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Alcoholism and the Ninth Step in Alanon - How to Make Amends

Updated on October 1, 2015
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah has several alcoholic relatives and became active in Al-anon, for families of alcoholics, over 34 years ago, often helping others.

Make Amends and Give Your Friendship a Fresh Start

Take a deep breath, apologize for past behaviors, and begin to treat others better in the future.  Your relationships will be so much easier!
Take a deep breath, apologize for past behaviors, and begin to treat others better in the future. Your relationships will be so much easier! | Source

What is the Alanon 9th Step?

The Alanon Ninth Step says that we “made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.” Basically, this step asks us to apologize and make amends for some of our past behaviors. It’s important to note that it is not enough to simply tell someone you are sorry; you also need to make amends for your past behavior.

If you have been a member of Alanon for a few months or longer, the Alanon 9th Step is the step you have probably been dreading the most. Few Alanon members are excited about starting the 9th Step because they have spent years trying to convince others that they knew what was best for them; in particular, this is what they have always told the alcoholics they loved. The problem is that we did not recognize that we could have been doing more harm than good by trying to control the alcoholic.

How can we turn around now and tell them that we may have been wrong in the way we behaved and treated them in the past? How can we prove to them that we really do want to stop trying to control them?

Although it may be hard to swallow our pride when we talk to the people we have harmed, once you begin to make your amends, you are quite likely to feel a great weightlifting off your shoulders. In fact, when we stop trying to control other people, we stop feeling the burden of feeling that we are responsible for what they do or do not do.

As this step progresses, you will become more enthusiastic about doing it, because you will start to see how much better you feel.

Why You Should Make Amends

In the 9th Step, you are asked to make direct amends to anyone you have harmed, unless it will injure them or someone else. At first, you may feel that making amends is unnecessary. You may feel that the alcoholics should be making amends to you, not the other way around. However, the 9th Step is essential in helping you towards your goal of having a happier, more serene life. You’ll no longer be carrying around all this guilt about the way you sometimes have treated people in the past. You’ll feel less stress, and less need to be right all the time.

Making Amends to the Alcoholic

The first person you should make your 9th Step amends to is the alcoholic. The way to begin your amends is to simply apologize for your past emotional outbursts and anything cruel or uncaring that you have said or done. However, apologies are meaningless if you don't change your behavior. Changed behavior is how Alanon members usually make amends. Therefore, you also need to begin to treat the alcoholic differently in the future. Moderate your voice. Stop trying to control the alcoholic or correct their behavior. Let them make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences. Let them be.

If the Alcoholic is Your Spouse, You'll Find a Lot of Help in This Book

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

This book has helped thousands of people get their marriage back on track when alcoholism has been a problem in the relationship. It will also help you understand when you should make amends for the things you have done to harm the relationship ... even if you feel that most the blame lies with your spouse.


Making Amends to Friends and Family

Next, you will need to make 9th Step amends to friends and family members whom you may have harmed because of your reaction to the alcoholic. Once again, start with apologies, when you can. Then, change your future behavior. Treat your children with love. Try to become a better parent. If you don't spend so much energy trying to control the alcoholic, you may be surprised at how much energy you have left to become a better parent, child, sibling or friend to the people you love. Your relationships will improve as you become a better person.

What to do When You Cannot Make Amends to the Person

If you are in a situation where you are unable to make 9th Step amends to someone because they have died or moved away, you can still change your future behavior towards others. For example, if you were angry with your mother-in-law because you believed she was enabling her alcoholic son, you may now regret that you cannot make amends since she has died. However, by treating other relatives better in the future, and no longer blaming them for the actions of the alcoholic, you will be making 9th Step amends to that mother-in-law, as well.

Be especially careful about making amends that could hurt someone else. For example, if you told lies to your husband’s employer in order to protect him, there is nothing to be gained by calling them up and telling them that you lied when you told them that he had the flu in the past because he was actually hung over. At the same time, you can make amends for this past behavior by not continuing to tell those lies in the future. Simply tell the alcoholic that you don’t want to harm him by exposing the lies you told in the past; however, you will not be covering up for him in the future.

Gradually, as you make your amends, you will be amazed at how much relief the amends bring you. You will be especially relieved when you are careful to make sure that your amends do not do any further harm.

Make Amends to Yourself

There is one more person to put on your amends list … yourself. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made in the past. Stop tormenting yourself and berating yourself for past behaviors. Put the past behind, and treat yourself to a fun experience. You deserve to be treated well, too!

This Alanon Book Helps You Understand All the Steps

Al-Anon's Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions
Al-Anon's Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions

This book will help you understand all the Alanon steps and learn how to apply them to your life and your relationships. Everyone who is trying to follow this program will need one of these books ... as well as some of the other AA and Alanon books that are available online and at meetings.



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    • ezzly profile image

      ezzly 2 years ago

      Very beautiful hub, making amends and fresh starts are important in every relationship. Not one of us is perfect. Voted up and sharing

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 2 years ago from Orange County, California

      Alanon changed my life and I hope that sharing this information will help other people who love alcoholics ... whether they are a spouse, parent, child or friend.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      People who love alcoholics feel such a sense of relief when they stop trying to control the behavior of those alcoholics. This step helps you gently release them.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      One alcoholic in a family can destroy the entire family and leave scars that last for decades. It was kind of you to listen to your friend when she would call drunk although, as you said, drunks often do not even realize that they called or that someone else listened. I'm glad your friend at least apologized to you!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      It can sure hurt a family when you have an alcoholic in it.

      My friend use to get drunk at least once a week and in the middle of the night she would call and want to talk. I always talked to her but knew by morning she would not remember what we talked about. One time she called and apologize for all the years of calling me and I never heard from her again. Voted up

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 5 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you, billybuc, for you comments on my Alanon series. Step Nine is a tough one, but completing it makes you feel so much better!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A tough step indeed and one that has brought quite a few of my sponsees to their knees, unable to continue. Great hub and presentation of the facts. Keep on doing what you are doing for you do it well.