The Wrong (and Right) Way to Make a Step Nine Amends

Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The ninth step meant something quite different to me during my first attempt to work the steps. And as a result of my insane thinking and lack of understanding of the step (along with all of the previous steps), when I offered my feeble and insincere amends to my husband it didn’t go well. I had high expectations. I thought he would be so proud of me for making amends and for my new way of life! 

But he wasn’t impressed at all. So, I became angry and resentful. What I know now looking back is that I had little chance of staying sober without fully surrendering and admitting my powerlessness over alcohol. I had to accept without reservation that I could never again pick up a drink or drug and the only solution out of my nightmare of addiction was to follow a program of action that included working with others in a spirit of surrender and humility.

But I hadn’t realized that, and at the time I was still running the show. I thought I knew everything about the disease of addiction and so believed that my new sense of self worth and beaming confidence would keep me sober. Looking back, I realize my behavior then was more selfish and self-centered than ever.

I had no real resolve to be sober because I had not listened to or followed the guidance and direction of others in recovery. I was looking for any excuse to go back to the drink and drugs and I conveniently used my husband as a scapegoat. When I saw that he continued to drink in spite of my plight to stay sober, I thought, “How dare he! Why didn’t he love me enough to stop drinking himself?”

By blaming him I wouldn’t have to accept responsibility and take accountability for my own actions and reckless behavior. It’s no surprise that soon after I began drinking and using with a male friend I had met in the very rooms of recovery. The next nine months would take me down a path I never, ever dreamed I would venture down. I found myself in sordid situations with very dangerous people. And I found out just how cunning, powerful, and baffling the disease of addiction is when I discovered the crack pipe. 

For a short time, I was able to lie and cover my tracks by telling my family I was attending recovery meetings late into the evening. My husband and two daughters caught on pretty quickly, though, as they helplessly watched me spiral out of control. They were very angry but I didn’t care. My obsession was stronger than the desire to stop. After putting them and everyone around me through many months of living hell my husband finally decided to kick me out of the house. It was literally the first negative consequence I had ever experienced as a result of my addiction. By God’s grace and surely not of my own doing, until then I had been spared from losing my job, driver’s license, and health. 

I really like the saying that we never grown from comfort, only from pain. It was the pain of potentially losing my family and marriage that became the catalyst that finally led me to surrender and to truly begin Step One of my recovery. I heard a voice telling me that I was worth it and that if I didn’t stop I would end up in jail or worse—dead. 

That painful moment marked the end of my old life and the beginning of a new one. All I needed was the belief that God would help, and I started to become more and more willing to go to any lengths to stay sober. 

Some months later, I once again made direct amends to my husband in accordance with Step Nine. But there was something drastically different about it this time around. Not only was I prepped well by my sponsor beforehand, but God was now present in my heart as I humbly admitted my wrongs and asked for forgiveness. And for the first time ever, my heart ached from sorrow. I experienced a deep sense of contrition for all the pain, suffering, and harm I had caused my husband and family. 

My husband graciously accepted my amends and continues to do so as I strive each day to make a living amends to him and all the members of my family. And with each new day, I grow freer as I listen to that still small voice showing me His way, His truth, and His life.

By God’s grace, Kathy has been clean and sober since June 1, 2006, and is an active member of Catholic in Recovery. She also feels called to share the merciful love of Christ’s healing grace with all those suffering from the pain and wounds caused by abortion. On most days, you can find her at daily Mass, the gym, or caring for the needs of her family.