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Alcoholism and the Eighth Step in Al-Anon - Prepare to Make Amends

Updated on March 10, 2018
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah has several alcoholic relatives and became active in Al-anon, for families of alcoholics, over 36 years ago, often helping others.

It Feels Good to Clear the Air with Friends!

Telling people that we are sorry for our past behavior makes us feel better.
Telling people that we are sorry for our past behavior makes us feel better. | Source

What is an Alanon 8th Step?

The Alanon Eighth Step says that we “made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” For many new Alanon members, the thought of making amends to other people, especially those in our family, can be extremely scary. Remember, this step only asks you to make a list. Don’t rush off to make amends until you have made your list, discussed it with your sponsor, and prayed about the names you have added to your list. Take your time.

In addition, remember that there are different ways to make amends. There is no reason to let this step panic you.

Why Do You Have to Make an Amends List?

By the time we go to Al-Anon, many of us feel as though we have spent our lives sacrificing ourselves to help an alcoholic. When we make a list of people we have harmed in order to complete the 8th Step of Al-Anon, it is not unusual to feel resentful towards the alcoholic and other people in our lives. After everything we have done for them, now we are being asked to make a list of the people WE have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them. Who have we harmed, you may be asking? Why should I have to make amends to anyone? So what if I have gotten angry with the alcoholic, screamed at him, or said hurtful things? Didn't he or she deserve it? Haven’t I bailed the alcoholic out of problem after problem? Where would he be without me?

When we become ready to make amends to the alcoholic, and anyone else we have hurt, we have made an important step towards healing from the pain we have been feeling.

Sometimes members of Al-Anon call the 8th and 9th steps “keeping our side of the street clean.” This means that even if some of the people on our list owe amends to us, that does not mean we should postpone making amends to them. We are only interested in making ourselves feel better. We cannot control how they respond.

Below you'll learn about the types of people who should be on your list.

Here are the 12 Steps of Alanon

Al-Anons Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions
Al-Anons Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions

This book goes through all of the 12 Steps, as well as the Alanon traditions. If you are nervous about going to your first meeting of Al-Anon, you can order it online and read it in the privacy of your home. Alanon has changed the lives of millions of people who have loved an alcoholic or drug addict. Like many other Al-Anon members, I have found this book to be very helpful in getting the most out of my Al-Anon program.


Who Should You Put on Your Amends List?

When doing your Alanon 8th Step, the first person you should make amends to is the alcoholic. What?! After all the grief that person has caused you, how can you be expected to make amends to him or her? By this stage in your program, you should be able to see that some of your past behavior only made things worse. Your anger, resentment, and punishing attitude did not make either of you happy. It also created a home life that was strained and uncomfortable for everyone around you. Put the alcoholic's name at the top of your list.

The next people you will need to add to your 8th Step list will be the friends and family members you may have harmed because of your reaction to the alcoholic. Your past reactions may have caused you to scream at or neglect your children. You may have told lies to friends and relatives in a misguided attempt to protect the alcoholic. You may have gone around with a chip on your shoulder, because you felt angry. Perhaps you made a scene at a social event or public place. You may even have complained to a dear friend for hours about how awful your alcoholic is. Now is your opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and make a fresh start of your relationships. Add all the friends and family members you can think of to your 8th Step list.

Once you have finished, below you will discover that there is still one more person that you need to put on the list.

If the Alcoholic is Your Spouse, You Will Find This Book to be Very Helpful

The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage
The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage

If you are struggling to survive in your marriage to an alcoholic, you will find this book very illuminating and helpful. I read this book when my husband first sobered up in Alcoholics Anonymous. Up until then, I did not understand what it meant to be an alcoholic and how it was affecting our marriage.


The Most Important Person to Put on Your Amends List

Finally, no Al-Anon 8th Step list would be complete until you add yourself. You are going to need to forgive yourself for all the foolish and embarrassing things you did and said in the past. You will need to let go of them, and allow yourself to enjoy your life in the future. Don't keep punishing yourself for your past mistakes. Make sure your name is on your Al-Anon 8th Step. Once your 8th Step list is complete, you will feel prepared to start your 9th Step.


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    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you, Au fait, for sharing this article. I agree that it is an important issue, even for people who are not dealing with alcoholism in their family.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Came back to share this article again. This is an important issue for everyone even if they aren't in Alanon.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I am a firm believer in that forgiveness does more for the forgiver than for the forgiven. When you forgive someone you let go of whatever wrong or perceived wrong they have done to you and you are then free to move on without the burden of a grudge.

      Grudges are very needy and high maintenance. They must be nursed and tended regularly, and they are often so, so heavy to carry around.

      None of of us are perfect and we all do things from time to time that we later regret whether on purpose or by accident. What goes around comes around. Forgive your transgressors so that you too can be forgiven. Let go the heavy yoke of resentment. Lighten your load and put the pain and sorrow behind you so that it doesn't also taint the future.

      Refuse to allow someone who has hurt you to spoil your future whether it's 5 minutes from now or a day or a week or a year. Forgive them and move forward into a new day without the heavy yoke of hurt and resentment that usually accompanies a grudge.

      Forgiveness doesn't have to mean setting yourself up for a replay. It means letting go of the burden and freeing your mind and your heart for better tomorrows.

      Just as you need to let go of your own hurts and resentments, you should also make amends to those you have hurt. Again, it relieves you of any guilt or anguish you may feel because of your own actions or words. Making things right isn't always easy, but it can be helpful in raising your own opinion of yourself and building your confidence in yourself. Doing the right thing can feel just as good as getting a huge dreaded chore accomplished. If you think about it, they aren't so different from each other and when they are done the weight that is lifted from one's shoulders can be truly incredible.

      Voted up and sharing.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you for reading about the Alanon Eighth Step. When we make amends to other people, we need to make amends to ourselves, too. It is easy to fall into the trap of being overly critical towards ourselves and, if we want to move on with our lives, we have to get past the guilt we feel over past mistakes.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I like the part of this step," you need to forgive yourself." Very interesting, voted up.