Step 8 – Beyond the Surface

Made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

Beyond the Surface
by Dean Y

The Eighth Step requires a lot of humility. In my experience I had to be slowly humbled in the previous seven Steps to be remotely prepared to take the eighth step. As an addict, I often felt self justified in all my actions and I blamed everyone around me for my poor behavior. I blamed my family, my therapists, my broken relationships and the world at large for what was wrong with me. I collected resentments as if they were prized possessions. If cornered and held accountable, I always cried victim. Harms I perceived done to me fueled my acting out, not only sexually, but in many other ways not limited to stealing, lying, cheating, defaming, criticizing, neglecting and slandering. 

In doing the eighth step, I had to look a lot deeper than just the surface and look to my real motives. "Why did most of my dealings with others end in pain?" I asked myself. There is an old saying that "when you point the finger at someone else, you point three back at yourself". Could that be the case with me? The Eighth Step required a "no sacred cows" and "no stone unturned" approach if my sobriety was to have the legs of longevity that I so desperately wanted. Any suspect behavior I could remember since I was a child had to be reviewed. I found my Fourth Step inventory immensely helpful in trying to make any progress. It says in the Twelve and Twelve (page 77) "I can make little headway in this new adventure of living until I first backtrack and really make an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage I have left behind in my wake". I take the advice of the Twelve and Twelve very seriously and did just as it suggested. 

I listed all the people I could remember harming and started to take full responsibility for my actions. Often I had to remind myself that no one was to be excluded or overlooked because of wrongs I perceived they had done to me. This is one of the most important aspects of step eight that required a truly humble attitude on my part. On page 78 of the AA Twelve and Twelve, I read "Triumphantly we seized upon others behavior as the perfect excuse for minimizing or forgetting our own. Right here we had to fetch our selves up sharply". My sponsor added that I should make no mention whatsoever of misbehavior I had perceived by others done to me when making actual amends. 

Ten years ago, I had a friend who had carried a romantic obsession for me for eight years. I was fully aware of his feelings for me and it bothered me. However I felt I could not live without this man's adoration and loving attention. I kept him strung along making sure his affections were exclusively for me. I never had sex with him nor was I sexually attracted to him. I would tell him from time to time what I thought he wanted to hear, if I sensed he was thinking of straying from me. The whole thing culminated in a sexual assault. A violent rape would not be too far off in describing the scene that took place. Self righteous and with indignation, I cut off the relationship, citing his sexual abuse of me as the irrefutable reason. I told him how sick he was and told him that he should seek out psychiatric help. I threatened him and told him he was lucky I did not go to the police. I was the sole victim and he was the crazed perpetrator who should suffer. That was my interpretation for many years. 

In doing the Eighth Step I had to go back and look much deeper at my involvement. I had to become willing to say I was sorry for my part in all that had happened. I also had to be honest about exploiting this person's feelings for my own gain. Hardest of all, I had to accept full responsibility for my actions and never make reference for any wrongs I perceived had been done to me. It was a very humbling experience. So often I had been guilty of self-righteous and vindictive behavior. Step Eight required a major attitude change. I had fostered the belief that this man's sexual violence was unforgivable. I finally realized that I must forgive him without reservation if I hoped to stay sober for any length of time. It seemed so odd that I had to point out my own faults in this situation and then forgive this man in order to save my own life. In fact, it was an absolute necessity if I were to ever know peace and long-term sobriety. 

Looking honesty at each broken relationship and the wreckage of my past, my sponsor and I made a plan of action. I had more than150 people and institutions that I had to address. Thankfully this step only requires the willingness to make amends. The main focus here was to be thorough and seek out each instance where I was wrong. 

It is my opinion, in retrospect, that anyone who has become humble enough to admit their faults, and is willing to make a true attempt at full restitution for all the harm they have caused other, will know the promises of the program. The AA Big Book tells us most assuredly that the promises will materialize upon completion of steps eight and nine. 

At present I have been in sexual recovery for 14 years and now have five and a half years on my simple plan "no sex outside of a committed and loving relationship". My life is full of purpose, happiness and love, in an abundance I never dreamed possible. I am grateful to have suffered from sex and romance addiction, for without my illness I would not have had access to the spiritual life I lead today. "Step Eight is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God". May God bless you and keep you in the same spirits he does me.