Archive for category Step 9

Get a life…

Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk 1915 - 1968The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.

- Thomas Merton

Sure, I had heard about spirituality and living a spiritual life but I paid little attention to it. What could it possibly have to do with me? What could it do for me that I couldn’t do for myself? As the consequences of my addictive behaviors grew and swept away everything I thought I had accomplished I felt a deep hopelessness and despair. I truly understood the phrase ‘incomprehensible demoralization’, used in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous provided me with the tools to begin living this spiritual life which is the solution to my problem.

The 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program of action, not a program of study or discussion. Going to meetings and talking about recovery is not sufficient. The spiritual principles I experience when working Steps 1 – 9 must continue to be put into action in Steps 10 – 12. This is a daily process of being present in each moment in a spiritual way. My humility, gratitude, tolerance and love exist only in this moment, not yesterday and not tomorrow but right here, right now. Contrary to a sometimes misunderstood term used in AA these are not spiritual tools laid at my feet to be used when times are tough. They become part of me, of who I am, to be used in every and all aspects of my life. They are my life; my spiritual life.

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Making Amends

During my active addiction I harmed many people. Even when my intentions were noble my actions were self-centered and self-seeking. “…we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate”, as Alcoholics Anonymous so clearly states on page 62. The guilt and the shame of my actions blocked me from accessing the Higher Power I needed to maintain my sobriety. Step 9 asks that I humble myself in the eyes of God and my fellows and set matters straight.

Making an amends is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” I have said that many times but it was never followed by any action on my part and nothing ever changed. I burdened my loved ones with the harm I had done them. I needed to do what I could to clear the air between us. I can’t undo what I have done but I can admit my wrongs and try to set matters straight. I can’t change how people may feel but I can take responsibility for what I have done.

After speaking with my sponsor about the amends I follow a simple process:

  1. I tell the person I had harmed that I would like to speak to them and ask if they would meet with me.
  2. I tell the person that I am changing the way I live my life. I don’t usually say that I am trying to live a spiritual life but that may be desirable in some situations.
  3. I tell them that an important part of this change is to try and set right the wrongs I have done.
  4. I recount the ways I have harmed them.
  5. I ask them if I have left anything out and then shut up. I don’t argue or challenge their recollection of the events. I allow them to say what they need to say. I can only free myself from the guilt and shame by allowing them to unburden themselves.
  6. I thank them for sharing their feelings with me. They may have been wanting to tell me these things for a long time but felt they couldn’t or that I wouldn’t listen. It may have been difficult for them to finally trust me enough to share these thoughts.
  7. I ask them how I can set these matters straight. What amends can I make? Practicing the spiritual principles of recovery changes how I act and react to life. The demonstration of these principles is how I put these amends into action. Some people may make unreasonable demands. I am nobody’s doormat just because I’m in recovery and taking responsibility for the harm I’ve done. I must be committed, though, to setting things straight and do what I am able.

There are some amends that I have yet to make and some that I may never be able to make. I have a willingness to make amends to all I have harmed and will be ready if and when the opportunity presents itself.

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