.  

I was absolutely petrified! I had to face these people that I had once treated like dirt when I was drunk, and explain why I acted the way I did and ask them to forgive me.

Whilst I was drunk I used to act the ‘big man’, but sober I was the complete opposite.

I prayed and took the bull by the horns. I went about making my amends.

WOW! Is all I can say – WOW! What happened to me as a result of my amends has changed the rest of my life up to this present day. It was the step I found the most difficult, but also the step that changed me the most.

In addition to refusing to make amends, I also was refusing to share in meetings; this was also due to my social problem. As I have mentioned above, pain drove me into action, and I combated both the sharing and the amends at the same time.

As the Big Book puts it: “before you are halfway through YOU WILL BE AMAZED, their will be a new FREEDOM and a new happiness”…the promises as we refer to them in meetings. They came true for me in a sudden bang! Just suddenly out of nowhere I received these promises in one big hit it seemed. I was ecstatic! I was amazed, and it got better from that day on! Soon after I was at my home group on a Friday night sharing my experience in front of a hall full of over 100 people! Shortly after that talk I was at college delivering presentations to my class…and receiving feedback sheets stating “strong confident delivery”!

As I have briefly explained above my main problem was society, people, life itself, that’s what I couldn’t do! My liquor was but a symptom.  

As I completed more of amends, my life just took off. As the Big Book also says: "You will suddenly realise that God is doing for you what you couldn’t do for yourself…" It just had to be so! I had changed remarkably – I could not doubt the existence of this Higher Power.

As I write I am approaching two and a half years of living this new and wonderful life. To any readers who can relate to my experience of not being able to live life sober – and that the only thing that takes away the pain of their existence is alcohol; and that alcohol is now beginning to cause you more problems then it is solutions – then you are probably an alcoholic. That being so, you are a very fortunate person! Why? Because the 12 steps can transform you in the most miraculous way. You can recover and rediscover life.

Today I am working towards a degree in Business Studies at university, and I believe in my dreams. I am developing my character; I am really finding myself in life. I have confidence, self-esteem, ambition, the lot! I have the tools to achieve whatever I set my mind to. Providing I maintain a certain simple attitude, and enlarge upon my spiritual life. I believe in myself, but more importantly I believe in the Power that brings alcoholics back from the gates of insanity and death.

I have a Sponsor, a Higher Power, a Home group, and a truly amazing life. Words really can’t do this thing justice; you have to just go through with the 12 steps to truly understand.

Jamie, Road to Recovery , Plymouth, August 2012