By Christine R.
“Christine, you need eyes for your 9th Step. You need someone to receive your 9th Step amends on behalf of your dead father. Before you go to his tombstone in Reno, make your amends to me.” Thus spoke my sponsor who provided a baseline by which to make amends to those who have departed, as well as opportunities to receive amends from sponsees whose loved ones are dead.
My drinking career began when my father died unexpectedly and I was 15. Unable to handle the grief, I poured myself into a scotch bottle. Some 15 years later, I came pouring back out again. Only this time, the liquid was my tears. Fifteen years of bottled-up grief turned a wounded teenager into a screaming, raging drunk.
Finally, under the guidance of strong sponsorship, I stood at the crest of my drinking history— the memory and hurt of a love lost long ago, my father. With papers ready and in a complete downpour, my sponsor and I scampered out to a little gazebo at a park we often frequented.
The heavens opened up with rain. Water was everywhere outside and inside. Tears were spreading down my sponsor’s cheeks hearing the heart-felt shame, regret, love and forgiveness from that 9th Step. Her tears mingled with mine and were washed away by the rain. Through her eyes, I could feel my father’s eyes. I knew dad heard me.
They say, “Water seeks its own level.” Quite true in sponsorship as countless women enter my life whose parent died early or unexpectedly. We share the pattern of unrequited love. The unfinished business. The “if onlys.” At the deepest of levels, I know these women and they know me.
One woman hated her father so much she did not even have a photo of the guy, so great was her wound. (Thankfully, the 9th Step is a far piece away from the 1st!) By dint of working Steps 1-8, she came to a point of willingness to discover a well-worn, black and white photo of her with her father at a fiesta in Mexico—even the edges were still gilt with tiny specs of salt from the margaritas!
Using her cell phone, she took a picture of the picture. With the phone camera on, the fragile, tattered, black and white photo became part of her 9th Step. The one she was about to give to me. This time I was the dad. Like my sponsor before me, I turned into her father. Like wires in an electric cable, I became the conduit between the living and the dead. After we finished, she printed up her dad’s photo. Now he adorns her altar. Now he has a place in her heart where before there was only turmoil. She has appreciation for her father and feels the “all around forgiveness” promised in our Program.
There is one in our Fellowship who says, “You don’t want to go to your deathbed knowing you could have done something, and you didn’t. The 9th Step is your way out.”
Through the lens of that kind of consciousness, we can truly see what needs handling right away and what does not. This is why, if our parents are still alive and we have not done our 9th Step, now is the time to get going. Saying the amends to a tombstone is nothing like saying them in person. Up close and personal, you can read in the other person’s eyes you really mean what you say. You are following through to amend your ways. They see what you see—the mend-making is more than an apology—you are creating a new beginning.
However, if the beloved is deceased, find a safe person to receive your amends. Read in their eyes what they read in yours. Only forgiveness and love and eye see you.