What Is Step 8 of AA? "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."
What Is the Purpose of This Step?
In Step 8 of Alcoholics Anonymous, you identify the wrongs of your past so that you can repair the damage you've done. Then, you devise a plan for creating healthy relationships moving forward.
How Do You Complete This Step?
- Discover how many people you have hurt and how you've hurt them.
- Make a list of everyone you've harmed. Also, pay attention to what you discover about yourself and your problems along the way.
- Don't be defensive and blame people for how they've treated you. Forgive them, because without forgiving others, you cannot forgive yourself.
What Are Some Tips for Completing This Step?
- Don't minimize your faults and failures by focusing on the faults of others.
- Realize that you hurt others as well as yourself with your drinking.
- Look beyond your obvious defects and do a thorough examination of your flaws.
- Avoid judgments of others. Be objective when evaluating your defects as well as those of others.
What Are Some Myths About Step 8?
- Your drinking hasn't harmed anyone but yourself. People often think that if the damage isn't extreme and noticeable, then there isn't anything beneath the surface. This is a dangerous misconception and something AA calls "purposeful forgetting." You can't get the most out of the 12 steps if you aren't willing to be vulnerable and incredibly honest—even if what you discover about yourself and others is painful to accept.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. (1981). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Available at: www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step8.pdf
Perspectives on Step 8
By Dominica A.
Step 8 is a wonderful step for beginning to rebuild some bridges that were burned in active addiction. When addiction had its grip on me, some of my relationships with loved ones became strained, and I hurt some of those closest to me. This step gave me the chance to reflect on my past and take full responsibility for my part in the burned bridges.
Thankfully, all of the previous steps brought me to a place where I could honestly sit down and create a list of the people I'd harmed and become willing to make amends.
Feeling Authentic Love
Step 8 is based upon the principle of authentic love.
Steps 1 through 7 were more personal steps, as their focus was more on my past thoughts and actions that caused me to make some internal changes. Step 8 asked me to continue making changes by revisiting my past and making a list of those I'd wronged somehow.
In addition, I was preparing my heart to become willing to actually make amends to such people in Step 9. I had to become willing to offer my apologies to those I'd hurt and extend a good dose of authentic love. This required humility and trust that such actions would help me in my recovery and benefit the greater good.
Now, this step wasn't easy. Owning my selfishness and taking responsibility for hurting others was painful. It's easier to point fingers at others or just look the other way. It's easier to let bygones be bygones. But when I really humbled myself and honestly went inside on this matter, I realized I was carrying around guilt and shame. The people I'd hurt did not deserve it, and I knew if I wanted to continue to grow personally and spiritually, I had to be willing to make amends and do the right thing.
Willingness Goes a Long Way
Step 8 requires a willingness to reflect on your past and be honest about your part in hurting others or in strained relationships. Perhaps you've hurt your parents, your spouse, friends, a neighbor, a co-worker, and so on. Maybe your drinking landed you in some deep depression and anger that made you difficult to live with.
When I was knee deep in my addiction, I wasn't there for my children like I could have been, and I hurt my partner over and over. I knew apologizing wouldn't be easy, but I was willing to do my part in making amends.
Step 8 prepares us for Step 9, where we actually make amends when possible. As daunting as that may sound, rest assured that you'll not be asked to do anything that would further hurt another person or yourself. Trust in the process; it works!
Dominica A. has a love for the 12 steps, as working through them several times has helped her steer clear of addictions and grow personally and spiritually.
She is committed to living out the 12-step philosophy and sharing the message of hope to those still suffering in addiction—and to those in recovery as well.
Dominica has attended both Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous meetings over the years and appreciates the support she's received. She's got a deep-rooted passion for helping others heal emotional pain and trauma, as her own journey through love addiction has served as a catalyst for her own healing and transformation.