A core principle behind the Eighth Step is preparing ourselves to mend relationships and get ourselves prepared to do our part to repair any hurts we have caused others.
It took me quite awhile to complete my list. There were a few obvious people I had harmed and I took them right from my Fourth Step work, but the more I thought about it, new names and situations would pop into my mind. Some, I wasn't even sure if I had really harmed. A couple had passed away. My sponsor said that didn't matter, go ahead and put them down, maybe write a little about your relationship with that person and why you feel you had harmed them, and we will discuss it latter.
Step Eight is our chance to start mending the past. Then we can leave it behind us once and for all.
I did and said things when my psychiatric illness was out of control that I really feel bad about. Part of the time I compounded those problems by using drugs too. There were whole sections of town I was ashamed to go back to because I was afraid of running into certain people. Not that they would hurt me, but that I would be so embarrassed if I ran into them. I knew I owed some of them money but I wasn't sure how much. I knew I had said things when I was high that were really disgusting and hurt peoples feelings. I knew I confused and upset some dear friends. I hated having to worry all the time that my past would come back to haunt me by running into some of these people. I needed to figure out a way to set things straight and feel better about myself. I was already doing well--staying clean--taking my meds, and improving the quality of my life, but this shame hanging over my head was eating at me. Making a list helped me start to sort all this out.
My sponsor read my list and told me that I had forgot someone. The person who I had probably hurt the most. She told me to put my own name on the list too.
At first this Step really scared me. Facing all those people.... But then a friend in DRA reminded me that I was only writing out a list. I was growing stronger all the time and this was only the planning and preparation stage. She said to trust the Program and only take one Step at a time. My feelings and attitude would eventually align with the courage and support I needed to make the proper amends when the time came. She said, First Things First.
When I was psychotic I really hurt some people. I couldn't help myself but I still felt bad about it. Writing about what I did really helped ease the way for me to say I was sorry. I needed that time and space to focus on these issues and get right in my mind where my responsibility lay. I may not have been truly responsible for some of the things I did and said, but I could take responsibility to do my best to clean up the mess.
I eventually shortened my list. I realized that my low self-esteem was making me feel responsible for things that I had no part in. It really pays to work with others that have been through this process to get more perspective on things.
*Adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous®
*The Twelve Steps of AA are reprinted and adapted with permission of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Permission to reprint and adapt the Twelve Steps does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. AA is a program of recovery from alcoholism only - use of the Twelve Steps in connection with programs and activities that are patterned after AA, but that address other problems, does not imply otherwise. THE EIGHTH STEP OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS* 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.