My name is Beth, and I’m a compulsive overeater and addict. My Higher Power is at work in the fact that I’m writing this for the eighth month of the year, and the steps of the month are steps 8 and 9. For me, the recovery is in the steps; I worked the steps in the Big Book Step Study process.
Even as I worked through the first three steps in this process, slowly coming to believe, I worried about Step 9. The steps are in the order that they are for a reason, my sponsor told me. That put it to rest, at least for a while.
Eventually, the day came when I made a list of those I’d harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. My sponsor was right — the process of coming to believe in a Power greater than myself, turning my will and my life over to that Power and taking a fearless and thorough moral inventory had helped me to face my part in many painful situations of the past. Not whose fault those situations were. Not who did more or less harm. Simply what I’d brought to the table, and how I could try to heal the harm that I had caused. One of the names on my Step 8 list was a longtime friend who’d survived a critical illness when we were in our early 30s, before I came to program. This friend and I had been as close as siblings since the 6th grade, but by the time I was making my Step 8 list, it had been five years since we’d spoken, in part because of resentments that arose during that illness. Before program, I had insisted that my only part in this situation was trying to be helpful. I couldn’t understand why this friend and I had drifted apart; I couldn’t see what was inappropriate about how I’d behaved. Through the Step Study process, and my Step 4 inventory, I was finally able to acknowledge that while this friend and I were “like” family, I was not actually family. I was still resentful about things that had happened in an ICU room that I hadn’t necessarily had a right to be in at all, that I had invited myself into anyway. I hadn’t respected proper boundaries.
The later steps are a process of applying the earlier ones. If you have turned your will and your life over to the care of a Higher Power and become willing to have that Higher Power remove your shortcomings, the best way to demonstrate that is to walk into a room where a person sits that you are terrified to face, and then find the words to say that you are sorry. I did that, three years ago, on a wintry day in the Boston area. I did it without any expectation about how it would be received or whether our relationship would be healed. I did it because I truly — finally — understood my part in a painful situation and sincerely regretted it. The Step 9 promises came true for me that day. I’ll never forget the feeling of driving away from what turned out to be a four-hour conversation, much of it catching up on the years we’d missed. One line from those ninth step promises was ringing in my ears in that moment: We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace.
That day, for the first time in my life, I truly did.