Society sees the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as the Bible for anyone looking to recover from an addiction. The program has an estimated success rate of between 8% and 12% according to addiction specialists, and AA has approximately 2 million members worldwide. Nonetheless, regardless of your thoughts on the program there are valuable lessons we can learn from their text. Above all, each step offers a different gift to an addict. In this series we take a subjective look explaining the benefit each step brings. Step Eight is available here.
The Gift of Honor
Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. At Step Nine we’re at the point where we have to rebuild what we damaged during our path of addiction. We do whatever’s necessary to satisfy our active addiction because the disease absolutely destroys our moral fiber.
In this Step we have the opportunity to let go of all the guilt we’ve held onto from the past and drastically rebuild damaged relationships. The weight we feel from the hurt we caused in the past can be unbearable. Living with that past guilt makes it impossible to grow going forward and is often the reason for relapse. However, through maturing into the person we’re meant to be we become less willing to take part in destructive behaviors. This is in large part due to the awareness we develop towards how much misery such behaviors have on those around us.
What this Teaches
What does it mean to have honor? According to Webster’s honor is “High respect or great esteem; and an adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct”. It takes a return to being honorable, along with courage and strength, to take ownership of our mistakes of the past. Confidence, resilience, and clarity over one’s personal truth all come to us when we are honorable.
Honor is the best word to describe the lesson taught in Step Nine. Our return to honorability highlights the relief felt from releasing the shame of addiction. It explains our shift in being self-obsessed to our ability to appreciate what’s going on in the world around us. It’s in this shift we start to view our past experiences as learning tools to share with other people, instead of a past of regret. In addition, honor teaches us to stop thinking about what we don’t have and appreciate the gifts we do have every day.
Why This is Important
Making amends are a pretty scary undertaking in the Ninth Step. During this process it’s imperative to keep in mind that how we feel is not always how things are. In other words, we assume feelings of fear mean there’s justification to be afraid, but that’s not reality. Above all, let go of expectations of how amends should play out In preparing for this.
Oftentimes it’s helpful to reflect on the amends we make after completing them. This can be done by writing about the feelings the experience brought on and what was learned from it. After that, by living a Ninth Step we must try to live a life without racking up new wrongdoings towards other people. Above all, preventing future debt is every bit as important a part of making amends as is righting past wrongdoings.
The Ninth Step Promises
- If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.
- We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
- Will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
- We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
- No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
- That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear.
- We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
- Self-seeking will slip away.
- Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
- Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
- We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
- We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
- Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.
- They will always materialize if we work for them.
–The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous pages 83 & 84