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Alcoholics Anonymous Step 8

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Alcohol misuse affects millions of Americans, and there are a variety of treatment programs and services available that can help you break free. One of the most well-known is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which uses a 12-Step process to help participants move beyond problem drinking and create new habits for a healthy life. Moving through the steps of AA has helped millions of people make peace with the past and break free from alcohol misuse.1

This article will look specifically at Step 8, which states, “Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends with them all.” Knowing how to successfully complete this step will help you as you move through your recovery journey.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous Step 8?

The goal of Alcoholics Anonymous Step 8 is to acknowledge and repair the damage that has been done, “clean away the debris of the past,” and learn how to develop positive relationships going forward.2

This is a long process. It’s common for Alcoholics Anonymous members to get better at making amends over time, but this step may never be truly “finished.”2 The step involves a willingness to face the pain of the past, open old wounds, and truly acknowledge who has been hurt and in what ways.2

In making a list of the people harmed, how do we determine “harm”? Some people who struggle with alcohol misuse may believe that their drinking hasn’t hurt anyone but themselves.2 AA defines “doing harm” as causing physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage to others.2 Depriving people of emotional security or peace of mind counts as harm in this way.2 Harmful behaviors can impact everyone we know.2

Step 8 involves cataloging these harms and setting the intention to repair relationships that were damaged during addiction, a process which calls for confronting your behaviors and thoughts that contributed to those harms.2 Then, you make a vigorous attempt to repair the damage done.2

Examples of Making Amends

What does it mean to make amends? You’ll want to apologize for damaging behaviors and make a strong effort to change attitudes that have hurt others.

Some examples of damaging behaviors include:2

  • Being callous or cold toward others.
  • Being selfish or irresponsible.
  • Lying or cheating.
  • Displaying physically or emotionally abusive behavior.
  • Being bad-tempered and easy to anger.
  • Wallowing in self-pity.
  • Driving under the influence.

AA literature suggest that members consider that their behavior may have brought about the worst in others, and it’s vital to keep an attitude of repentance and forgiveness.2

Starting, Working, and Following Step 8

How do you begin and work through AA Step 8? The first step is to look backward and determine where you’ve been at fault.2 That means taking time to truly reflect. It will likely be easiest to think of how you’ve hurt those closest to you, but you want to include work colleagues, acquaintances, and others as well.

Next, you make a vigorous effort to repair the damage.2 This involves making a face-to-face confession of what you’ve done to the people you’ve hurt.2 You’ll need to do this even if the other person isn’t aware of what you’ve done or how you’ve hurt them.2 You’ll want to avoid making extreme judgments about yourself or others and ask forgiveness as well as offer forgiveness.

It’s true that in some cases, restitution cannot be made or that you need to wait before addressing certain people, but it’s important to be honest throughout this process.2 You may find that the person who has been hurt most of all is you.2

Through this process, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Some of it may be uncomfortable, and you might find things you want to change. Working with a therapist or counselor can help you make these behavioral changes over time.

Myths and Misunderstandings About AA Step 8

Some people struggle with Step 8 and try to find excuses not to do it. Addressing common myths, misunderstandings, and concerns can help you fully understand the importance of Step 8 and be able to move forward.

First, understand how much making amends will help your recovery. When you look honestly at what you’ve done, ask for and give forgiveness, and move forward in a new way, you’ll feel that a tremendous weight has been lifted. Many times, the weight of that guilt is one of the triggers that tempts us to go back to drinking. When you’ve cleared the past, you can feel more free and move forward in healthy ways.

Second, there’s a common concern that people don’t want to address the past. It is likely that individuals are embarrassed and afraid to address the past, which is common.2 Bringing clarity to what happened and why can lift a weight off both you and the other person. It’s vital to make a list of everyone who has been harmed and address it.

Some AA participants believe their drinking hasn’t affected anyone but themselves, but as mentioned earlier, it can impact interactions with everyone they encounter. When you’re angry, short-tempered, prone to lying, or have other issues, you hurt the people you interact with.

Finally, some people wonder if AA works at all. Peer support through groups like AA has a variety of benefits and can be a very useful part of your overall treatment strategy.3

Studies have shown the effectiveness of 12-Step programs like AA for following up more structured treatment and helping people reduce alcohol use.3 Some of the positive results of AA include healthy coping skills, stronger confidence in your choices, and a sense of community.3

Don’t let these myths and misconceptions keep you from getting the help you need through AA and working through all the steps. Each step leads to the next and helps prepare you to move forward.

How to Find Help with Alcoholics Anonymous Step 8

If you are looking to connect to a local program, you can find AA meetings by searching online or visiting the Alcoholics Anonymous website. There are meetings available throughout the U.S. in almost every city and town, so you’re sure to find the resources you need nearby.

Many times, a program like AA is a way to follow up on a more structured treatment program such as inpatient rehab. If you’re looking for help with treatment, it’s important to work with your doctor to determine the right approach for your needs. Then, find a treatment center that fits your treatment process.

To help you pay for rehab, you can check your health insurance coverage, which can often cover some or all of the cost of treatment. Verify your insurance before committing to a program so you know you’re getting the best support available.

You deserve a life free from alcohol misuse. Treatment programs like rehab and AA can help you on your path to recovery. Contact us to take the first steps today. Call .

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Senior Web Content Editor
Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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