Step of the Month: Step 9, Labor Days

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

This weekend, we celebrate the idea that hard work is its own reward. This idea is woven throughout the 12 Steps, and they encourage us to remember the importance of hard work each and every day. Step 9, the famous making of amends, is very much included.

In North America, the US and Canada celebrate Labor Day this weekend. This is the working person’s holiday when we celebrate the historic achievements that workers have made to the advancement of society, the economy, culture, and prosperity. Of course, when we engaged in addictive behaviors, we did the opposite. We made every day about ourselves not about bettering the world we live in. We did little to advance anything but our own agenda, which was usually to keep things as they were because we feared change. Prosperity was a means by which we might acquire more food.

But as we worked the Steps of OA, we discovered that we hadn’t necessarily done hard work in our addiction, but that we definitely had made hard work of our lives when it wasn’t necessary. We tried to control the uncontrollable, and when that we didn’t work, we used food to medicate ourselves against fear, anger, and sadness.

Soon, we found we needed more and more food to medicate ourselves because our bodies quickly developed a high-level tolerance for our binge foods. Soon it was a difficult job to keep up with our cravings. So, we didn’t care whose toes we stepped on, whose needs we ignored, how bad we felt about ourselves, or what we had to do to satisfy the unsatisfiable. We were going to get our food, everyone else be damned.

Over the years, we accumulated a lot of soul-junk through our behaviors. As we placed food ahead of loved ones, they felt hurt. As we blamed others for our situation, they felt betrayed. As we tried to control our friends and family and coworkers to get our fearful way, they felt resentful at our know-it-all attitudes. As we marched slowly toward a food-based death, those who cared about us felt unlistened to and angry at our incredible selfishness. But we kept right on eating.

So now, we have some work to do in recovery. Our side of the street is littered not only with candy wrappers, chip bags, crumbs, blobs of sugary gum, soda bottles, and empty pastry boxes but also with the wreckage of the relationships we’ve warped with our addict behaviors. The broken promises are heaped up. Our harsh words are spray painted on the sidewalks. The lies we’ve spun hang over our side of the street like smog.

In the first seven Steps, we discovered all that our compulsive eating had done to to our life and our relationships. In Step 8, we listed specifically who we needed to straighten things out with. And now, in Step 9, we step out into that garbage-strewn street and go about the necessary clean-up. Making amends can be hard work. There are people we’d rather not see again. We don’t want to admit to them that we did what we did. And it doesn’t matter because if we don’t, because we’re screwed if we don’t make those amends.

We’re living a new kind of life in OA. We avoid behaviors that lead to us having to make amends. We make kindness, love, and tolerance our code. We know that if we don’t, we will return to the miserable existence we had before. Making amends is part of that code. The kind thing to do is humbly acknowledge our wrongs. The loving thing to do is set the situation right, and in so doing, perhaps help someone else exorcise a spiritual burden. The tolerant thing to do is clean up the mess we’ve made with everyone, even those who have done more harm to us than we have done to them. And when we do, the smog will clear, the piles will be gone, and we can finally invite people onto our side of the street without fear.

This hard work we do in Step 9 is, indeed, its own reward. With each amends we make, we move closer to our Higher Power. We remove another barrier between ourselves and others. We place ourselves in a position to be of increased service. We make contributions to the spiritual good of the world rather than self-centered withdrawals. And it feels good.

So as we consider how much the working people of our land have done to create the prosperous conditions in which we find ourselves in September of 2016, we might also consider Step 9. We might consider how through our labors with amends and the example we show of the power of recovery, our Higher Power is creating opportunities for peace, good will, and freedom from addictive behavior.