Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a group therapy program for people suffering from alcoholism. Its core treatment philosophy is based on a personal improvement plan that is outlined in 12 specific action steps. AA step 9 of the 12 steps is a call for recovering alcoholics to make amends. It builds on step 8, which required the individual to make a list of everyone he or she has harmed throughout the battle with alcohol addiction.
This 12-step program has achieved widespread acceptance and forms the basis of AA programs operated by chapters around the world. The program’s philosophy has been adapted for use by other types of addiction recovery programs, such as for drug use and excessive gambling. The mandate to make amends in Alcoholics Anonymous step 9 is indicative of the program’s approach to healing the emotional and spiritual aspects of a person, as well as ameliorating the physical and mental side effects of addiction.
Step 9: Be Willing to Make Amends
Step 9 requires the recovering alcoholic to be willing to go to any lengths to make amends. The individual must be willing to take this step no matter how severe the personal consequences. If making amends requires the person to report a past crime, he or she must be willing to go to jail to complete this step on the road to recovery. The spiritual aspect of the mandate encourages the recovering individual to seek strength and guidance to do the right thing from a higher power and from the others engaged in the program.
The way a recovering alcoholic transitions into the 9th step of Alcoholics Anonymous is to take the list he or she created of people harmed from step 8 and divide the list into four categories. These categories determine the way the person approaches the process of making amends. The first category should include all of the people to whom the person can make full amends as soon as he or she is sober. The second category should include those people to whom the person will make partial amends, because full restitution would cause more harm than good.
The third category should include the people who should not be contacted until a full and certain recovery has been achieved. This might include a child who could be disappointed if a recovery process results in a relapse. Last, the fourth category should separate out anyone to whom it is impossible to make amends, such as a person who has since passed away. The guiding principal of this step is to make full amends at the earliest opportunity, as long as such action is feasible, proper, and will not cause additional harm.
Making amends must involve sincere efforts to apologize. The notion of being sincere involves adopting the right attitude before making an approach. A recovering alcoholic in the program is encouraged to forgive himself or herself and to forgive the person on the list for any actions done in retaliation. Step 9 should be pursued according to a plan that does not assign blame and allows the person who has been harmed the freedom to respond, even if the response is angry or unforgiving.
A recovering alcoholic who successfully completes step 9 can find the process has built a bridge to new relationships with friends and loved ones. It can also help to remove the guilt and shame of past actions that can act as a stumbling block to full recovery.