Step 9 of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Read on to learn how step 9 of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program can help those struggling with alcohol addiction and abuse.

If you are struggling with alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) might be the 12-step program you need to maintain sobriety. Each of the 12 steps is meant to help you overcome your issues with alcohol and work toward a better life.

Step 9 of AA, in particular, can be a challenging one for many people. That’s because this is the step that will require you to be willing to go to any length to make amends with those you have harmed with your drinking. For many, the ninth step of AA requires a careful sense of timing, courage, and prudence.1

What Is Step 9 of AA?

Step 9 reads as follows:

“Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”1

Step 9 of AA is a big one. That’s because it’s the step where you finally start to make amends with the people you’ve wronged. Sure, you may have done this in certain ways after your very first AA meeting. Even just sharing with your family that you’re going to AA is, in some ways, a form of reconciliation.1 Previous steps have also asked you to change your attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs, which are other ways to show others that you’re trying to do better.

However, step 9 of AA is about a lot more than just sharing that you’re in recovery or saying that you’re sorry for what you’ve done. It’s easy to toss around a simple “sorry,” but that likely doesn’t even begin to cover the many ways you’ve hurt loved ones. Step 9 compels you to go deeper and face these scary things you’ve been trying to avoid. It requires a full and honest apology that doesn’t shy away from the truth. And if you’ve stolen money or property, you should also be prepared to make financial amends.

The only exception to your amends is when they might cause harm to another person.1 As an example, if you had an affair with a married person, it would cause more harm than good to go to their spouse and disclose your relations. In these cases, you should avoid perpetuating more pain.

For most people, this form of apologizing has been a long time coming. Chances are, it’s been weighing you down for some time. You may have even created some anxiety or fear over facing the people you’ve hurt in the past, as you may be worried that they’ll reject your apology or retaliate against you.

It’s normal to feel this way, but it’s something you’ll need to overcome. Part of making direct amends means taking personal responsibility for your actions and confronting the people you want to reconcile with.

Luckily, you’ll have already made a full inventory of everyone you harmed back in Step 8 of AA, so by this point, you’ll already know who you need to make amends to and why.2 With this list in hand, you don’t have to let your fear overtake you. Rather, focus on the excitement of possibly repairing a relationship or the relief of paying off debt. At the end of the day, Step 9 of AA should leave you with a feeling of freedom as you remove yourself from the burden of your alcoholism.

How to Make Amends in the 9th Step of AA

When it’s time for you to move to Step 9, your primary tool will be the list you created during Step 8. To make your list a little less daunting, try dividing it into three categories: Restoration, Resolution, and Restitution.

The Restoration list is all about bringing something back to a previous state. It should include everything related to restoring your reputation and repairing trust in a relationship. For example, if you damaged your relationship with your best friend by lying to them, you might try to restore the relationship by talking through things.

With your Resolution list, the goal is to solve problems you caused while you were using alcohol. As an example, maybe you got a friend fired after they called out of work to help you. You might help them get their job back or find a new job as a means of making amends.

The people on your Restitution list should be people you took things from. This may be something as simple as money or as complicated as a family heirloom. Do your best to repay whatever you can, and if you don’t have the funds right away, create a repayment plan to satisfy your debt.

If you’re a bit stuck, your AA sponsor can help you separate your list into categories. They’ll help you explore these categories to gain more perspective on each of the specific amends so you can stay focused on the task at hand. It’s their job to be someone you can turn to whenever you have questions, doubts, or problems related to your alcoholism.3

Whatever you do, don’t try to rush Step 9 of AA. Making amends will take a lot of patience with yourself and with anyone you are hoping to repair relationships with. It’s not something you can just do on the fly. You’ll need to take time to think about and plan the process to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone involved.

Questions to Ask During Step Nine of AA

Due to Step 9 of AA involving a lot of fearful feelings, you need to understand that the way things feel are not always the way that they are. Your judgment and emotions can be clouded by the shroud alcohol has put on your past.

To prepare for this step, try and let go of all expectations. Don’t fret over how your amends will turn out. As long as you try as hard as you can and are truly sincere, you’ve done all you can. For more help, consider this list of questions you can ask yourself as you work through this step:

  • Do I accept responsibility for causing harm, even in cases where that harm was indirect or unintentional?
  • When I make amends, am I committing to continuing to change moving forward?
  • What are my fears about making amends? How can I think about these fears differently?
  • Why is the reception of my amends not as important as actually making them?
  • Are there patterns to the wrongs I’m amending? Are there any fouls I consistently committed that I can work on avoiding in the future?
  • Do I trust in my Higher Power to keep me secure even though I’m giving up my financial comfort to make amends?
  • How can I use my sponsor and peers throughout Step 9 for help?
  • How has what I’ve experienced as an alcoholic and a member of AA changed how I view how I’ve harmed people? In what ways has it made my faults clearer?
  • Are there any instances on my list where it might cause more harm than good to make amends?
  • How can Step 9 further help me surrender to my Higher Power?
  • How can I make amends to myself? Do I have goals to work toward in the future?
  • How can forgiveness change my life? Where else in life can I use this principle?
  • Am I prepared to move on to Step 10? How will I know I am ready?

Next: Step 10

Previous: Step 8