Step 9.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I hear alot about “doing the 9th step” from folks early in sobriety who are either struggling with the decision of the 3rd step (letting a Higher Power do the heavy-lifting that I was not able to do with my own human power) or writing their 4th step inventories.  I did the same thing.  I suggest that the steps be done in order and joke that they are numbered for a reason, just as it was pointed out to me.  

It makes sense that I wanted to start rebuilding bridges as soon as I started to wake-up from my alcoholic fog and a lifetime of selfishness and self-centeredness.  I was awake, right?, so why wait to tell people how sorry I was?

Red light – Making amends is about setting the other person free.  It is not about making us feel better.  When I first started to wake up, I just wanted to feel better from the realization that I had hurt people.  This is an ‘I’m sorry that I feel bad’ speech, and not an amends.  I didn’t know why, how or what the whole point was to serve others by setting them free.  If we mash the gas pedal to the floor at this point so we can hurry-up and make amends, we may add to the original hurt that we caused people.

I have a sponsee who makes an unprepared ‘I’m sorry that I feel bad’ speech to his family every week.  He feels really, really bad, but I suggest that he keep his foot on the brake.  Better yet, put it in park pal.  Let’s get out of the car and walk through these first 8 steps before we do more harm than good.

Yellow light – When you have those feelings of “Oh, I must apologize so that I don’t feel icky any longer”.  Pause, and make a note of the “who and why”.  Come back to these notes in your inventories.  When, where and how to make your amends will fall into place.  When we see a yellow caution light we are supposed to slow down and use caution.  Don’t speed-up and make things worse.

Green light – As I said earlier, don’t jump to step 9 if you have not done 1-8 first, this may “injure them or others”.  But don’t let another day go by where you do not start this process.  My Dad passed away recently, 15 months after Mom’s passing .  I am grateful that I was able to make amends to my parents, in person, on two different occasions.  

During my initial amends they gave me the parental pass by saying, “Hey, don’t worry about it.  We love you and don’t want you to feel bad.”  I reported back to my sponsor telling him that something was missing.  He suggested that I try again and emphasize to them, “I don’t know how I have hurt you but it is important that you tell me.” and “Is there anything I can do to make it right?”  Mom and Dad felt free to give me a living amends to work on daily.  They asked that I be the best parent I can be to my boys, their grandchildren.  I try everyday to be the parent my boys deserve and I know that I am serving the spirit of Mom and Dad.

Graveside Amends:

Stacy was quirky girl in High School that gave this goofy boy a few life lessons long after our adolescent relationship {insert Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’ here} ended.  Did I mention that I was selfish and self-centered?

I was on a weekend spiritual retreat when I heard the speaker say something that I had heard a number of times, but a few days later would hit me in a very different way.  While speaking on the 9th step he said, “There is not time or distance in the world of the spirit.  If someone has passed on you can make your amends.  As long as you mean it, and feel it, and your intent is to set them free…your amends will be heard and you will know, sooner or later, what you need to do differently.”

A few days later I was stacking boxes in a dingy, scary warehouse that used to be a New England rubber factory.  In the decades since it’s intended use it was turned into warehouse and artist loft spaces.  I was stacking boxes and the thought came rushing to me (until then, I had never experienced a “lightning bolt” moment) I needed to make a graveside amends.  The grave was 900 miles away.  However, there is no time and space in the world of the spirit, so I knelt right then and there.  Silently I asked Stacy how I had harmed her, that I needed to know if I was going to change.  Silently I asked how I could make it right.  I didn’t have a Harry & Dumbledore meeting in King’s Cross Station moment, but I know my amend was sent and received.

I stand ready to make more of these graveside amends as they are revealed to me.

Step 9 is the first time we start approaching people equipped with new, spiritual ideas. Much before this was sorting out who we really are and letting God take away what we don’t need any longer.  To round-out my driving metaphor; Setting out on step 9 is like driving a new car in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  I sit forward in my seat, hold the wheel a little tighter, my head is on a swivel as I look for signs, I turn off the radio, and I mutter the directions to myself, and try to think ahead of directions given or landmarks mentioned.  Before making that first real amends, talk with your sponsor about when to stop, when to be cautious, and when to go.