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How to Work Step 8 [of the 12 Steps]

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

While working Step 8 of the 12-Step Program, you’re going to make a list of the people you have wronged and the specific ways you have harmed each one. Doing this can be difficult and facing the wreckage of your past is never easy. But with the right support, you can make it through this step and onto the next.

Related post: Why Is Making Amends Important?

If you’re ready to start working Step 8 but don’t know how to begin, this article may help. In it, we’ll offer insight into Step 8’s purpose and meaning, as well as a few useful tips on how to get started working on this step.

What Are the 12 Steps?

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What Is Step 8 of the 12-Step Program?

Step 8 of the 12-Step Program is: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

What Is the Purpose of the Eighth Step in the 12-Step Program?

The purpose of Step 8 is to take steps toward healing the past with others. Step 8 asks us to begin doing this by making a list of people we harmed during our addiction.

Making your list is just the beginning of the amends process. It’s a process that helps you identify the damage and harm you’ve done to others while you were addicted, whether you intended to or not. Writing those names down is an acknowledgment that you have a responsibility to admit to what you did, take responsibility, ask for forgiveness, and forgive yourself. 

Some people on your list may have also caused you harm. Resentment, anger, and pride are all things that may keep you from writing their names down on your list. However, just remember that by not choosing to forgive them, you give those people power in your life.

Before you can start rebuilding relationships as a sober person, you first have to work on healing some of the damage that was done. Make sure to write those names down! Don’t just keep them in your head. You’ll want to include specific details on why you need to make amends with each person too.

The overarching purpose of making this list is to prepare yourself to take action and also to prevent you from running out and apologizing to everyone you can think of. Writing down each person’s name and taking time to contemplate why and how you want to make amends will result in a much more genuine apology. One that (hopefully) leads to healing, forgiveness, and change.

Although you can’t control another person’s response, you can control your side of things. And making genuine amends is an excellent way to begin rebuilding your relationships after addiction.

Common Misconceptions About Step 8

  • Step 8 is easy—you just make a list. In reality, this step is very challenging. There’s no shame in asking for help if you need it. In fact, most people do! For some people, Step 8 can conjure negative self-talk, difficult emotions, and can even increase cravings. If you find yourself dealing with these things while working Step 8, lean on a mental health professional, sponsor, or supportive family member for help. You don’t have to do this on your own!
  • You don’t have anyone to write down. No matter where you come from or what you did, everyone has names to add to this list. Even if you don’t think the people on your list will be receptive to your amends, you should still write their names down. Additionally, if you find yourself examining your past behaviors and making excuses for them, you might ask yourself these questions:
  • Was I kind and considerate to others?
  • What were my motives while I was dealing with friends, family members, and co-workers?
  • Was I more concerned about doing what was right or getting what I wanted?

Answering these questions can help you have a clearer view of how and when you may have harmed others in your past.

How to Work Step 8: 3 Tips

1. Just write those names down.

Step 8 can be daunting and overwhelming, especially if you allow your thoughts to linger on things that you’ve done in the past. The best way to get started with Step 8 is to get that list of names down on paper. If you can’t decide who should be on your list, try thinking about those people you feel uncomfortable being around. Chances are, you may feel that way because of something you’ve done in the past that has caused hurt, conflict, or resentment. (This can also go both ways if they have also done something that caused you harm.) Don’t shy away from writing every name down, even if you’re unsure if you’re willing to make amends or if they’ll be well-received.

2. Don’t let negative emotions keep you from doing the work.

Many people delay working on Step 8, which can be more harmful in the long run. Giving in to negative emotions like fear, resentment, anger, blame, and self-pity can put a damper on the healing process. In making your list, you’ll realize that there are some names you don’t want to put down, but you need to because you recognize that all of us are broken, imperfect human beings. We all hurt one another and we’re all a work in progress. But, by choosing to make your list and make amends, you’re asking people in your life to have compassion and you’re also displaying compassion towards others who may have harmed you in the past.

3. Break your list into categories.

Once you feel like your list is very thorough, work with your sponsor or counselor to break your list into four different categories:

  • People to make amends to now.
  • People to make partial amends to (so you don’t injure them or others).
  • People to make amends to later.
  • People you may never be able to make direct personal contact with.

You’ll likely have some names listed under each category. Therefore, you’ll need to decide how to handle each one independently. However, your sponsor or counselor can help you determine the best course of action depending on the situation.

Related post: What to Expect At Your First AA Meeting

Get Help to Work Step 8

Like much of the 12-Step Program, Step 8 is a challenging one. If you need help to work this step, you can seek help through your AA sponsor, counselor, sober peers in your community support group, or treatment professionals at a rehab center.

Eudaimonia Recovery Homes offers 12-Step-based recovery support services and sober living homes in the Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs areas. Each of our homes is operated by on-site staff, including a House Manager who oversees the home and provides ongoing support and accountability.

All Eudaimonia residents are required to attend local recovery group meetings. Many residents choose to attend 12-Step fellowships like AA or NA, but some prefer alternative recovery groups. Our staff only requires that residents attend those meetings. Each resident is encouraged to decide what type of recovery meeting is best suited for them, 12-Step or not.

Eudaimonia Recovery Homes also provides the following recovery support services to residents of our sober homes:

Regardless of how long you’ve been sober or how many times you went to treatment, the caring staff at Eudaimonia are here to support and encourage you. Please call (512) 363-5914 if you need assistance working through the 12-Step Program and the support offered through our sober living programs.

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