When I first surrendered and came to Alcoholics Anonymous, I did not have a clue about the depth I would have to delve into my past behaviors to free myself from all the guilt and shame that resulted from them. I thought that all I would be talking about was my drinking habits.
When faced with the 12 Steps, I had my own way of being selective about what part of the suggestions I would embrace and which suggestions I would simply dismiss as, “Okay for you, but not necessary for me.” I did not think my problems were about mental, emotional, and spiritual matters. I thought that, if I could just stop drinking, things would be just fine.
It didn’t take me long to realize what was meant about the wreckage of the past and how to relieve myself of the horrible memories that extended all the way back to my adolescent years. I was one of the fortunate ones that lost the obsession to drink from the very first day in AA, so that was never a problem for me.
I had taken Step One. I dismissed Steps Two and Three as being okay for religious folks, but I could do without them. Steps Four, Five, Eight and Nine were the ones that I did not want to face.
But by the time I was sober for about two years, I finally let down my guard and did Steps Four and Five. The relief I got from being fearless and thorough about these two Steps gave me the desire and courage to proceed through Steps Six and Seven. Those steps will never be finished, as they are basically about spiritual growth concerning my thoughts and actions.
Then came Step Eight and the need to identify those people I had harmed in the past, and I would owe amends. Can they be serious? I don’t think that a day ever went by during my drinking days that I didn’t do something to harm someone. This list would be endless.
With that thought in mind, I delayed doing Step 8 until I settled down and came up with an understanding that I could start my list and see where it would lead.
As I started to remember all of those drinking buddies, bar tenders and girlfriends through all those years, I had to be realistic about it. To do this, I could spend the rest of my life chasing people down to apologize, and that is when I had to step on the brakes.
Thinking that I would need to find all of those ships in the night was what held me back from doing it. What I finally did, was first, be sure that I no longer did those regrettable deeds of yesterday so I was not being hypocritical.
Then I handled the ones that were “renting room” in the front of my brain box. I began with the people I let down the most, such as my first wife, my son, my siblings, my mother, and my closest friends, who were like family to me.
After that, I spread outward to the people I worked with or played with, such as golfing and fishing friends.
As time went on, I found the occasion when I would run into an old friend, and if I had anything left undone, I would ask him, “Have you ever done something that you really regretted?” His answer is usually, “Hell yes, who hasn’t?” Then I would say: “Can we talk?”
This leveled the playing field. Who can fault a person who has made mistakes, but then corrected them, made restitution and lives an honest unselfish life? None of us are perfect.
Do not be bogged down by overthinking Step 8. But on the other hand, be prepared to jump at the opportunity when it arrives.
By Rick R.