What Is Step 9 of AA?
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."
What Is the Purpose of This Step?
The purpose of Step 9 of Alcoholics Anonymous is to take action and apologize to those you have harmed with your drinking.
This step will provide you with peace of mind, relief and liberation from the chains of regret.
The Alcoholics Anonymous "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" book states:
The readiness to take the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility for the well-being of others at the same time, is the very spirit of Step Nine.1
How Do You Complete This Step?
- Use good judgment.
- Have a careful sense of timing.
- Be courageous and cautious.
- Those you should approach as soon as you are confident in your sobriety.
- Those you can only make partial amends with since further disclosure may cause more harm than good.
- Those you shouldn't take action with.
- Those you can't make direct contact with because of the nature of the situation.
What Are Some Tips for Completing Step 9?
- Take your time. Use your best judgment in disclosing your defects. You don't have to reveal them all at once, nor should you. People may take some time to process and understand your admissions.
- Don't say anything that will harm others. It defeats the purpose of making amends if what you say will cause further pain and suffering.
- Don't mistake carefulness for avoidance. Practice good timing when making amends but don't use that as an excuse to delay reconciliation.
What Are Some Myths About This Step?
- You have to disclose every detail of your mistakes. Full disclosure may harm the one with whom you are making amends, or quite often, other people. It won't make you feel any better to increase the burden of another.
1. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. (1981). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Available at: www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step9.pdf
Perspectives on Step 9
By Dominica A.
Step 9 gives us the chance to act on courage as we make direct amends to those on the list we created in Step 8.
I admit that I struggled with a lot of anxiety and fear when making amends. I feared that I would get a harsh reaction, have to contend with my own emotions kicking in, or experience flat-out rejection from various people.
Still, I went ahead and did my best at making amends, trusting that the outcome would be beneficial to all.
Not Everyone Will Be Receptive
Not everyone that you've hurt will be ready to hear your apologies.
You may have really hurt someone over and over, and they may not feel like forgiving you. They may think that you're full of B.S.
It's all right. Though it may be uncomfortable for you, you can still apologize sincerely and then let it go.
As you take responsibility for your past and make your apologies, you're stepping it up for yourself, forgiving yourself and letting go of shame, guilt, and more. You are only responsible for you once your heartfelt apology has been made.
Also, it's all right to skip direct amends when you feel that doing so would further hurt someone. For example, if your ex is still boiling with anger at you for plenty of damage done, and you feel an apology may cause them further injury, perhaps you could give him/her more time to cool off.
There may also be instances of sexual matters that you aren't sure you should come clean about or make amends for. If you're questioning the matter, you can always discuss this with your sponsor/mentor.
Write a Letter
Sometimes you may not be able to make direct amends, as someone may have passed away or you feel you cannot go to them safely. For such circumstances, feel free to write a letter of apology, but don't send it. A day may come when you can send it, but even if you cannot, you can breathe deeply knowing that you have taken responsibility for your part as best you can.
Step 9 certainly helped me start rebuilding past relationships that were strained. On the new foundation of my sincere apologies, relationships began to move forward built on trust and vulnerability.
My willingness to humble myself and make amends spoke volumes to myself and to others. This has become a way of life for me: Today if I feel I've hurt someone, I'm quick to offer a heartfelt apology. It makes a huge difference for sure.
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.