A Brief Outline Of The 12 Steps — Step 8

This is the eighth in a series of posts in which we hope to acquaint our readers with some of the details surrounding the programs that we recommend. There are a variety of other programs, but because we and most other facilities shape our treatment plans around the 12 Step fellowships, those are the ones on which we will concentrate.

The purpose of a recovery program is not to sober us up. That comes first. The purpose of the program is to help us stay clean and sober, and to become functioning members of society again.

In order to do that, we need to clean up what program folks refer to as “the wreckage of the past.” Shame is one of the big causes of relapse, and one of the big causes of shame is the knowledge that we did things that hurt other people. We may have hurt them emotionally, physically, economically, socially, or in combination. We may have done those things on purpose, or without realizing. Maybe we didn’t see our faults at the time, or maybe we just didn’t care — or maybe we simply couldn’t force ourselves to look at them. It is practically impossible to get rid of that feeling of being a bad person with those things hanging over our heads. The drugs helped, and there is great danger that we might seek that escape again.

Photo (C) Sunrise Detox

The most important thing that we need to remember when contemplating Step 8 is that it is only a list. The idea of amends, once so overwhelming, becomes far more manageable when reduced to the size of a sheet or two of paper. And when we take the time to write things down, the unseen becomes seen.

We need to be honest when we make our lists. We don’t say, “Well, I did (whatever), but Joe did (whatever) to me, so I don’t owe him amends. That’s self-serving hogwash. We look at our part in the matter, and write down what we did. We take responsibility for our own actions and words. Joe’s actions and words are Joe’s problem, not ours. This process becomes easier if we remember that it is all we have to do right now. All we have to do is write. We will take action later, but right now is a time for reflection and self-honesty.

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