This step scares the hell out of people when they first see it. Yet over time we understand that we become willing to do such things as we gradually find the life of sobriety a promising one. It is not by chance that “The AA Promises” are found in the Big Book after Step Nine.
I have made amends face to face and I have sent checks in the mail. I have sent letters and made phone calls. These really did not take that long. It took some nerve to approach certain people, and some were surprisingly receptive, others not so much. I have one friend from High School who surprised me by choosing to not be my friend even after I made my amends. I hurts. I want his friendship back, but this step is not about getting things back—my motivation has to be just to clean my side of the street.
My favorite amends story goes back to my early days in high school and my early days in recovery. When I was a freshman in high school I was not so much a drinker as I was a thief. I was a delinquent. I once store a certain teacher’s purse when she was distracted by other students during class. Years later, I knew this had to be cleaned up if I wanted a joyful life in sobriety.
So I went to the high school—twelve years later. It was 04:00 or 05:00 in the afternoon and there was no one around, no students, no teachers, the principal’s office was closed and locked, and the lights were out. I’m sure there was a custodian somewhere but he/she was not visible. I took the envelope of money in my hand and put it in my back pocket and sighed to myself, “This was not one of my best ideas; everyone has gone home hours ago, and for heaven’s sake, this teacher could have moved to Nova Scotia years ago, or retired, or passed away.”
I then heard a pitter patter of footsteps coming from the cafeteria area near the Principal’s office where I stood. It was so quiet I could hear the footsteps coming for an entire minute I think. And guess who turned the corner. Yes, it was her. Talk about all the planets lining up or lightning striking something twice. Talk about miracles that really happen—this is an example of a real one.
She looked at me and stopped smiling—oh she remembered me. I began my stuttering over-rehearsed discourse. I said, “Oh hi Ms. W—I’m not sure if you remember me.”
She interrupted, “Oh I remember you.”
I continued, “Well, then maybe you recall that one time I stole your purse. I don’t exact recall how much money was in it, but I have an envelope here with enough to cover what I took and some extra for the trouble I caused.”
She began to cry. She said, “OMG, you are working Step Nine.”
I cry when I write this because it was so awesome. She knew exactly what Step Nine was. She hugged me and took the envelope. We smiled and cried together for a bit and then things became awkward.
I felt it was time to make an exit, so I did. I told her how sorry I was if I caused too much stress for her back then.
She smiled and wiped some tears away—and I walked down the hall and out the door.