Step 8 of AA: Make a List of Those You’ve Harmed 

When you fully embrace the guiding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), you’ll be able to cleanse the debris of your past and gain newfound knowledge about yourself. The cleansing ritual of AA Step 8 is a vital part of your journey wherein you strengthen your ability to develop positive relations with everyone who crosses your path in life.  

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Uncovering the Purpose of AA Step 8

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” 

As you embark on Step 8 of AA, you’ll need to prepare for the pain associated with your fresh or old emotional wounds. This may feel like a purposeless conquest if you’re convinced the damage can’t be rectified. You need to reach deep down within yourself and apologize with genuine remorse.

If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll start to see the benefits of completing Step 8 of AA. The pain and guilt consuming you will start to melt away as you mend relationships and seek forgivingness for past actions. 

The time it takes to complete AA Step 8 is dependent on you. Some members of AA procrastinate completing this step due to fear. You might be afraid to take responsibility for the harm caused to other people. You might also be afraid to forgive the people of your past who have caused you pain too. You’ll want to get started on this step earlier because it paves the way for you to let go of resentment, blame, and self-pity. You’ll remember all humans make mistakes, and then you’ll be able to forgive yourself. 

Taking the First Step Toward Making Amends

“Learning how to live in the greatest peace, partnership, and brotherhood with all men and women, of whatever description is a moving and fascinating adventure.” 

Before you can mend relationships, you need to identify the people you’ve caused harm to. In Step 8 of AA, you’ll write a list (on paper) of every individual who you owe amends for a specific situation. If you’re curious about what behaviors you may need to make amends for, here are some examples:  

  • Becoming irritable or impatient with other people easily. 
  • Being abusive emotionally, physically, or verbally. 
  • Deceiving loved ones and partake in secret drinking. 
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • Neglecting or ignoring loved ones or others. 
  • Risking your safety as well as others’ safety. 
  • Saying hurtful things, you can’t take back. 
  • Starting fights or physically assaulting other people. 

By listing who we believe we have harmed, we are holding ourselves accountable. By admitting we are human and have made mistakes, we develop compassion for ourselves. By forgiving those who have harmed us we are set free.

Extending a decent dose of authentic love requires humility and knowing that these actions will not only help in your recovery but also benefit the greater good, requires a fair amount of trust.

Tips for Starting and Working Step 8 of AA

In this step, you’ll be making a list of all the people you’ve harmed. Then, you must become willing to make amends to each person. Understanding your interpersonal relations will go a long way in seeing how you interact with the world. You’ll be able to take account of the pain you’ve caused to others as well as any lingering resentments you may have toward others. We’ve compiled some helpful tips for starting and working on AA Step 8. 

  1. Look back on your life and personal relationships to see where you’ve caused harm. 
  2. Don’t forget to include yourself on the list because you’ll want to forgive yourself. 
  3. Bring out your moral inventory from Step 4 to help compile your list. 
  4. Go further than just writing down names. Include specifics of the harm and other’s reactions. 
  5. Reflect on each of these experiences and acknowledge how you currently feel. 
  6. Think about your reasoning for making amends and what you hope to accomplish. 
  7. Next, write the amends you can make to each person on your list. 
  8. Discuss your list and proposed amends with your sponsor, therapist, or spiritual advisor.

If you’d like additional assistance on your journey, you can use AA 12 Step Workbook: Al Kohallek Goes Stepping. This workbook offers additional tools to enable you to practice the principles of AA in all your affairs. See pages 48–49 for a worksheet that’ll assist you when creating your list. 

How Do I Make Amends to Those I’ve Harmed?

When you make amends, you want to make sure it fits the context of the harm or damage. For instance, in some cases, a simple apology will do for your bad behavior. In other situations, you may need to repay an individual or offer another recompense on your part.

If someone you’ve harmed is no longer alive, you could vow to live differently so you don’t hurt people in the same way. Keep in mind you have to actually do what you say or promise. That’s how we fully accept responsibility and move forward. 

Myths and Misunderstandings About Step 8 of AA

Your Alcohol Use Disorder Only Harms You

We often try to minimize the negative impacts we’ve had on other people. If the damage wasn’t extreme, we don’t feel a need to take responsibility. Step 8 of AA is about being vulnerable and rigorously honest. You might discover damage you’ve caused to others that is painful to accept. Now’s your chance to uncover how your alcohol use disorder affected others close to you. 

Making Amends is Not Going to Help Me

If you go into this step with a negative attitude, chances are you’re right. It’s important to remember you get what you put in. If you’re not vulnerable and honest with yourself and others, you’ll have a harder time embracing your sobriety to the full degree. You never know the potential impact of hearing how you made someone else feel until you start apologizing for your actions. These conversations can help motivate you to continue living in sobriety. 

Where Do You Go from Here?

Similar to most steps in AA, Step 8 gives you the tools and know-how to continue your journey toward lasting recovery. Since this step focuses on interpersonal relationships, you’ll create a foundation for all future relations with yourself and others. Once you’re truly able to let go of the damage and pain you’ve caused others, you can begin a new life of sobriety. 

Once you’ve successfully completed Step 8 of AA, you’ll be able to move onto the next step, Step 9, and be on your way to completing all 12 steps of the program.

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