05 April 2011

Ninth Step

The Ninth Step of AA states - "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

After the completion of step eight, doing the ninth step, for me wasn't that difficult. At least at the start. I did the "easy" ones first, in meditation I prayed for forgiveness from those who had died. That included my Mom and Dad, my father-in-law, and some friends. It ended up being a very spiritual experience. What I did was write everyone of these people a letter, than over the span of a week or so, I sat out in my backyard, under the stars and read the letter out loud. I spoke to no one in particular but I needed to hear what I wrote. After I finished reading it, I asked for forgiveness, than I lit the letter on fire and watched it burn till nothing was left. As the ashes drifted around in the air, I truly felt forgiven.

After that I wrote some more letters. This time to the living, but people who I couldn't apologize to in person. This mostly consisted of my brothers who were over a half country away. I wasn't expecting much in way of a response but I needed to acknowledge the pain I had put them through. None of my brothers responded to the letters and it didn't really upset me. I was doing my best to as the Big Book says - to keep my side of the street clean.

Now it was time for doing the ninth step and looking someone in the eye as I admitted my wrongs. I started with co-workers and with what few friends I still had. Again, I started with the easier ones. Co-workers whom I hurt but didn't really have a personal relationship with, were very willing to forgive me and offer their support.

As more and more people forgave me, I began to understand the power of The Program. And I truly understood the need of having a Higher Power in my life. I began to gain an inner strength to continue on my journey and tackle the ones I hurt the most - my family, which actually now is my ex-family.

There was so much hurt and rage in my action towards every one of them that asking for forgiveness, was in reality easier to ask for than it being given. They had no reason to trust me. I had never given them a reason to believe in me. Twelve years later, the anger and disgust is still there. And I realize that there is nothing that I can do to change their belief in me. All I can do is stay sober. So if (or when) that day ever comes where we can talk, I'll be sober and I'll be healthy.

When I finished the eighth step, I knew in my heart, that my Higher Power had forgiven me. When I put down my pen and knew that my list was complete, I felt a Hand on my shoulder and some peaceful words surrounded me "very good." I began to cry because not only did I feel His acceptance, but I also realized how much pain and hurt I had inflicted on others throughout most of my adult life.

At first, I thought I was done with the ninth step. I had made amends to the dead, to people far away. With some success and some failure I apologized for my actions with co-workers, family, and friends. And I already knew that my Higher Power had forgiven me. So I was done - right? Wrong.

There was still one person I needed forgiveness from - myself. I had taken every sense of decency and respect from myself and threw it away. I had physically abused my body. I had abused it not just with the amount of alcohol I had consumed, but also by the results of that drinking. Bar fights, car wrecks, street fights, and eventually blackouts. I had got to the point where I wasn't even capable of remembering what I did.

This part of the ninth step I still struggle with and this is where the fellowship of AA has given me the strength and courage to continue of my journey. A journey He has laid out for me. Where it goes - time will tell.

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