Step 9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others


How It Works

Although these reparations take innumerable forms, there are some general principles which we find guiding. Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything.
-A.A. Big Book p.79

More about Step 9 in the Big Book


Comments from Web Sites and Publications

Step 9 completes what I started in step 8. I make amends to those that I have harmed. I pay back debts I owe. I apologize. I write letters. I find time to do and say things that would help heal the damage that I have done. I try to bring goodness where previously I had brought discord and destruction. It takes insight, courage and dedication to make such amends, but now I have the help of my God to know what to do and how to do it. I learn to earnestly seek the right way to go about this process from my God. I start to live the kind of life that my God has meant for me to live all along.
- From 12Step.org


After we have made a list of people we have harmed, have reflected carefully upon each instance, and have tried to possess ourselves of the right attitude in which to proceed, we will see that the making of direct amends divides those we should approach into several classes. There will be those who ought to be dealt with just as soon as we become reasonably confident that we can maintain our sobriety. There will be those to whom we can make only partial restitution, lest complete disclosures do them or others more harm than good. There will be other cases where action ought to be deferred, and still others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 83


Timing is an essential part of this step. We should make amends when the first opportunity presents itself, except when to do so will cause more harm. Sometimes we cannot actually make the amends; it is neither possible nor practical. In some cases, amends may be beyond our means. We have found that willingness can serve in the place of action where we are unable to contact the person we have harmed. However, we should never fail to contact anyone because of embarrassment, fear or procrastination.

...In some old relationships, an unresolved conflict may still exist. We do our part to resolve old conflicts by making our amends. We want to step away from further antagonisms and ongoing resentments. In many instances we can only go to the person and humbly ask for understanding of past wrongs. Sometimes this will be a joyous occasion when some old friend or relative proves very willing to let go of their bitterness. To go to someone who is hurting from the burn of our misdeeds can be dangerous. Indirect amends may be necessary where direct ones would be unsafe or endanger other people. We can only make our amends to the best of our ability. We try to remember that when we make amends, we are doing it for ourselves. Instead of feeling guilty and remorseful, we feel relieved about our past.
- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 9


The making of amends needs to be approached cautiously by codependent people. There are three things amends are or can be. There is one thing they definitely should not be.

Amends can be these things:

  1. Sincere efforts to offer apology for past harm.
  2. Wonderful bridge-builders for more positive future relationships.
  3. Effective agents for removing the tremendous weight of guilt, shame, and remorse.
The one thing amends should never be, though, are installment payments on false guilt or false shame...

There are five categories of persons to whom we may consider making amends. Notice how this contrasts with what we did in Step 8. There we included everyone to whom we were willing to make amends. In Step 9, however, as we prepare to execute this step, we use a high degree of discretion regarding to whom we will make amends and when this should happen...
- Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 62, 63


We will need to have the proper attitude as we approach this step. First, it is good to have forgiven both ourselves and the people we injured, regardless of anything they might have done to retaliate. We will not succeed in resolving the conflict if we are still angry and defensive.

Second, we need to have a good idea going into the encounter about what we want to say and accomplish. Most importantly we want to make sure we state our apology without assigning any blame to the ones we injured. We must act responsibly as we make our confession adn attempt amends, having thought through all the possible consequences so that we will not be caught off guard and be provoked to anger. A rehearsal with a sponsor, therapist, or friend may help prepare us.

We need to be open to any response we get from people we've injured, and be ready to accept their response without becoming angry. We are not there to manipulate them into forgiving us. In order to have this come off smoothly, we should make every effort to purge our bad feelings toward the person or incident before we meet to speak. This will help us resist the temptation to point out to them what we felt they did to provoke us. We are only there to talk about our own behavior.

It is also a good idea not to take the other person by surprise. They have a right to know that you intend to make amends. They have a right to refuse to let you do this at this time....You can leave an open invitation to talk whenever and wherever they might feel comfortable at some time in the future.
- The Twelve Step Journal, by Claudette Wassil-Grimm, p. 224-225


When we make amends we are simply telling the person we harmed the truth about our actions as we now see it, trusting that the healing, the self-acceptance, and the serenity we will gain is worth the rejection we may encounter. We are trusting that God and our fellow seekers in this Way can do more to bring us to happiness and intimacy than any negative opinion could hurt us. Although this risking of open rejection by those to whom we make amends is frightening, we have the experience of thousands of people who have taken this step before us to encourage and strengthen us as we go. After making amends to all the people we listed in Step Eight, we begin to experience the "promises of the program"...

Doing Step Nine correctly also takes courage, prudence, good judgment, and a careful sense of timing. If you are just coming into the Twelve Steps as you read this, remember that you're not ready to do Step Nine yet. You've got eight steps to walk through first. By the time you get to this poiint you may be amazed at the way you have become ready to trust God and do Step Nine....
- A Hunger for Healing, by Keith Miller, p. 148


As you can see, this will be a lengthy, difficult, soul-searching process that requires creativity and courage. Your guides can be important here. By reviewing your process as you go along, they can help you stay in reality. Maybe they will have different reactions to the events than you have, or perhaps they will challenge your intentions or suggest alternative actions. Remember, these amends do not have to be done all at once. You deserve time to think and feel the process through. Again, gentleness is your goal.
- A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, by Patrick Carnes, p. 161


Personal Experiences

In our forums, you can read about how others have worked step 9, or share your own experiences about working step 9. The audio section also has examples of people sharing about how step 9 worked for them.

To share your own experiences in the forums, you first need to sign up for free membership.