Two Sorts of Denial
When we speak of people being ‘in denial,’ we often mean that their mind is blocking out an obvious problem and they cannot see it. That is often true of addiction and is why the first Step, admitting we are powerless over an out-of-control life, is so fundamentally important.
Sometimes, though, the recognition of what’s wrong, what we have done wrong, is all too clear and painful. The shame and the guilt will not go away. It is to others, not ourselves, that we cannot admit our flaws and mistakes. We resort either to a blatant lie or else to the tactic of turning the focus on others – I’m not like that, he is, and my being offended by him proves my own innocence.
Made a list of all persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Now it’s time to look back at the harm we have done and to seek to make amends, honestly recognising that benefits both ourselves and those we have hurt in equal measure.
Steps 6 and 7 asked us to recognise our defects and turn around our shortcomings. Contrition involves more than a feeling of shame; it includes the acceptance that we really did do something wrong and, through recognition of what lead to that behaviour, the determination to avoid repeating our mistakes. Every time we look back on an error we must be certain we are also looking forward to getting it right in future.
Making a List
Identifying our mistakes requires an honest record of who we have hurt and how. It’s not hard to see the harm we have done to those close to us, those we really do love even if our treatment of them suggests otherwise.
It’s harder, but equally necessary, to be honest and clear about the wider circle of friends and acquaintances, those with whom we work and among whom we socialise, whom we have harmed in many ways by the behaviour that resulted from our addiction.
It’s more difficult still to perceive the knock-on effects. When we steal from a father we potentially hurt his whole family; when we try to save ourselves by disgracing someone else, we conflict and confuse all those who trust and care for him.
It’s a painful but necessary process to list not only who we have harmed and how, but also how we now feel about it and what we can do to but things right, not only about particular events but also in the patterns of our behaviour and the other circumstances which surrounded them.
We think it’s hard to accept we were wrong – it isn’t; we’re obsessed with our failings. The hard bit is admitting them to others.
Thinking over that list, patiently and in detail, will lead us, as Step 9 expects, to make amends where possible. It will also lead us to continue and renew the self-examination and personal reform which we began in Steps 6 and 7.
It’s worth it!
This may be one of the most challenging and personally painful of all the 12 Steps, but it is an essential one if we are to move into recovery. And it is a process we do not complete alone, but with the support of our guides, our family and friends and whatever ‘Higher Power’ we recognise.