Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. Wilson, who was himself an alcoholic and seeking a more effective support group to recover from alcoholism, created the fellowship from his efforts to help Smith recovery using techniques that Wilson had found effective. It was Wilson’s goal to provide those suffering from alcoholism with the means of achieving physical and spiritual recovery by participating in a fellowship that offered moral support, encouragement, motivation, and accountability. As the recovery fellowship continued to grow, it spread over the country and eventually the world, accruing more and more members who were suffering from addiction and found comfort, solace, and relief in the program’s philosophy and methods.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
The renowned Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were first put forth by Wilson and Smith in what members of the group refer to as “The Big Book,” or Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism, which was published in 1939 and has since remained one of the best-selling books of all time. The Big Book was intended to offer a standardized form of the fellowship’s methods with which others could create additional chapters to duplicate the results, creating the renowned twelve-step method that is used today to treat not just alcoholism, but addiction to other substances and even behavioral addictions such as sex addiction, exercise addiction, gambling addiction, and so on. With the response to Wilson’s Twelve Steps being so powerful and positive, Wilson followed Alcoholics Anonymous with The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions in 1953, offering an in-depth and detailed interpretation of the program’s Twelve Steps as well as the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
According to the official literature of the program, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are a set of essential principles—sometimes referred to as spiritual principles—that offer those suffering from addiction a course of action by which they can be guided through addiction to a place of physical and spiritual recovery. Members of twelve-step programs who join the fellowship with the hope of recovering from addiction are directed to “work the steps,” which is the phrase used by members to mean completing each of the steps in numerical order so that individuals can progress from the point of suffering from addiction to a place of recovery. As part of the twelve-step method, individuals begin by first admitting powerlessness to alcohol or the substance to which they’re addicted. Members work their way—often with the guidance of a sponsor—through each of the successive steps, appealing to a higher power to restore mental and physical health, taking a “moral inventory,” admitting prior wrongdoings that resulted from addiction, and so on. However, the eighth step of Alcoholics Anonymous is considered to be one of the most influential in recovery and considered crucial to one’s spiritual journey as well due to being the beginning of the process of making amends.
The Eighth Step: Listing Those We Have Harmed & Making Amends
According to Alcoholics Anonymous literature, the eighth step is divided neatly into two parts. The first part entails making a list of those individuals that have been harmed over the course of an addict’s addiction. Since addiction creates a lot of wreckage in an individual’s life, the addict is often left with a number of damaged or destroyed relationships, lost jobs and other opportunities, and so on. In the eighth step, the individual makes a list of all those individuals who were harmed in the course of addiction. These might be individuals the addict had stolen from, lied to, or harmed in some other way while pursuing addiction. Additionally, this might include businesses and institutions as well as specific individuals. This process typically involves writing an actual, physical list using paper and pencil, which helps give the addict a template to work from as they continue to the next part of the eighth step.
It’s accepted that when individuals begin making their lists of those they have harmed, they might not yet be ready to make amends. Once the individuals who have been harmed have been listed, the individual is better able to consider the ramifications of their actions and how addiction affects more than just the addict. Over time, addicts will have opportunities to make amends to those on their lists, doing what the can to make up for the harm they’ve caused. However, this requires a certain level of sincerity as making amends is an incredibly humbling process.
Amends is more than just an apology. An apology is just words, a sentiment that expresses shame and regret. By contrast, amends is one’s attempt to right wrongs and to restore balance or justice to someone who has been wronged. For example, when an addict commits a crime against another person or a business, making amends might involve taking responsibility for the crime and accepting punishment, even if it means a fine or jail time. In the event that someone’s life is lost as the result of an addict’s actions such as in the case of a drunk driving accident, the addict might make amends by becoming an organ donor, which can offer life to someone in need in the future. The way in which an individual makes amends will vary from one
Freedom in the Eighth Step
Although they may not always show it, addicts—especially those in recovery—tend to carry a lot of guilt. In fact, the guilt can be so intense that it prohibits them from entering an addiction treatment program, preferring instead to continue covering up the guilt with substance abuse. In the eighth step, addicts are able to begin preparing themselves for atonement and to be able to make up for their prior wrongdoings, which has a way of lessening the tiresome burden of guilt. This allows the addict to feel better about him or herself as a sober individual and an addict in recovery who doesn’t need to use substance abuse as a buffer against guilt and the regret of harming others, especially family members, friends, and other loved ones.
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs, the Palm Beach Institute can help. We have a time of knowledgeable recovery specialists that are waiting to help you find the program that will return you to a life of sobriety, health, and fulfillment. Call us today.