The 9th step is the culmination of the inventory we have made of our flaws. In the throes of our addiction, we may have committed a litany of moral and ethically indefensible actions. We have stolen, cheated, lied, betrayed, assaulted, or abused others. By the time we reach this step, we should be able to identify, recognize, and take responsibility for these actions.
With the realization of how deeply we have hurt others through our addiction, we understand that amends must be made. In this step, we attempt to remove some of the debris created in the past through our actions.
We complete the step when we have “made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” The book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions tells us that we are ready to work this step when we have attained: “the readiness to take the full consequences of our past acts, and to take responsibility for the well-being of others at the same time, is the very spirit of Step Nine.”
For many recovering addicts, this is the most difficult step to accomplish. In working most steps, we work with ourselves and our reliable partners: our Higher Power, sponsor, and group. The 9th step brings in many unpredictable people. Some of whom we have seriously harmed. It is perfectly understandable to be apprehensive and anxious about their response Maybe they hate us? Maybe they want revenge?
As recovering addicts, we fear the loss of control we experienced in our darkest days. This step is accompanied by the terrible realization that we have no control over the response of the people we have harmed. We will likely have wonderful experiences and very difficult ones.
However, we must proceed for two reasons. First, this is not about us. At least not fully. It is about other people. It is about the people we have hurt in the past. However, it is equally designed for the people in your life now and in the future. By facing the consequences of our previous actions, we become more aware of the terrible cost of our behavior. This will make us less likely to take equally destructive actions in the future. Working the steps has likely made you a less selfish and self-centered individual. This step will reinforce that trend significantly.
Second, this will make you feel a lot better than you realize. As addicts, we walk around with a tremendous amount of shame and guilt regarding our actions. As a result, we think of ourselves as flawed and immoral people. We feel like we are unable to be happy and do not deserve happiness anyway. The self-flagellation involved makes us more likely to relapse than anything else.