Step 9: Works When you Work It

Wheat Stalk silhouette

Contributor: Brie Morzov, MSW, LCSW, and contributor for Addiction Hope

9th Step; “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when it would injure them or others.”

Repairing the past is a critical step in the recovery process. If I attempt to “move on” without healing past wounds, I will have a proverbial ball and chain only delaying my progress forward. Step 9 is about “getting free” from all past wounds so that you can soar to new life in recovery without the shame of the past.

This freedom isn’t gained, however, by just completing a nice little (or big) list of people one has harmed, as done in Step 8. This freedom can only be truly gained by the action of Step 9, the step of forgiveness.

young man begging his girlfriend to forgive him“Forgiveness sets us free”, says Catholic priest Father Ubald, survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Father Ubald has dedicated his life to forgiveness, peace and healing ministry, which reconciles perpetrators of the genocide with victims.

On his website you can see countless videos and photos of these reunified people, holding hands, a symbol of ultimate forgiveness and thus freedom and healing.

When working the 12 Steps, one MUST do them in order. They are set up like a staircase, one building on the next. If I attempt to skip around, I will miss the whole process of healing. My summary of the steps goes like this:

  • Steps 1 – 3 are about a Spiritual Awakening and Surrender. This is the foundation of the rest of the steps. Until you have truly found a Source of healing and surrendered yourself, your life, your healing to your Source, the subsequent steps will only drive you back to your “old” source (Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, etc). I watched it happen over and over again in addiction counseling. A client would “breeze through” the taboo “God” steps, only then to relapse on Step 4 when asked to make a fearless moral inventory…yikes!
  • Steps 4-7 are about acknowledging my crap, wounds, and moreover my need for healing. Healing which is totally possible if I’ve really worked Steps 1-3.
  • Steps 8-10 is about owning my crap, shame, wounds and most importantly the harm caused while substances were in the driver’s seat of my life. In doing these steps I gain freedom and healing through owning a desire and commitment to a new life. Again this is possible only if I’ve worked Steps 1-7 wholeheartedly.
  • Steps 11-12 are about living out my new life, surrendered to God a.k.a Source and continuing on a path of spiritual growth. The steps build a perfect road for recovery and healing, if I work them IN ORDER and with a fearless open heart, mind and soul.

Personal Example

I have a personal example of working Step 9 and the power of forgiveness. I had long been estranged from one of my step brothers. His choices during his teens and early 20’s left me sickened and with no trust or desire to have him in my life. A few years ago when pressed to reconcile with him, I snapped. I lashed out with unkind words and actions.

being-honest-with-myselfThe carnage of my choices now was the visible damage, but my pride and ego told me I was right, I felt justified. Hurting people, hurt people. Healed people, heal people.

Years went by while I nursed my pride and licked my wounds. As a therapist, I often would talk to clients about forgiveness, with a resounding gong of my own need for forgiveness ringing loudly.

Finally, I was ready, sick of the lasting effects of my choices. So I took a step. Small at first, then bigger. I talked things through with my own therapist, my husband, a close friend. With the consensus clear that I needed to clean up my side of the street.

Not because I was wrong, but because my soul was sick from my choices. How I handled myself was less than dignified and I held tremendous shame. Shame does not go away by licking our wounds. Shame can only be healed when acknowledged and then action is taken toward repair.

So I stepped out of my shame just long enough to write a brief email owning my crap, my shame, my part. I said nothing of his part, which would have only further attempted to excuse my behavior.

Having written that email, I truly let go, and felt freedom from that issue for the first time in years. It feels really good to stay on my side of the street when it’s cleaned up. Forgiveness, especially when you are the one seeking it, is a spiritual exercise. It has implications that go far beyond one moment. My action of forgiveness, healed much more than just my pride and shame.


It brought reconciliation with several family members and allowed me to freely be me in my family without my gonging shame ringing in my head. It also allowed him to be him, no longer being the victim. Now, he still may or may not see himself this way, but I didn’t, and that absolutely changed how my soul saw him and how I see myself.

Father And Teenage Son Having A HugMany times I hear clients shy away from amends for fear of unforgiveness or rejection. But from my humble experience, making amends is about me, not them.

Step 9 is about healing by acknowledgment of past harms caused by addictive or maybe just selfish or immature actions. This step will not “work” if selfishness or immaturity is the driving force.

Step 9 works when I am ready to face my “crap” so that I can move forward to new choices without the resounding gong of past choices diverting my attention.

Most importantly, if I really work a strong Step 9, I will change how I see myself, letting go of the shame that often is the driving force of addiction.

As is true with all of the Steps, Step 9 works when you work it with an open heart and mind and a desire to heal from the past.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Unforgiveness in recovery can be difficult. Have you or your loved experienced unforgiveness, what efforts did you make to obtain healing and support your recovery?

Brie MorzovAbout the author: Brie Morzov, is a Licensed Clinical Social Work in Oregon. She has worked in the field of addiction treatment and prevention for the past decade and continues to work as a therapist and author. She has a passion for helping hurting people heal and find their highest self.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 7, 2015
Published on

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.