Alcoholics Anonymous an overview of Step 8:
Step Eight: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
The key word here is “willing”. We never, ever, make any amends until we have discussed our list with our confidant/sponsor. We do not want to cause further damage to others or to ourselves. Like all of the twelve steps, thoughtful consideration and counsel is always encouraged.
By using our Fourth Step moral inventory as a point of reference, we begin to see the damage done to our relationships. Many of us had damaged relationships even before we picked up a drink. On some level we never felt “right” with other people and coped with our discomfort by drinking. Wounded relationships have kept us deeply uncomfortable, isolated and lonely.
Making a list of all persons we have harmed does not mean making ourselves vulnerable to judgments, condemnation, mental or emotional blackmail or persecution. And that list includes “us”. Alcoholics are the worst at self-condemnation. There is a saying in A. A.: “You don’t have to beat an alcoholic up, just get out of their way because they’ll beat themselves up unmercifully.”
After making a list of all the persons we have harmed, including ourselves, we look back over each and every person. As objectively as possible, we look at the actions and motives behind each offence to find the underlying reasons for our actions. Over and over again we typically see that low self-esteem, fear and shame fueled the dynamics and behavior.
When we stop reacting and start rationally responding to our past, we begin to see that many of these people were just as emotionally and spiritually sick as we were. We really are not unique. We are on a new road to freedom and happiness through self-accountability and self-responsibility. Through this process we gain an understanding that it’s ok to clear up the wreckage of the past and move on.