When I first began working on my 12-step recovery program, I remember asking my sponsor how soon I could start making amends to some of the people I had harmed. Her answer came in the form of two questions.
“What step are we working on Andrew?”
“Step 1” I said.
“What step is the amends process?” she asked.
“Step 9” I said.
“Exactly” she told me with a smile.
Over the years since then, I learned it truly is quite common for a newcomer in recovery from an addiction to want to make amends to those they had harmed. That desire often comes from wanting to ease tensions with other family members, friends, and various loved ones given all the damage their addiction caused. Unfortunately, they usually have no idea that making a formal amends is more than just saying, “I’m sorry”. They also frequently have no idea that a formal amends involves them owning their character defects of every time they were selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, or afraid. And lastly, most generally won’t even become aware of those things within themselves until the work they do during Step’s 4 through 7.
You see the steps are in the order they are for a reason. This is what my first sponsor tried to tell me. I have to say I didn’t totally get it back then, but I do now. The truth is I wasn’t even close to being ready to make a formal amends to anyone during my early stages of recovery work. In fact, at that point in time I was completely oblivious of my character defects and constantly repeating the same toxic behaviors over and over again throughout my life. Which is specifically why it would have been meaningless for me to make amends to anyone because I would have just recreated the same problem again sometime later. Until I became more self-aware of my ongoing negative actions through the normal ascendance of the steps, making an amends would have actually been driven more by my selfishness and self-centeredness than anything else.
Sadly, I didn’t listen to that first sponsor as well as I could have back then because I still tried to make a few amends early on. All that resulted in was causing more harm and having to make more future amends to those very same people.
Thus, the only focus a newcomer to 12-Step recovery really should have is to go through steps in the order they’re presented. Begin with Step 1 and work through each of the subsequent ones diligently. Because by the time you finally reach Step 9, you’ll be far more self-aware of your character defects, which in turn will cause you to stand a much better chance of making an effective amends that won’t have to be repeated again at some later date…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson