One of the best-known alcohol addiction recovery programs is the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Founded in 1935, AA is an organization of people who managed to recover from alcohol addiction and are willing to share their successful experiences with others suffering from similar issues. The organization’s 12-step program is its main pillar and consists of 12 actionable steps aimed at fostering addiction recovery and sobriety.1,2
Despite being only one of 12 steps, AA Step 8 is often viewed as the most challenging one. Since it involves a deeper inspection of one’s responsibility, AA Step 8 is perceived as particularly painful for many people. This step is also viewed as crucial for successful advancement to other stages of treatment. Addiction sufferers who complete AA Step 8 are believed to have greatly increased their likelihood of long-term recovery.3
What is Step 8 AA?
Step 8 of AA’s 12-step program instructs the addiction sufferers to create a list of people they had harmed during the course of addiction and muster the willingness to make amends to these people. AA Step 8 largely builds upon AA Step 4, in which addiction sufferers were invited to create a moral inventory of themselves. AA Step 8 requires AA program participants to get a bit more specific by trying to recall the concrete instances of their wrongdoings, as well as the people who were involved in these events.3
It is important to note that AA Step 8 does not involve making the actual amends. This move is planned for later. Step 8 of AA only requires addiction sufferers to delve deep into their actions and evaluate what effects these actions had on others. Anyone who is identified as being a victim of an addiction sufferer’s actions is worth being included in the list, including the sufferers themselves (if they did something wrong to themselves). An honest approach to this task is critical for the successful completion of Step 8 AA. Even though it may be emotionally hard for people to admit their wrongdoings, such a move is extremely important for their personal growth.3
The readiness to go through one’s painful past goes hand in hand with the willingness to make amends to others. As addiction sufferers recapitulate the distressing memories, they also get more willing to admit the wrongness of some of their actions. Admitting that one’s actions negatively impacted others is just one step away from being ready to make amends to those harmed. Without mustering this sort of willingness, it is impossible to complete AA Step 8.4
Step 8 AA Prayer
Adding an adequate prayer may prove to be instrumental in one’s completion of AA Step 8. Step 8 AA Prayer could be recited before one starts working on Step 8 AA or even during the working phase of this step, especially when difficulties arise. The prayer reads as follows:5
I ask Your help in making my list of all those I have harmed.
I will take responsibility for my mistakes and
Be forgiving to others as
You are forgiving to me.
Grant me the willingness to begin my restitution.
This I pray.
Even though the standard version includes references to a Higher Power, many addiction sufferers may find it more appropriate to use God’s names associated with their religion (e.g. Allah or Jehovah). Regardless of that, adding a Step 8 AA Prayer may provide an additional component that will move the addiction sufferer’s treatment in the right direction.5
What Is the Importance of AA Step 8?
It is hard to overstate the importance of Step 8 AA. Besides being crucial for the progression towards Step 9 and subsequent completion of the 12-step AA program, adherence to the guiding principles of Step 8 of AA may prove to be beneficial in other aspects of one’s life. Most importantly, it may foster the restoration of the addiction sufferer’s personal relationships.3
In cases of alcohol addiction, personal relationships are commonly disrupted by the addiction sufferer’s aggressive and alienating behavior towards their family members and friends. Becoming aware of one’s wrongdoings and willing to make amends for them presents a prerequisite for finding a common ground with close ones who were harmed in the past. Such a move presents a building block of mutual respect that may get restored after a long time of misunderstanding and hostility.4
There are, however, important challenges associated with AA Step 8. Painful emotions that may arise during the creation of the list of harms may present a significant setback for some people. Some AA program participants may be less willing to admit that they have caused harm to others. This is where courage and vulnerability figure as crucial virtues that should be encouraged during the AA meetings and, particularly, during the AA program participant’s communication with their sponsor.6
How to Complete the 8th Step of AA?
In order to complete the 8th Step of AA, one has to be aware of the entire process that needs to be undergone, including each of its components. Each component of Step 8 revolves around the addiction sufferer’s relationships with others and ways they could be repaired. An AA program participant has to perform the following activities in order to pass the AA Step 8:7
- Try to remember all of the people who were hurt by one’s actions and the way it happened.
- Create a list of all of these people and actions that hurt them.
- Note how one is responding to these people and events, and what kind of personal issues such a response contributes to.
When making the list of people and harms, AA program participants are advised to be inclusive. Even if one is unsure whether someone experienced harm, the person in question should be included in the list. Also, a wide variety of harmful behaviors should be included. Obvious cases of harm, such as stealing someone’s property or verbally and physically abusing others, should definitely be included. It is recommended that AA program participants also include types of harm that are less direct and whose level of hurtfulness is vague. Examples of such harm include letting people down or being absent when someone needed them.3
Three listed activities crucially enable AA program participants to make progress on AA Step 8. By bringing awareness, these activities make it possible for addiction sufferers to take the next steps in correcting their addiction-related wrongs.7
How to Make Amends to Those Who Are Harmed?
Even thinking about making amends to others may be stressful, let alone actually performing such action. This is why it is advisable for addiction sufferers to break down their future responsibilities into chronologically separated phases, depending on what types of wrongs were performed and who were their victims:4
- Amends to be made as soon as one reaches sobriety
- Amends that should be made only partially, in order to eschew the risk of further harm
- Amends that could be made later
- Amends that would most likely never be made due to practical obstacles
Clearly, the first group of amends should be one’s top priority. The next two groups could wait and require some sort of caution. On the other hand, the last group of amends should mostly be taken aside due to concrete, real-life difficulties (e.g., people who would receive these amends moved far away, would not react appropriately, or died).4
Creating such lists may help AA program participants tremendously. However, in the end, it is up to them and their motivation to go through each of the program steps. Firm resolution and willingness to endure despite obstacles are the best guarantees that one would successfully complete Step 8 AA.6
What Are the Tips for Completing Step 8 AA?
Some tips for the successful completion of Step 8 AA may benefit AA program participants who are facing challenges. A crucial message of AA Step 8 tips concerns the invitation for addiction sufferers to embrace responsibility for their actions. These tips may be summarized as follows:6
- Reflect on your life and try to see in what cases you have brought pain to others.
- Please include yourself on the amends list as almost certainly you were the one who suffered deeply due to addiction.
- Use the information compiled in the personal moral inventory (performed during Step 4) to create a Step 8 AA amends list.
- Do not restrict yourself to writing names. Instead, go further and write down specific situations in which you have caused harm, as well as the reactions from others.
- Think again about each of these events and try to pay attention to how you are responding to them.
- Embark on a deep investigation of why you are making amends to others and what are your ultimate objectives in all of this.
- Compile a list of amends specifically tailored to individual people and situations mentioned on the list.
- Talk with your sponsor, spiritual advisor, or therapist. Ask for their opinion about your proposed list, as well as the amends you intend to make for each individual who experienced harm.
The list above offers just the most general tips to complete AA Step 8. AA 12 Step Workbook: Al Kohallek Goes Stepping is a book that may offer more concrete advice to those who are either struggling with the 8th Step AA or are willing to set high standards for their task performance. Step 8 AA is covered on pages 48 and 49 in the book.6
AA Step 8 Worksheet Questions
AA program participants may make things easier for themselves if they create a list of questions they would be asking themselves while going through Step 8 AA. Some of the questions are:8
- Is there any resentment that prevents you from becoming willing to make amends to others?
- Is there any hesitation about working on Step 8 AA and, if yes, what could be the reasons for it?
- Why could it be valuable to discover the nature of one’s wrongdoings?
- Why is it extremely important to determine and accept one’s responsibility?
- Are there individuals who may be present as a danger for yourself but to whom you owe certain amends?
- Why should you go beyond a mere verbal apology for your actions in order to repair the damage these actions have caused?
- Why neither is a behavior change sufficient to repair the damage in question?
- Are there any financial amends that you are, for some reason, unwilling to make?
- What would your life be like if you had already made the necessary amends or there was no need for them in the first place?
- Are there any people who harmed you and should thus make amends directed at yourself?
These and other AA Step 8 questions may help the addiction sufferer achieve a deeper understanding of their addiction. They may not only determine why they behaved in a certain way but also find out the purpose behind the actions aimed at achieving recovery. The more one thinks and discovers about their actions and how the associated harms may be amended, the greater the likelihood that one would reach subsequent steps of AA’s 12-step program.8
How to Interpret Step 8 of AA: What Should I Do Next?
While completing AA Step 8, it is crucial that AA program participants are aware of the overall meaning behind this step. While the earlier steps were primarily concerned with personal beliefs, emotions, and behaviors, Step 8 AA prepares the addiction sufferer for the next steps in which the focus would shift to others. By focusing on one’s thoughts and behaviors, Step 8 of AA points to the effect of one’s actions on others and the way wrongdoings could be amended. In that sense, AA Step 8 should be perceived as a transitory step toward complete recovery that could not be achieved without the restoration of relationships with others.7
The first step following AA Step 8 is AA Step 9. This step involves an utter devotion to others by actually making amends to them. The only exception involves cases in which such a move would injure someone. Mustering courage to show your responsibility and make amends where necessary is an indispensable step in overall healing. There is hardly ever a functional recovery without actions aimed at correcting the wrongs in the real world.9
How Can I Get Help from Step 8 AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)?
Addiction sufferers and/or their loved ones who see they can benefit from the Step 8 AA and the entire 12-step AA program are advised to contact some of the organization’s offices. More information on how one can participate in AA meetings could be found on the Alcoholics Anonymous website.10
If, however, one finds it too difficult to find the information needed or wants more consultation on AA and other addiction programs, one is instructed to contact American Addiction Centers. One way to do so is via hotline numbers specifically designed for people dealing with alcohol addiction issues. Our navigators would be more than willing to help. They will be able to give you information on topics such as different payment options available, rehab center locations, and advice on how to pay for the treatment.11
There is also an online search tool available to prospective addiction treatment program participants. This is the place where people can find specifics on different insurance schemes and associated treatment costs, among other things.12
For those who are interested in finding out about other alcohol addiction treatment options, there are plenty of resources available on our website. The treatments covered range from those taking up to 7 days to the treatments that take a month or more to complete.13 14