Step the Month: Everyday Amends

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

We are often inspired to hear the stories of difficult amends made with the courage that comes from our Higher Powers. Families reunited, large sums repaid, hatchets as big as a house buried, friendships resumed, feuds resolved. We hear about these from our fellow OA members, and we hope to do as well by those we have harmed as they have.

But like so many things in recovery, size doesn’t always matter. Quality matters as much as quantity and consistency matters as much as that one big moment.

We cannot undo the past, but in making amends, we commit to taking responsibility for the messes we’ve made. Maybe we haven’t done something as “glamorous” as getting arrested or maiming our selves or others. Maybe, instead, we’ve slowly eroded relationships with others through the million paper cuts we’ve given them in our addiction. And the gallons of lemon juice and tons of salt we’ve added to those wounds.

So instead of comparing our recoveries to others’ experiences with amends, we can compare our own befores to our own afters. What was our home life like before we began making amends to our loved ones? What is it like now? What was our work life like before we began making amends? What is it like now? Same goes for any relationship we are in, even our relationship with the world at large.

But notice the phrasing there: “before we began making amends.” In many respects, we are never done making amends. To amend something is to change it. When we make amends, we don’t merely say I’m sorry. We tell the other person that we’re changing our behavior. And then we trust and rely on our HP to help us live in a changed manner and to become the changed person we commit to.

That means that each and every day, we are making amends simply in how we conduct ourselves. If we used to passively watch as our spouse did everything around the house, we pick up a sponge and start doing the dishes. If we gossiped and schemed our way through the work day, we cease self-serving conversations and ask how we can help a coworker. If we used to ignore our far-flung family, we pick up the phone. These are everyday amends. The little things we do.

Those around us may or may not be impressed that we’ve lost weight and stopped filling our faces. But they know us, and they know that if we don’t change as people, our compulsive eating will return, just as it always has. These folks have been on the receiving end of a lot of our anger, isolation, depression, and/or volatility. Skinny or fat, they know the score with us. They know we’ve never been able to change. We can’t prove them wrong. Only our Higher Power can. Like the Third Step Prayer says, “Relieve me of the bondage of self/that I may better do They will/Take away my difficulties/That victory of them may bear witness to those I would help…”.

But just because we ask our Higher Power to work through us doesn’t mean we just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. We do things for others, we help where we didn’t used to, and we fake it it until we make it with HP’s help. Because while the big things make great stories and are very important to our healing, it’s the little everyday amends that, moment to moment, help us stay on the broad highway of recovery.

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.

Step of the Month: Becoming willing

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

There are two parts to Step 8: make a list and become willing. We’ve talked extensively in a previous post about that list, so let’s focus more on the willingness. What we’re really becoming willing to do is ignore our pride and our fear.

Our pride may tell us that this is all too much. It will imagine forward into the ninth step. It may tell us that the process will feel humiliating, like begging forgiveness on our bended knees or like prostrating ourselves before another person. The Big Book gives sound advice. We are never to be “scraping or servile” it says. We are absolutely not making amends to gain forgiveness. That’s selfish thinking—as in What can I get from this encounter? In fact, we are not aiming to gain anything, only to do what we can to put as square as possible the relationships we’ve skewed through our behavior as food addicts.

Rather than listen to our pride and its imaginings of the future, we keep it in the present and just pray for willingness.

Our fear is more potent yet. It may tell us that making amends threatens our emotional or even physical well-being. Or that we just can’t do it. We are likely afraid of encountering anger, rejection, or bad feelings. We may also be afraid of letting the words fall from our mouths, for shattering the idea that we’ve been perfect or never wrong. Again, fear is projecting a future that is unlikely to occur. Most amends go smoothly, some go delightfully, and, yes, some don’t go well. It doesn’t matter. Right now, we are merely becoming willing to go through with them. If someone becomes angry at us, they have every right. After all, we harmed them!

Rather than listen to our fear and its imaginings of the future, we keep it in the present and just pray for willingness.

If we remain unwilling to commit to this path, we pray until we become willing. But we don’t need to sit passively by either, awaiting spiritual dew drops of willingness to fall onto our foreheads. Instead, we can talk to others about what’s blocking us. Having just put down the food, taken inventory, and had our defects of character removed, we can test the new clarity our HP has given us to consider the costs and benefits of moving forward or staying at Step 8. Let’s look at them.




  • I’ll eat again because I’m not growing spiritually and I’m not completing the program of action that’s known to work
  • My relationships won’t improve or change
  • I’ll still feel discomfort about the harms I’ve caused


  • I won’t have to admit I’ve been or done wrong
  • I won’t have to face fears or anger and rejection
  • I won’t have to give up control of the situation



  • I’ll have to swallow my pride
  • I’ll have to summon courage from HP to face my fears
  • I’ll have to accept the outcome, whatever it may be


  • I’ll be growing spiritually and taking out insurance against eating again
  • I’ll feel freedom from self-resentment about the harms I’ve done
  • My relationships and life circumstances will improve
  • I’ll feel self-esteem for following through on something difficult
  • Other peoples’ lives may change for the better because I’ve have broken the negative cycle between us

Seems pretty straightforward. We exchange a little discomfort for a truckload of blessings. This is exactly why the promises we read at most meetings are found in the ninth step—because we can’t get those promises without cleaning up our side of the street. Only then do we receive the entirety of the spiritual bounty that OA promises us.

Emotions are very, very powerful. They are often also misleading. As people in recovery, we understand that we’ve let our emotions run our lives into the ground. As we become willing to make amends in Step 8, we are reminding ourselves that our Higher Power runs the show, not our feelings. We still have our feelings, but we now have Steps 10 and 11 as well as the nine OA tools to safely deal with them. They needn’t block us from taking action that will save us instead of action—or inaction—that will kill us.


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.

Step of the Month: Step 8

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step nine, the making of amends, gets a lot of air time, but in some ways, it is step eight where the truly hard work of amends gets done. Think of it like exercising. The hard part isn’t the actual exercise! The hard part is walking out the door to go to the gym. The big roadblock is not in the action itself but in our minds. In step eight, we are stepping out this proverbial door en route to the spiritual gym known to us as…our lives.

In the first seven steps we have spent our time on a solitary path toward recovery. We are supported by OA and our sponsors, perhaps even by family and friends, but no one can go on our spiritual journey for us; it is ours alone. But once step nine rolls around, we return to the world having undergone a massive psychic change. Our amends will demonstrate to those in our lives, most of whom we’ve probably not told much about our move toward spirituality, that we have changed and that a Higher Power can make change in us. But we have to know who to make this demonstration to, and sometimes when we recognize the who, we find ourselves wanting for willingness to walk out that door.

We have to be specific to make any progress. As we did in step four, we make a list in step eight. But this time, that list is who we harmed, not who harmed us. To review step four for just a moment: Page 65 of the Big Book shows us three columns to write out: who we were resentful at, the cause of the resentment, and what it affected inside us (how it harmed us). In that second column, we described what burned us up about another person. Then on page 67 we are asked to write a fourth column of inventory for each resentment: where were we selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, and afraid? Now in step eight, we are again asked to look at our inventory from the other person’s point of view. The self-seeking we wrote about in the fourth column of our own inventory is what we did to other people to get our way. We might imagine them writing inventory that includes us, and it turns out that our self-seeking behaviors are their second-column resentments! So we can start right there at making our list, and then we can ask God to show us other folks we may have harmed who were not in our inventory.

A question worth asking is what exactly is harm? Harm is usually defined as injury whether physical, emotional, or financial. In step eight we needn’t get overly specific about what harm we did to another, only that we caused it. For now, we are simply making a list of those we harmed. If we can answer yes, then their name goes on the list. If we aren’t sure, we pray for the truth from our Higher Power.

We need to be careful at this point that we don’t tell ourselves that we didn’t harm someone only because we know step nine is coming. Just because we don’t want to face someone doesn’t mean we didn’t do them harm. We might recognize that they did us a terrible harm, far worse than we did them. So what? That doesn’t negate the harm we did. And isn’t a willingness to proceed with an amends to that person a reasonable exchange for our abstinence, our happiness, and our freedom from the horrors of compulsive eating? Here our minds may place our pride and fear ahead of our recovery. If we listen to them, we will be troubled again. If we ask God to help us with them, we will make gains spiritually.

Step eight is not an overnight step. We may make a list of those we have harmed and find ourselves requiring time and prayer to achieve willingness for all the names on it. That’s OK. We become willing. If pride and fear put a wall up between us and willingness, we use the tool of prayer to chip it away. We will know when we are ready not because the fear and pride are gone, but rather because the way through them will seem passable, if not easy. In the meantime, we have made our list and are willing to be willing. We can move on to step nine and make the amends we are willing to make as we continue to pray about those we are unwilling to make. In other words, progress not perfection.