My Name Is Paul And I’m An Alcoholic, Step 8

One Thursday each month I will share a post on one of the 12 Steps. This month is Step 7. Recovery is an area of life that 12 Step groups have done amazing work with, yet many churches (and other community groups) struggle with what to do. My hope is that this series will help those who are not in recovery learn more about their friends and family members who are in recovery. I welcome any feedback, questions, and concerns you may have!

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all” (Step 8).

“We got a pretty severe shock when we realized that we were preparing to make a face-to-face admission of our wretched conduct to those we had hurt. It had been embarrassing enough when in confidence we had admitted these things to God, to ourselves, and to another human being. But the prospect of actually visiting or even writing the people concerned now overwhelmed us, especially when we remembered in what poor favor we stood with most of them” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 78-79).

At first glance, it may seem like a step devoted to list-making is just a lame attempt to make an 11 step process reach the number 12. However, there is a lot that goes into this list that recovering addicts make in Step 8.

At this point in the recovery process, a connection with God has been established (or re-established). A healthy relationship with self has been started. And a devotion to becoming a better person towards others has begun. But we remember “what poor favor” we stand in with many people.

Whatever the addiction is, when a person is enslaved to their obsessions they hurt other people; whether that pain is inflicted indirectly or directly, by commission or omission. I hurt people by the things I did and I hurt people by the things I did not do. I hurt the people who loved the people I hurt. So as I began to look at the process of reaching out and making amends I needed a starting point.

That starting point was a list. A list of names. Names of people I had hurt. Names of people I needed to make amends to. Just writing down the names proved to be difficult. Because as the names were listed, more names came to mind. Just how awful of a person was I?

Making a list is not easy. But facing the people is so much more difficult. By taking the time to make a list, I was doing several things:

  1. Being organized. This is too important to go into haphazardly.
  2. Beginning to practice the humility needed to approach others.
  3. Bathing the process in prayer. There is a lot of willingness needed to continue.

When a person in recovery makes their 8th Step list there are two categories of people: those I am willing to make amends to and those I am not willing to make amends to. For those people I am willing to make amends to, I pray to thank God for that willingness and the strength to follow through.

For those people I am not willing to make amends to, I ask myself, “Why?” For some people, I would cause harm by making amends (more on that next month). When that is the case, I pray for those people. I pray for a change in me and in the relationship.

For others, I may still be angry at them for the pain they have caused me. Now is not the time to work on the relationship. When that is the case, I pray the willingness to be able to move that person from the “not willing” to the “willing” category.

And finally, there are others I cannot make amends to because I cannot find them (either they have moved and we lost contact or they may have passed away). In those cases, I work with my sponsor. I pray to have the willingness should I ever find them; I pray to live differently so that I never inflict that kind of pain again; and I pray for creative ways, such as letter writing, to make amends.

So I am listing people I will not make amends to now in the prayerful hope that one day I will.

In this series, I have been hoping to provide some practical advice for people in churches or family members who do not struggle with addiction. I have been wanting to share some thoughts on how all people can partner together in this process.

But for Step 8, there is not much you can do to help. Having said that, however, I recommend the following two items:

Be patient. Amends are too important to rush through. The recovering addict is not going to work through the process on your time schedule. You may know people they have hurt; you may be one of the people they have hurt. Give them the time to work through this.

Pray. If you know someone is working through the 12 Step process, know that they are going to be doing the hard work of restoring relationships. That is not easy for anyone.

Next month, we will deal with Step 9. But before we can get there, we need to take the time necessary to make the list of those people  with whom we need to amend relationships.

My Name is Paul and I Am an Alcoholic

I have been re-sharing some of my most read posts through the month of August. This one is the first in my series on the 12 Steps. My next post will be on Step 8. My prayer is that churches can learn how to better minister to those in recovery from addictions of various kinds.

A Second Time Paul

One Thursday each month I will share one post on one of the 12 Steps. Recovery is an area of life that 12 Step groups have done amazing work with, yet many churches (and other community groups) struggle with what to do. My hope is that this series will help those who are not in recovery learn more about their friends and family members who are in recovery. I welcome any feedback, questions, and concerns you may have!

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” Step 1

“The idea that somehow, someday [the alcoholic] will control and enjoy his liquor drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death. We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is…

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From Despair to Peace

During the month of August, I am re-sharing some of my most read posts. I wrote this one 18 months ago based on one of my favorite Christmas songs. I hope it is a good reminder that in the midst of our despair, God is present.

A Second Time Paul

“Then in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth goodwill to men.”

How dare they?  How dare the bells play the song of “peace on earth, goodwill to men”?  How dare people gather to sing about joy and happiness?  How dare people gather to talk about joy coming to the world; have they actually looked at the world?  Do they actually know what’s going on?  Are they paying attention to what the world looks like right now?  How dare the angels come singing songs of peace and goodwill when reality is anything but peaceful or good?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem on Christmas day in 1863.  It was not long after his wife had died in a house fire that Longfellow received news that his son had been injured while fighting…

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“Sons and Daughters”

For the next four weeks, I will be re-sharing some of my most read blog posts. This one was written after I learned my greatest lesson regarding privilege. We are all God’s children. We should all be treated that way.

A Second Time Paul

For the past three weeks, I have been teaching a series of lessons on Wednesday nights with a classmate and friend of mine, Meredith. I asked Shawna to take some pictures of the two of us teaching.


Although I did not think much about it at first, over the past few weeks, it has hit me just how incredible an occasion this is; for me, at least.


When I was preaching, I fought against the idea that the preacher should be held in higher esteem. I was just another member attending church with my Christian family. I just happened to dominate what took place during the worship hour. But I was not special; I was not different; I was just like everybody else. I have believed that about other preachers, as well. For the past several years, I have attempted to treat…

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Open Letter of Apology From Adults to Teenagers

Through the month of August, I am re-sharing some of my top posts. I think this one is appropriate as many begin school this week.

A Second Time Paul

Dear teenagers,

On behalf of adults everywhere, I want to apologize.

We have made your lives too busy. We remember our high school experience and the experiences of all of our friends and family members. And we want you to live all of it. We want you to be involved in sports, theater, afterschool programs, volunteer projects, church groups, and get certified in CPR. We have pushed and pushed and pushed until your schedules are way too full. We have made you feel like failures when you cannot keep up. We have encouraged you to choose activities over your spiritual life. We think your commitment to your sports team is more important than your commitment to your spiritual development.

We have made you so busy, you are not sleeping well and you are not eating well. We encourage you to eat quickly so you microwave a dinner or grab a…

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