Step 8 of 12: The List

Our histories are never all good or all bad, and running from the past is the surest way to be defined by it. That's when it owns us.

--Brené Brown

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

Recent studies indicate that an effective way to treat combat related post-traumatic stress disorder can be for the soldiers and marines effected with PTSD to travel back to the area where the combat trauma occurred. The treatment protocol is based on the premise that there can be freedom and healing in going back to the source of our pain instead of just trying to forget that it happened.

Too often we try to forget the pain caused by our addictive and compulsive behavior. When we do that, we miss the opportunity to learn from it. The byproduct of our forgetfulness is our ability to lie, to rationalize our conduct, or to shift the blame to other people. As we face our past, we ultimately have to take a step back in time, moving beyond ourselves, and examine our impact on others.

We must be willing to honestly look back and compile a list of all the people who have been harmed by our behavior. There is great value in writing it down and including our specific behavior as a part of the list. Often doing this allows us to see patterns of repetitive behavior over time. We might realize that the common denominator in all our dysfunctional relationships has been us.

It will take some time to make this list and even more time to be able to face these people, but it's necessary for healing to be willing to make amends to them all. This sounds about as much "fun" as the searching and fearless moral inventory from Step 4. It's probably not quite as fun. There will no doubt be grieving over how we have hurt others, often those we love the most.

Addictive and compulsive behavior makes empathy and self awareness very difficult. The first 7 Steps recognize that it takes time for us to gain the mental and emotional clarity to be able to properly come to terms with the consequences of our behavior. Step 8 acknowledges our fundamental need to be in healthy relationships with others. Being willing to make amends for our past actions can provide healing for others and for us and can even be a bridge to rebuilding broken relationships.