the BIG BOOK BUNCH

Taking Step Eight

Version I 6/9/2000

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The BIG BOOK BUNCH

We are the Big Book Bunch group of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our origins are the Students of the Big Book group, which has met in Woodland Hills, California since December of 1985. Our goals are to live the spiritual process through which sobriety is obtained and enhanced, and to publish (at no charge) our experience for other recovering alcoholics. We have absolutely no affiliation with any organization or cause other than our membership as individuals in A.A..

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Here are the steps we took:  8) Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

That is what the authors of the Big Book and millions before you did.  To personalize the step for your study and action in the here and now, however, you may wish to rephrase it as:

STEP ONE. Make a list of all persons you have harmed. Become willing to make amends to them all.

READING FOR STEP EIGHT

Big Book: Chapter 6, Into Action.
From: Page 76, line 15 Thru: Page 82.
12&12: Step 8

As we take Step 8, we separate it into its first and second halves:

STEP 8a. Make a list of all persons I have harmed..

In other words, who have you harmed? You will recall from our discussion of Steps 4 and 5, that a preliminary list of persons we had harmed is generated there. The list will now be refined into a personal amendment plan, which is the product of Step 8.
Although this step requires plenty of work, there is nothing frightening in it. Amends are not actually made in Step 8. Instead, we plan for the making of amends in Step 9, which follows.
Listing the persons (and institutions) we have harmed is simplified if we break the list into three sections:
  1. People you have harmed since you sobered up, and whom you might still be harming today.

  2. People who tell you that you have harmed them, and they want restitution.

  3. All other persons you think you have harmed, especially those you feel bad about.

On the nature of harms. Our 1939 Webster's second edition tells us that harm is: injury, hurt, damage, misfortune, grief, pain, sorrow, evil, wrong or wickedness. Have we brought about any of these in the lives of others? The Big Book and the 12&12 also are quite specific about harm. Specific varieties are quoted in figure (1).

figure (1)
A Catalogue of Harms Done to Others
sources: BB=the Big Book of A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous
12&12=Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

HARMS, IN GENERAL

1. harm—the result of instincts in collision in which we cause physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to people. [12&12, page 83, line 1]

2. {The alcoholic illness) ..brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents-anyone can increase the list. [BB, page 18, line 7]

3. hurt [BB, page 76, line 30]

4. smarts from our injustice [BB, page 77, line 6]

5. where we have been at fault, [12&12, page 79, line 6]

6. people [we have] hurt [12&12, page 79, line 23]

7. wretched conduct [12&12, page 81, line 3]

8. damaged others who were still happily unaware of being hurt [12&12, page 81, line 10]

9. injure others [12&12, page 84, line 3]

10. disturb others [12&12, page 84, line 3]

11. He does absurd, incredible things while drinking. [BB, page 21, line 14]


PHYSICAL OR MATERIAL HARMS

1. owe money [BB, page 78, line 14]

2. criminal offense [BB, page 78, line 26]

3. short in our accounts [BB, page 78, line 28]

4. padding the expense account [BB, page 78, line 32]

5. unpaid alimony [BB, page 79, line 2]

6. cheat [12&12, page 83, line 5]

7. miserly [12&12, page 83, line 13]


ANTI-SOCIAL HARMS

1. discrediting [another person] [BB, page 80, line 10]

2. destroying the reputation of another [BB, page 80 line 12]

3. disgrace...family [BB, page 80, line 17]

4. ruinous slander [BB, page 80, line 23]

5. given offense [12&12, page 84, line 4]

6. becomes disgustingly and even dangerously anti-social. [BB, page 21, line 20]


EMOTIONAL HARMS

1. [extramarital]...affair [BB, page 81, line 10]

2. [putting others]...through hell [BB, page 80, line 15]

3. broken hearts [BB, page 82, line 25]

4. dead relationships [BB, page 82, line 26]

5. affections uprooted [BB, page 82, line 26]

6. selfish sex conduct [12&12, page 83, line 8]

7. callous [12&12, page 83, line 14]

8. cold [12&12, page 83, line 14]

9. irritable [12&12, page 83, line 14]

10. critical [12&12, page 83, line 15]

11. impatient [12&12, page 83, line 15]

12. humorless [12&12, page 83, line 15]


DISRUPTIVE HARMS

1. selfish habits [BB, page 82, line 27]

2. inconsiderate habits [BB, page 82, line 27]

3. a home in turmoil [BB, page 82, line 27]

4. human wreckage left in [our] wake [12&12, page 79, line 19]

5. our behavior... has aggravated the defects of others [12&12, page 80, line 20]

6. strain...[their] patience [12&12, page 80, line 21]

7. [bring] out the very worst in [others] [12&12, page 80 line 22]

8. tempers are consistently bad [12&12, page 83, line 3]

9. lie [12&12, page 83, line 4]

10. irresponsible [12&12, page 83, line 14]

11. show favoritism [12&12, page 83, line 15]

12. dominate others [12&12, page 83, line 16]

13. wallow in depression [12&12, page 83, line 20]

14. wallow in self-pity [12&12, page 83, line 21]

15. make living with us difficult and often unbearable [12&12, page 83, line 22]

16. incredibly dishonest and selfish [BB, page 21, line 26]


Amending harms done to others since you sobered up, and whom you might still be harming today. Step 8 is concerned with harms of the past. Step 10 corrects harms of the present. But, it is a good idea to make a few points about the nature of harm that we might bring upon others. If we stole while we were practicing the drink profession, it's time we stopped stealing. Right now! If we were insolent, demanding, sarcastic and critical, especially to those who tried to love us, we must learn to stop hurting them–even when we think they deserve it. If we are careless, and we smoke in A.A. meetings, we should look at the fact that second-hand smoke kills over 50,000 people in the USA every year. Where does the Big Book say we have acquired a right to kill or maim our fellow alcoholics while we continue addictive gratification in public?

People who tell you that you have harmed them, and they want restitution. Sometimes others, notably the IRS, law enforcement agencies, the phone company and recipients of alimony or child support are sure we have committed harm, and they want "justice". We might not agree with them. In any event, once we have made adequate use of mediation or the legal system, any residual claims against us should be cleared up. We cannot live in peace when we are being hounded by creditors. Usually they will accept a reasonable, but steady, plan for payment over time.

All other persons you think you have harmed, especially those you feel bad about. Now we are ready to get down to business with the important list of past harms we have done which might be the source of guilt within ourselves.

Amending harms you have done to yourself? We did not put yourself at the top of the list, even though we hear all the time at A.A. meetings that you should be at the top of your amends list. The correct side of such a belief is the absolute truth that we have been very cruel to ourselves. We certainly didn't deserve all the self-punishment we inflicted. And, assuredly, the sober you does not deserve to continue being punished. Clearly, a major benefit of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is the fact that our lives–once we change our drinking matter, attitudes and ways–do get better, the world is no longer battering down our doors, and we are free of guilt. So, the amend we make to ourselves is that we are in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous enjoying the rewards of a brand new way of living.

The alcoholic mind, however, is expert at twisting A.A.s program of recovery into an opportunity for being self-serving. Suppose that you had smashed up your favorite car in a blackout while drinking. You were a person. Losing your car was a harm. You did it. Therefore, you owe yourself a new car! And–if you listen to the bleeding-hearts–getting a new car for yourself is right at the top of your amends list, too! Right? We don't need any more clever gimmicks to get things our own way.

We dare not take the path of rewriting the BB and the 12&12 to mention door-mats or to include ourselves in Step 8. Our founders designed this step to correct our actions upon others, not ourselves.

Writing: List the person harmed, the harm done, the nature of the amend to be made (including the dollar amount, if any) and the amendment priority or projected date. Leave two columns for the date completed and comments about their reaction to our amendment.

STEP 8b. ...and become willing to make amends to them all.

Now that you have our list of persons you have harmed, become ready to make amends to them all. How will you know when you are ready? The only true measure is to begin Step 9. You don't have to be ready to make all your amends before you make the first one. Keep up the getting-ready and the amend-making until you are done. It helps, however, if you order your amends list from the easiest amend to the most difficult. In this manner you can be half way through Step 9 in a short period of time, and the price paid, other than some wounded pride, will be insignificant. You will feel very pleased that you are really taking the steps.

A word of caution, again. Please do not commence Step 9 without some guidance. You can possibly bring further harm to others or needless inconvenience to yourself through premature or ill considered amends.

PROMISES of Step 8 (from page 78).


If our manner is calm, frank, and open,
  1. we will be gratified with the result. In nine cases out of ten the unexpected happens. Sometimes the man we are calling upon admits his own faults,
  2. so feuds of years' standing melt away in an hour.
  3. Rarely do we fail to make satisfactory progress. Our
  4. former enemies sometimes praise what we are doing and wish us well.
  5. Occasionally, they will offer assistance.

The principle of Step 8 is __________________.


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