So much of the Alanon program is about simply changing the way that we look at ourselves and the world. But it isn’t really all that simple to do. We carry with us such deep seated paradigms about right and wrong, about God and all those other important life topics, that it usually takes something drastic to actually uproot our old thinking. It takes the emotional equivalent of being hit over the head with a baseball bat to get us to see that there really is another way to view things. The good part for us is that alcoholism is one hell of a bat and after it takes a few swings at us, we may be lucky enough, and courageous enough, to seek out this shift in thinking. And Alanon guides us through that.
I used to be very resistant to some of the language I heard in meetings. One such phrase was “making amends” in Step Nine. For me, “making amends” meant to make apologies, which implied an admission that I had done something wrong. In my old thinking, this was paramount to setting myself up for excommunication from the universe and I simply wasn’t going to go there. I see now that this step is not about making apologies and being forgiven for my wrongs. It’s about openly acknowledging exactly how I have conducted myself, in as honest a way as possible, so that I can take down the protective barriers I have created between myself and others.
I act badly when I am in fear. I think most people do. I engage in a vicious circle of self-protecting behavior that achieves nothing other than to build walls between myself and others. So much energy is spent focused on this fear, and on making sure I come out on the correct side of the righteous fence. The only way to change this is to remove the fence, and stop with all the judgment. And it starts with me.
Step Nine allows me to openly communicate the ways in which I have behaved badly, without anticipation of forgiveness from the person I’ve harmed. This is not an exercise in apology. It is an exercise in me accepting myself, out loud, truthfully and without judgment. The act of saying these things openly to the ones I’ve harmed helps to break down the walls that I specifically constructed with them, usually out of fear. If I can learn to do this, being compassionate with myself and who I really am, then maybe one day, I will be able to accept others without judgment as well.
I read recently that spiritual awakening is not a process by which we become so good and so pure that we ascend to the top of some mountain in goodness and light. Spiritual awakening is when we can go down into the reality of life, unafraid, and discover the kind of love for ourselves and for others that will not die, despite the reality of all of our shortcomings. And it begins with me. Only if I can do this myself will I be able to accept others without trying to control them and make them into something they’re not.
Step Nine puts that type of action in motion. It says, “I just don’t want to pretend with you any more.”