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Updated on February 2, 2023
8 min read

Step 9 AA

What is Step 9 in AA?

Once you’ve completed steps 1 through 8 in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), it’s time to move on to step 9. Step 9 is the culmination of all the steps prior, which have helped you to take responsibility for your actions and admit your character flaws. 

Step 9 in AA is:

“Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

You will take all your lessons and put them into direct action. Step 9 is an act of courage and an integral step toward your recovery.

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What is the Purpose of Step 9 in AA?

The 9th step in AA is about making amends, regardless of the outcome.

There’s a possibility that making amends could end a relationship. You could go to jail, face a significant fine, or suffer other serious consequences. It’s also vital that you don’t cause additional harm to the people you’re making amends with.

To complete this step, you must be willing to admit to and face the impacts your past has had on your life and others’ lives. Many AA participants find that dividing up the list you created in the 8th step helps them approach step 9. 

 You may want to divide your list up into:

  • People to whom you can make full amends as soon as you are sober
  • People to whom you can make partial amends because full amends cause more harm than good
  • People to whom you should make amends after making a full recovery
  • People to whom it is impossible to make full amends

Generally, AA participants should aim to make full amends as early as possible. But only as long as it causes no additional harm to the people you’re addressing.

Completing step 9 enables AA people to create new relationships as sober people. Many find that their guilt and shame no longer prevent them from recovering once they’ve moved through step 9.

The 4 Types of Amends in AA 

There are four different types of amends you can make during AA. These include:

1. Direct Amends

Direct amends are done face-to-face. They require you to take personal responsibility for your actions and reconcile with the person you’ve wronged.

2. Indirect Amends

Indirect amends are necessary when contacting the person you wronged is impossible or would cause harm. In some cases, writing a letter or sending an email is appropriate. However, sometimes no contact is better.

3. Living Amends

Living amends require you to demonstrate your lifestyle changes and discard destructive behaviors. With living amends, you show that you have learned from your mistakes and will make better choices in the future. 

Your loved ones deserve living amends from you, whether they are alive or if they have passed. This is one of the best tools to make amends with a deceased loved one.

4. Financial Amends

Financial amends require compensation to anyone harmed financially by someone’s alcoholism. For example, say you stole money from a loved one when you weren’t sober. Maybe you crashed their vehicle while driving drunk. The goal is to make right what you did wrong financially.

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Tips for Making Amends With People

It might be easy to recognize who you’ve hurt with your drinking. But figuring out how to make amends can be a different matter. The entire process of making amends can feel overwhelming.

When possible, and when it won’t cause additional harm, apologize in person. If you can’t do it face-to-face, use a handwritten letter instead of an email or a text message. Here are some tips to keep in mind when making amends:

Acknowledge Your Wrongdoing

In addition to apologizing, acknowledge your wrongdoing. This shows you understand what you did that hurt the other person. It shows that you are taking responsibility for your behavior. 

Be Specific

Your loved ones must know that you are apologetic for what you did and the harm you caused. It’s not about feeling sorry that you were caught or that the person is unhappy with you. Be specific in your conversations.

Sometimes, writing down your thoughts and feelings beforehand can be helpful. A bit of preparation goes a long way in difficult situations.

Listen and Validate

Once you’ve apologized and acknowledged your wrongdoing, listen to the person and validate their feelings. This shows you understand how you hurt them and are willing to listen to their opinions and thoughts.

These conversations can be uncomfortable, but it’s important not to get defensive. You know what you did, and you’ve forgiven yourself. The best thing you can do is feel empathy for the person you hurt.

Ask What You Can Do

After listening and validating, ask if there is anything you can do to right the wrong. This shows that you’re willing to make up for your mistakes and are looking to do what you can to alleviate their pain. For step 9 to be successful, you must be willing to make things right.

Be Realistic

Now that you’re putting your intentions into action, it might look different than expected. That’s okay. You aren’t making amends to get a specific reaction from someone.

Keep in mind not everyone will have your well-being in mind. Things may go differently than planned. You might be healing and growing in sobriety, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is too.

Suppose a response to your apology is manipulative or hurtful. In that case, telling the person you cannot fulfill their request is okay. Thank them for the opportunity to take responsibility for your mistake and move on.

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The Three R’s of the Ninth Step

Step 9 can feel complicated and overwhelming. So AA created the Three R’s to simplify things. These concepts help you keep the amends-making process in perspective and include:

Restoration

With restoration, you aim to bring something back to what it formerly was. If your alcoholism caused you to damage something, your goal is to restore it as much as possible. 

Resolution

With resolution, you aim to find a solution or explanation to the problems caused by alcoholism. You likely have past experiences that disturb you. In this step, you look for answers and solutions and finally lay these issues to rest.

Restitution 

With restitution, you aim to return anything taken from its rightful owner back to that owner. This includes property and money.

Questions to Ask Yourself While Following the 9th Step

There are several questions you can ask yourself to help you work through step 9, including:

  • How is making amends a continuous process?
  • Am I scared of making amends?
  • Will someone reject me or use my attempt to make amends as revenge on me?
  • How does this step require a new level of surrender to the 12-step program?
  • Will my higher power provide me with what I need to make after making financial amends?
  • How can my higher power, sponsor, and other AA participants support me as I complete step 9?
  • Are there any complications in making amends to anyone on my list?
  • Will there be severe consequences for any of the amends I make? If so, what?
  • What behaviors must I amend?
  • What are my plans for making amends with myself now and in the future?
  • Have I accepted responsibility for the harm I’ve caused?
  • Are there any amends I’ve already made?
  • How do I feel about the process of making amends?
  • Is there anyone on my list for whom amends will cause harm?
  • How will I feel, and what will life be like once I’ve made amends with the people on my list?

The 12 Promises of Step 9

Step 9 includes a set of 12 Promises:

  1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.
  2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
  3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
  4. We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace.
  5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
  6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
  7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
  8. Self-seeking will slip away.
  9. Our whole attitude and outlook on life with change.
  10. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.
  11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.
  12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

AA also says, “Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

What’s Next After Step 9?

Once you have completed step 9, it’s time to move on to step 10. Step 10 in AA asks you to take a personal inventory of how far you’ve come. It also asks you to reflect on where you are in the present and your day-to-day life. 

The purpose of step 10 is to acknowledge that your old habits don’t control you and practice self-examination to help continue this trend.

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Updated on February 2, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on February 2, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Alcoholics Anonymous: Alcoholics Anonymous.” aa.org, 2019.
  2. What Makes AA Work?” Harvard Gazette, 2011.
  3. Stone et al. “Therapeutic Factors and Psychological Concepts in Alcoholics Anonymous.” Journal of Counselor Practice, 2011.
  4. Suire et al. “The Psychosocial Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous.” American Journal on Addictions, 2006.
  5. “Alcoholics Anonymous: Is A.A. For You?” www.aa.org.
  6. Kelly et al. “Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs for alcohol use disorder.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2020.
  7. Vasudeva, Shaweta. “The Science of Step 9 AA: How Making Amends Can Help.” Alcoholics Resource Center, 2022.

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