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This daylog is ninth of a series chronicling my path through the 12 steps of Al-Anon. I’ve been recording my personal journey because it helps me to clarify my thinking to write it all down. This entry marks Step 9.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I went to an Al-Anon meeting the other day, a noon meeting that I’m particularly fond of, full of strong women who are courageous and honest and funny. They tell their stories and share the pain, frustration, and confusion they’re facing in their lives, but they also share the lessons they’ve learned. They’re able to cry when they need to and they make each other laugh. The day’s topic was detachment and many of the sharings involved mother/daughter relationships. Two things that were said hit me on a gut level. The first was a woman describing the power of being able to truly let go of an issue and say to the other person, “Can you forgive me?” I found this so striking because asking that would be so incredibly hard for me—scarier than saying “I’m sorry”, because it on some level puts my fate in the other person’s hands. The other statement that resonated with me was a comment from another woman about to what a great extent she is still seeking her family’s approval.

Ohhhhh, Step 8 and Step 9 have been hard for me. Saying I’m wrong is hard for me. One of the things that annoys my significant other the most about me is how strongly I feel I have to be right, and how hard it is for me to admit when I make a mistake. I don’t blame her; it’s an obnoxious character defect.

More than two years ago, another woman in another Al-Anon meeting told me that I had to let go of my expectations for what type of responses my amends would receive; that the important part of performing Step 9 was that I was offering a sincere amends, recognizing my part in the situation and taking responsibility for it. The other person’s reaction was not my concern. That’s much easier said than done; I’m putting off some amends that I know I owe to people because I’m afraid of opening those cans of worms.

Step 9 is a put your money where your mouth is step; it’s an action step. Unlike Step 5, where you’re choosing a sympathetic, loving confidant, this time around you’re talking to people about the hurt you’ve caused them. I know that it’s supposed to make me healthier in the long run, that making amends gives me an emotional clean slate, free of past regrets and feelings of guilt or shame, but it’s far from easy.

Here’s the progress I’ve made so far on my Step 8 list :

  • I have made direct amends to three people (in person, on the phone, in a letter)
  • I’m considering my changed/changing behavior as amends to two more
  • I’ve at least thought about what amends I want to make to another person
  • I’m dreading the whole process with the remaining two.

The amends I’ve made have been well received, but more importantly, I was able to make them because I had reached a point where I felt absolutely sure that I was ready, and that it was the right thing to do. And making amends did bring a feeling of relief.

Progress, Not Perfection

One Day at a Time......................Easy Does It

Don't quit five minutes before the miracle happens

I’m impatient. I’m used to being an over-achiever and accomplishing goals quickly. It took about a month apiece for me to take (and write about) the first three steps, and just about a year to do the next four. (We’re not supposed to be keeping track of such things; I’m just not enlightened enough yet to let go of my own yardstick.) Anyway, it’s taken me almost a year and a half to take and write about Steps 8 and 9, and I still can’t help but feel that they’re incomplete.

I've tried my best at making amends over the years with one person on my list, but they've not always been well received. My sponsor reminds me every now and again that the reception is not my concern, but somehow I feel if I did them right, (completely, contritely, sincerely enough), they would go over better. Ahhh, did you see that? Needing to be right. And up above I talked about "the right thing to do". Yup, there's a theme here.

"Sometimes pain is just a part of life. And sometimes we contribute to the problem...We cannot undo what has been done in the past. We can express our regrets and make a commitment to try not to repeat past mistakes, but what's done is done." 1

I'll keep trying. I find that if I keep going to meetings and talking to Al-Anon people and reading the literature, slowly over time new ways of doing things occur to me, and more space appears in places where I had felt trapped or stuck. It must be happening in God's time, however, because it certainly ain't my timetable. on the other hand, some of these changes are undoing years of familiar, family-established patterns of behavior, so maybe the only way to do it is with glacial speed.

“With this Step, we have an opportunity to choose the kind of person we would like to become and the kinds of relationships we would like to be involved." 2

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to change.


1 How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics , © Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1995, pages 58-59. 2 How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics , © Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1995, page 60.

Related musings: step one | step two | step three step four | step five | step six step seven | step eight The Twelve Steps

Before you get any ideas, this is not another conceited, over-exaggerated diary log of your average angsty teen that pretty much plaster the internet these days. It's an honest documentation of what happened to me on September 25, 2005.

Recently, my mother and her fiancé, Mark, bought a house. It needs a lot of work done to it, so we go down to that house every day and help fix it up (painting, laying carpet, etc.). Today I walked into my house (the one I live in at the moment, not the one we're renovating), having just gotten back from an overnight party, at which I only had half an hour of sleep, and my back was killing me. As soon as I got home, my brother told me to get down to the house, as they needed my help. I contemplated this for a minute, and thought; "Okay, if they need me..". So I jammed a pair of shoes on and went on down to the house.

After two hours of work, I had painted three doors, swept two rooms, and some miscellaneous lifting & moving. I decided this was sufficient enough work, and as there was nothing else for me to do at that moment, and I was tired and sore, I caught a ride home with my mother (who had to go home and get dressed for work). Soon after I got home, the house phone rang. I answered it, and it was Mark. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked. "Sitting here", I replied. "Why the fuck aren't you here helping us?", he yelled. "Mark, I'm tired as shit, I just want to rest." I replied. "You're a waste of fucking space, did you know that?" he snapped. "Fuck you!" I yelled into the receiver as I hung up. Suddenly it felt like there was lead in my stomach. I knew I was going to get it the next time I saw him. Mark can be okay sometimes, but he's a very violent person, and he has hit me before.

As I stood there in the lounge, my lower-lip started to tremble, and a tear rolled down my face. My mother came in and asked me what was wrong, and I told her what happened. She suddenly got very angry, and told me that Mark only wanted my help (which I have been giving him for about six hours every day for the last week, without him showing any gratitude for me). I walked right out the door, and down to the house.

Surprise, surprise, there was nothing at all for me to do. I somehow ended up in the same room as Mark. He closed the door and held me against the wall. He looked at me in the eye and growled "If you ever speak to me like that again, I'll fucking kill you." (don't even bother pointing out the irony in that sentence). He let me go, and left the room.

Today I realised that I'm living with a man who's soon to be my step-father, and who's threatened to kill me six times.

Strictly speaking, it's called a "patella dislocation," but when you're screaming in agony under a pool table with your lower leg sticking out at a disturbing angle, such things are rather trivial.

A dislocation of the knee usually occurs when the patella pops free of the cartilage and whatnot which normally keeps it in position and migrates round to the side of one's leg, preventing movement of that joint and grinding against other bones. Needless to say, it's exceedingly painful. It's usually caused by a large force being applied perpendicular to the knee joint; losing control while skiing is a common cause, and forcibly twisting one's feet round back to front as a party trick is a rather less common cause.

Guess which one of those two causes was why I dislocated my knee last night?

Now I had been able to do strange contortionist acts with my feet previously; turning one of them 180 degrees so it pointed backwards, twisting them so they both face inwards, and turning them both all the way round past the horizontal while my fellow student bums marvelled at my gloriously flexible feet. And I had been able to do this many, many times beforehand with no ill effects or pain. So it came as a complete and utter shock to me when a disturbing plup! noise emanated from my left knee, and the next thing I knew I was collapsed in a heap under the aforementioned pool table in some pain. What was really worrying, as an aside, just how many of my audience thought that that was part of the act, and so fell about laughing. The rest of them simply bolted because they hadn't any idea what to do.

With the aid of the Student Union staff, an ambulance was called and I found myself having to repeat the whole sorry tale multiple times to them. One of them asked how drunk I was. I said that I was stone-cold sober, and that I didn't drink.

"Pity," said the First Aid bloke. "It would have cushioned the blow, so to speak."

So then the paramedics arrived at around 11.30pm and had a poke about at my knee, and told me that it'd not be too difficult to reset, but it'd hurt. Tsk, I thought. As if I wasn't already in enough agony. So they passed me a plastic device with a mouth-sized tube on one end and a hose going into the other and told me to suck it. I sucked it. Nitrous oxide. As a result I didn't feel a thing, but then again, I was too busy being super happy and on top of the world, especially when I was stretchered out of the building past crowds of students queuing for entry to the Union's nightclub, and so when any of them made sarcastic comments I simply giggled and waved. Yes, I looked like a fuckwit, but a happy fuckwit rather than an evil-minded fuckwit.

So they got me to St Thomas' Hospital and wheeled me to Accident & Emergency, where I vegetated for about 50 minutes before I was wheeled to a cubicle with a curtain and told to remove my trousers. Now although my knee may have been in the correct configuration by this point, it was swollen to the size of a small grapefruit, and although I could move it, I was reluctant to because it a) hurt, and b) I didn't want to pop it back out of its hole again.

While laying on a trolley with my trousers round my ankles, I had a look and listen to my fellow, erm, inmates. One of them had passed out in her own vomit in a drunken stupor and, when the doctors thought she was out of speaking range, they fulminated over the sheer stupidity of her condition. When she finally awoke, a shaven-headed gentleman took some photos of her in the hospital bed, to which she flipped the bird. I was glad to see that minor alcohol poisoning had not dimmed her spirits.

So at about 1.45am in came a doctor called Samantha. She poked and prodded and squoze my knee to see if there'd been any complications. There weren't, but I was still required to go and have the offending joint X-rayed. Then I was dumped back on the trolley and left to wait.

At 3.10am after more poking and prodding in came a doctor called Miles who put some Tubigrip on my knee and gave me a pair of crutches and and some Dicloflex, which I was to take thrice a day. And they turfed me out.

With the aid of a minicab (I was in no state to walk home; never having used crutches) I arrived back at my halls of residence at about 3.40am.

So what did I learn? I think from now on I won't try any foot-twisting tricks ever again. I also learnt that Casualty and ER and other hospital dramas have nothing on real life. There's no heart-attack-a-minute sagas, or trysts in the sluice rooms. Just people like myself and Ms. Alcohol Poisoning across the corridor - arseholes who do silly things.

I just hope I can stump my way into college in time for lectures this week...

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