A.A. Oldtimers…On the Eighth Step

A.A. Grapevine, June 1945, Vol. 2 No. 1

Editorial: On the 8th Step . . .

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

It was characteristic of many of us as alcoholics to at least attempt to perform in the grandiose manner. And in harming others we usually succeeded magnificently. So, to say that the first phase of the Eighth Step is a large order is to indulge in understatement which matches our bombastic style.

And yet, however extended be the list of those we have harmed, the fulfillment of this step’s admonition need not be a tedious nor a burdensome undertaking. In the first place, let’s examine the meaning of the verb: Amend.

Webster’s New International Dictionary defines it thus –“To make better, especially in character; to repair, restore; to free from faults, put right, correct, rectify. . .”

There is the credo to which we of A.A. subscribe; the goal we hope to achieve through sobriety. It is both the manifestation of our adherence to the other 11 Steps and our performance of the Eighth itself.

The definition continues:

“. . . to change or modify in any way for the better; to recover from illness.”

It was written for us!

We have often heard that our sobriety should be founded on “unselfish selfishness”, that we should strive to avoid a lapse into drinking for the benefits we, personally, derive from abstinence. It’s not sound, we have been told, to try to stay dry for the sake of a wife or a sweetheart or someone else dear to us.

When we first heard that plan of action outlined, we revolted mildly because it didn’t seem to meet the specifications of true altruism. Many of us, as we entered A.A., still yearned for that mystic power to “handle” alcohol and it seemed then that the step we were taking was at least in part –a gesture of devotion to some loved one. Without altruism there didn’t seem to be much motive to propel us.

Of course, we soon discovered that “unselfish selfishness” was the firmest foundation for our recovery. We found, in the same way, that we try to help others, not solely through altruistic impulse, but so that we may gain strength.

The principle of “unselfish selfishness” is applicable again in the Eighth Step. We seek to identify all those we have harmed and we assume a willingness to make amends so that –recalling the definition of the word –we may “change . . . for the better” and “recover from illness.”

The alternative is retrogression. If we fail to “repair”, we can only impair.

L. J.

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