When I first arrived at Alcoholics Anonymous, I did not have a clue about the depth to delve into past behaviors to free myself from the guilt and shame that had resulted from them. I thought that all I would be talking about was my drinking habits.
When faced with the steps I was selective about which part of the suggestions I would embrace and which suggestions I would dismiss as OK for you but not necessary for me. I did not think my problems were about mental, emotional or spiritual matters. If I could just stop drinking things would be fine.
I ask, “Have you ever done something you really regretted?” The answer is usually, “Hell yes, who hasn’t?”
It didn’t take long to realize what they were explaining about the wreckage of the past and how to relieve myself of the horrible memories from all the way back to adolescence. I was one of the fortunate ones that lost the obsession to drink from the very first day so that was never a problem for me. I had taken step one. I dismissed steps two and three as being OK for the religious folks, but I could do without them. Steps four, five, eight and nine were the ones that I did not want to face.
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 gave me the desire and courage to proceed through steps six and seven. Those steps will never be finished: they are basically about spiritual growth concerning my thoughts and actions. Then came step eight and the need to identify people I had harmed in the past, to make amends to. Can they be serious?
I don’t think that a day ever went by during my drinking that I didn’t do something to harm someone. This list would be endless. With that thought in mind, I delayed doing it until I settled down and came to the understanding that I could start my list and see where it led to.
Do not be bogged down by over-thinking this step
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 that were like family. Then I spiraled outward to the people I worked or played with, such as golfing and fishing buddies. Then, as I started to remember all of those drinking buddies, bartenders and girlfriends I had to be realistic. I could spend the rest of my life chasing people down to apologize. That is when I had to step on the brakes. Thinking that I would need to chase down all of those ships in the night was what held me back from doing step 8.
What I finally did was first: make be sure 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. As I said, I spiraled outward and handled the ones that were closest to me. As time went on I found the occasion when I would run into an old friend. If I had anything left undone, I would ask, “Have you ever done something you really regretted?” His answer is usually, “Hell yes, who hasn’t?” Then I 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 over-thinking this step. On the other hand, be prepared to jump at the opportunity when it arrives.