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Me – The Problem

The thought of Step Nine and having to make amends to anyone left me cold. After all, it was you lot who were making my life a misery – going on about my behaviour, drinking, lack of care and thought for others, my selfishness, unreliability and continued reckless behaviour. This was my attitude as an active alcoholic. If you just left me alone all would be fine, and life would be so much simpler and on track.

Of course, when I came into AA and my spiritual guide said to me, “If you look in the mirror, you are looking at the problem.” I realised my problem was me. This is an inside job and not to do with anyone else. By the time you arrive at Step Nine, it’s all about the previous eight Steps and how you have prepared and prepare yourself for the next. The list made for Step Eight was not everyone I had every met but a very thorough and specific examination – aided and guided by conversations and more conversations with my spiritual guide. I was very clear in what had happened, what type of amends I was making and why it was all happening in the first place. I had normalised my alcoholic behaviour so that I neither took responsibility nor acknowledged that the unacceptable was not ok or cool.

To look deeply into myself, and my actions as an active alcoholic, was part of the process of healing and by Step Nine I was now ready – maybe – to make amends to the people I had harmed the most. I was advised not to chase people, just to find that quiet and calm opportunity to have the conversation. I believe very strongly that this Step, along with Step Eight, is all in the preparation. With a clear intention to make those amends and armed with the exact nature of the wrong, the rest would follow. I also adhere to the ‘prayer before action’ mode of sobriety. I connect with my HP first and then follow on quickly. Knowing I am looked after and my HP has got my back all the way, is such a comfort – and has been decades of work in the making. This is not an overnight gig. Longevity is the key. It’s not the quick fix of, “That will do for now” from when I was drinking.

My first and most powerful amends came with my father who was one of the kindest and most tolerant people I have ever known, and a man who loved unconditionally. At the age of 16 he had thrown the Big Book at me and said, “You may want to read that at some point, and by the way give us your keys and go. You make it impossible for us to love you and we have the rest of the family to think about, so you need to go.” For a father to have to say this to a daughter must have been devastating but I treated it like a badge of honour. FREEDOM – no more of YOU. While making my amends he replied, having listened quietly, “Well, you were a messed-up kid then, but not today. AA has given me back my daughter, the daughter I always knew you could be and wished for you to be. I love you, and always have. All I have been doing is waiting for you to breathe out.” Later, I became his carer as he developed Alzheimer’s, and we embarked on another journey of the ‘long goodbye’ as he disappeared in front of me.

Staying sober, staying close, supporting him through the daily negotiation of life through another lens, I was able to do my bit to make his life more manageable. With regular visits and support, I saw him live out his life still at home in his community which helped maintain connections and continuity for him. What a gift and a privilege to do so. Being sober, I was able to do it one day at a time, with the love and support of AA as my buffer, cushion and guide and of course my HP all the way. Keep on keeping on.