Hey friends, Vance Johnson here, former NFL player and current recovery advocate for the Vance Johnson Recovery Center. This week we will continue with our 12-step journey to step nine, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Last week we discussed step eight, “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” And that’s a big step! Now, in step nine, we will take the list of those we have harmed and begin to make amends where we can.
Step Nine, Where Do I Start?
When I started step nine, I realized that I had lost contact with many of the people I needed to make amends with. My son, Vaughn, was dead, and my ex-wife and children did not want anything to do with me, so where was I supposed to start? After speaking with my sponsor, I realized I needed to start with the beginning. I worked to make amends with the two people I had hurt the most, my mom and dad.
Throughout my life, I have had a rocky relationship with my parents. More specifically, my father. When I talked about him to my sponsor, I ranted about all of the ways he hurt and disappointed me. Finally, when I stopped talking, my sponsor said something that will stay with me forever. He said, “Your father is not suffering because of this anger: you are.” Sound advice, friends. We have to let go of the burdens we carry: the shame, the mistakes, whatever heavies your heart should be on your list from step eight; now, in step nine, it’s time to release it.
With four months of sobriety under my belt, I met with my father and had a startling realization. Even after everything that we had been through, my father and I still loved each other. I realized my father has underlying issues that were never dealt with. This moment allowed me to reflect on how I had become him in many ways while in active addiction, maybe even worse. It gave us a bridge toward reconciliation, although it would take more time to mend the fences fully, it was a good start to step nine.
Tips on Successfully Completing Step Nine
It is easy to make excuses not to make amends; remember how I mentioned that I had lost contact with so many people? That is an excuse. Or, when I said all the ways that my dad hurt me first? That was also an excuse. The point here is that you need to start. Eventually, you will figure out the best ways to contact people; I know I did.
After starting step nine with my parents, a pastor in Colorado heard my testimony and asked me to speak at his church. During my speech, I mentioned that I was trying to make amends with my family, so if anyone knew of a way to contact them, I asked them to please let me know. Through that service, I received most of my ex-wives and children’s contact information and began trying to make amends.
Some of the amends you make will go smoothly, and some of them will not. As I progressed through my list, people hung up on me, refused to return my calls, or, if they did, scolded me about the past. Most commonly, they doubted my sincerity and sobriety. I am still making amends to this day! But, over the years, I have been able to restore a lot of meaningful relationships.
During my inpatient treatment, it took me a while to understand what amends really means in recovery. Forgive everyone, and expect nothing in return. Not a thank you, not understanding, and not even forgiveness. While in active addiction, we hurt people, and now it’s our turn to face the hurt that we caused. Nobody is obligated to forgive us in any circumstance, and the sooner we accept that, the better our recoveries will be.
I believe through step nine; the Lord wanted to show me the meaning of Galatians 6:7: “A man reaps what he sows.” The seeds we planted in active addiction are evident in our broken relationships. Take accountability and take strength in knowing you are growing into a better person in recovery.
This is not an easy step, friends. Recovery, in general, is not an easy road to walk. You will have people who may never want to forgive you. I know most of my first calls to make amends ended with a dial tone. By far, the best way to make amends is by staying in recovery. Most of my reestablished relationships offered forgiveness with time because they saw me continue to walk in my sobriety, and I completely understand. When someone first approaches you, it’s easy to think that they’re insincere. But when you do the right things every day, people take notice. Not everyone will grant forgiveness even if they see a change, but I’m grateful that my new behaviors have helped heal a lot of important relationships.
You Can Recover from Your Addictions
Whether you’re working the ninth step or just starting a program, you can always get help with your recovery. I, and everyone at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center, want to help you achieve the long-term happiness that I’ve been able to find.
Do you want to talk about your recovery? Call our admissions specialists at 888-828-2623, or reach out online through our contact form. I want you to get help, and so do our highly trained staff. Let’s talk about what our treatment center can do for you.
Vance Johnson is a former wide-receiver for the Denver Broncos, from 1985-1995. At the height of his career, Vance was in the throes of an addiction to alcohol and various recreational drugs. Vance finally began to take his recovery seriously and underwent inpatient addiction treatment. Today, Vance is drug-and-alcohol-free and encouraging others to get sober. As a Recovery Ambassador, Vance participates in speaking engagements across the country, where he recounts his struggles and offers hope that truly anyone can get sober.