Step Eight begins the process of "clearing the wreckage of the past." Why, if we are so willing to change our behavior, do we have to go back and make amends to people we have harmed? Many people feel this is the ultimate step in giving up our past way of living. By making amends to people we have harmed without passing blame on them, we are fully embracing our responsibility for the messes we've created. We realize that while people in our lives may indeed not have treated us well, that is not our problem. Our problem is how WE have treated other people.
Again you can see how there is first a step of reflection and preparation before an action step. This gives us the opportunity to honestly appraise our behavior, who it may have impacted, and how we intend to make amends to them.
How does one assess whether you need to make amends? Usually the strongest indicator is if you feel guilt, anger, resentment, or some other negative emotion associated with a person from your past. We then need to examine OUR part in the problems of the relationship or interaction. Obvious amends would be owing money, repairing damage to property or restoring stolen property, repairing damage we may have caused to other peoples' reputation that we caused out of spite or resentment, making amends for mistreatment of parents, friends, spouses, family members, employers, and co-workers.
Remember, this step asks us to make a list of ALL persons we have harmed. Even if you know you cannot make amends to them, put them on the list. Even if you know that by making amends you would hurt the person more, put them on the list. This is not your "action" list, it is simply honest self-reflection on the damage you have caused while living as an active alcoholic or addict.
"When I started to make this list I thought it would be pretty short. I mean, I wasn't that bad a person, and frankly, a lot of people had been pretty bad to me over the years. But, when I followed the step in the true spirit of the step, the list started to get longer and longer. It took me weeks to finish it, because new names would pop into my head, a lot of times right when I was drifting off to sleep. I would get this sort of image or memory of something, and this sick feeling would surge through me, and I knew that was someone I owed an amend." Jackie R.