A Study of Step 8

The 12 Steps of AA and Al-Anon

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Willing to Make Amends?.

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

Whether you're working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)Narcotics Anonymous (NA)Al-Anon, or any other program, step 8 can be humbling, but it can also lead to growth. The eighth step involves making amends with others who may have been harmed by your alcohol or drug use. This step is a chance to grow and improve your relationships with your friends and loved ones—which will only help you going forward in your recovery.

The goal of this step is to end isolation from others. Not only is this an appealing goal, but it also targets one of the reasons why people often drink.

You'll notice that the term "God" is used in the original 12 steps, and God is referred to as "he." Today, these terms are redefined in whatever ways fit the person using them. For instance, some people substitute the word God for Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, or Higher Power, as well as remove the masculine pronoun.

12 Steps Defined

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 steps are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  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.
  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.

How It Works

If you've completed your 4th step inventory, you'll likely have most of your list. However, like most of the 12 steps, this is not necessarily a one-time event. It is a process that continues to unfold as more is revealed.

The list usually begins with friends and family you have harmed and, as recovery continues, grows to include others like neighbors and coworkers.

For many Al-Anon members, the first person on their list is a relative with an alcohol use disorder. As they begin to put the focus on themselves and do their own inventory, many discover they owe amends to the family member in their lives with an alcohol problem who they've blamed for all of their family's problems.

Categorizing Your List

When creating your list, you need to include all people you may have hurt during active alcohol or drug use. Once you create this list (which may turn out longer than you expect), separate the names into one of four categories:

  • Make amends to now
  • Make partial amends to
  • Make amends to later
  • May never be able to make direct personal contact

Becoming Willing

When you become "willing" to make the amends necessary, you don't actually have to "do" anything in the way of amends just yet. But you do have to be honest with yourself.

Making a list of the persons you have harmed requires you to examine and face your behaviors without making excuses for them.

As you continue to compile your list, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Were you kind, tolerant, and considerate of others?
  • Were you mean spirited, impatient, and selfish?
  • What were your motives when dealing with family members, friends, and co-workers?
  • Were you only concerned with getting what you wanted and not with what was right?
  • Did you pour out self-pity on those from whom you thought you could extract sympathy?

By asking yourself these questions, you will be able to form a more complete list of those to whom you can make amends now or in the future.

Seeking Extra Help

For some people, step 8 can increase negative self-talk and emotions and bring on cravings of alcohol or drugs. If this happens, it's important to seek help. Whether a friend or family member, sponsor, or mental health professional, lean on someone who can support you as you work through the steps and avoid relapse.

A Word From Verywell

Like every part of a 12-step program, step 8 takes commitment as you journey toward lasting recovery. Step 8 forms the base for all future relationships with ourselves and others; if we can let go of our previous hurts to others, we can begin a new facet of sobriety.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. Step eight.

  2. Greene D. Revisiting 12-step approaches: An evidence-based perspective. In: Addictions - Diagnosis and Treatment. 2021. doi:10.5772/intechopen.95985

  3. Alcoholic Anonymous. The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. 1981.