19 February 2017

Making amends in ACOA

The Ninth Step of ACOA says, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”



When a person does a 12 Step program, every step feels like a new weight of the world has been placed on your shoulder. Step Nine is no exception to this rule. In fact, for me it was not only a difficult step to take but also a very scary one.

The hard part for me was that I could justify all my actions because it was a matter of survival. Not only emotional and spiritual survival but also physical survival. There were times I lied to save myself from physical harm. There were times I lied because I didn’t want someone else harmed – namely my mother.

Some things no matter how much I tried to justify it were wrong. Mom used to hide money under a corner of the carpet. Part was for household emergencies. There’s no doubt in my mind she was the financial wizard of our home, but when alcohol ruled the roost, that money was her private stash to buy her booze without anyone knowing it. I used to steal that money. How many emergencies happened that could have been avoided if I left that money alone. Sure, I probably stopped her from getting drunk a couple of times but it never stopped her entirely.

When I began to work these steps, both of my parents were dead, so I couldn’t make amends to them but I could make amends to my brothers. None of my three brothers accepted my amends, in fact, one said that I spend to much time thinking about the past. With the past I had, it is hard to act like nothing ever happened.

In fact, it wasn’t till late in 2015 that my oldest brother sent me an e-mail and said that he regretted no doing more to get me out of the terror that I endured. That was his word not mine – terror. After my brother’s death, I felt an uneasy silence from the one brother I have had contact with.

He e-mailed me on my birthday, with a beautiful passive aggressive message that ended with “At least I was man enough to let go of the past.” I wonder if he could have let it go, if he was my age when everything happened. For me, I tried letting it go and it nearly killed me by trying suicide. I tried letting it go by falling into a bottle and then some drugs – it didn’t work.

I had to look it square in the eyes and acknowledge it and come to the understanding that I was a kid. I was a kid, even when I was 30 years old, because I never dealt with the past. I was a kid who had no control, yet my alcoholic parents had control over me.

My point being that as an ACOA we learn to keep the secrets – no matter how bad they are. It becomes our family crest – a badge of honour. To grow, to stop the rage that has built up over many years, to finally become free from our childhood, is by doing the 9th Step. To do it with no justifications, just humility and with honesty to say what was done wasn’t right and I’m sorry for hurting you.

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