Step of the Month: Step 9

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

Here’s a big question to ask ourselves about the ninth step. Do we sincerely wish to right the wrongs we have done others, or are we simply doing what we’re told? In some sense the answer doesn’t matter: We need to do this work in order to recover. If we do not make our amends, we are very likely to return to compulsive eating. In another sense, it matters quite a lot.

If we look closely at this question, it helps us gauge our spiritual condition. The Big Book tells us that we must enlarge our spiritual life…or else. It tells us that “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” It also tells us that becoming spiritual means deflating our ego through thought of others and action on their behalf. In other words, we are striving to be rid of selfishness and self-centeredness.

If we are doing amends because we are told to, we may be doing the right thing out of selfish motives. Are we attempting to recover only to escape the pit of sorrow and calamity? Or do we see how our recovery is a tool by which our Higher Power can help others like us escape from the doom of compulsive eating?

Making amends can give us deep, deep insight into our affliction, our solution, and our spiritual path.

  • We see how our disease affected others, and we have the singular chance to see it from their point of view.
  • We gain perspective on how the steps have changed us and develop greater motivation to continue living in the solution so that we do not bring more pain and suffering to those around us.
  • Equipped with a sense of other’s suffering as well as our own, we are now able to walk the road to recovery with others, sharing our newfound understandings as we guide them to a new, happier way of life.

But if we are simply checking off names on the list, we may miss these lessons. We may not, of course. We might well enter our amends with a selfish attitude and exit them with a selfless attitude because God can do that for us. But why stubbornly cling to the idea that are amends are merely something we have to do? There’s no upside in it.

Amends are sometimes easy. Sometimes they are very difficult and require vast courage. In every case, they require a reliance on our Higher Power to see us through with grace, dignity, and openness. If we approach them with humility, an honest desire to set right the wrongs of the past, and with the idea that we are doing spiritual work, we needn’t worry about the outcome. If it goes well, that’s great. If it doesn’t go well, we seek the counsel of God and our trusted friends and always, always remember to avoid doing anything to harm the other person. The question then is whether we will see each of our amends as bricks in our spiritual foundation or items on our OA honey-do list. The choice is ours.