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AA Step 8: Made a List of All Persons We Had Harmed and Became Willing to Make Amends to Them All

First developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935, the 12-Step program is among the longest-running alcohol treatment programs in the world.1 The steps are a cornerstone of recovery for millions of people worldwide.2

The focus of this article will be Step 8 of Alcoholics Anonymous. It will help you answer the following questions:

  • What is Step 8 of AA?
  • Why is Step 8 of AA important to my recovery journey?
  • How can I complete Step 8 of AA?
  • How can I find a 12-Step AA program?
  • What are my treatment and recovery program options?

What Is Step 8 of AA?

Step 8 is: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”3

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, completing this step is “a very large order.”3 The list of people harmed due to an alcohol use disorder may be extensive. Research shows that alcoholism can cause a variety of negative behaviors, including aggression, domestic abuse, depression, and memory loss.4

Taking personal responsibility is key to overcoming addiction. Any journey toward full recovery involves a “deep and honest search of our motives and actions” and making an “accurate and exhaustive survey of our past life as it has affected other people.”3

What Is the Purpose of Step 8 of AA?

The purpose of this step is 3-fold and connects with Step 9. It allows program participants to:3

  • Discover where they have been at fault.
  • Make an effort to repair the damage they have caused.
  • Begin to develop healthy relationships with people in our lives.

A fundamental tenet of AA is that alcoholism doesn’t just impact the person who misuses it. It also affects everyone the person knows and loves. That’s why recovering from alcoholism is more than a personal journey—it involves the community, too. The purpose of this step is to help you begin repairing relationships that were damaged during addiction.

As stated by AA, this can only occur if program participants create a comprehensive, honest, and unflinching look at the harm they have caused and take responsibility for those errors. In making this list, you are forced to confront various failings. By doing so, you can correct your behaviors and be a better person in the future.

Completing Step 8 of AA involves making a complete list of the “harms” caused. Harms are described as the “result of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional or spiritual damage to people.”3 This step leads directly into Step 9 of AA, which involves making amends.

AA gives numerous examples of harm, such as:3

  • Behaving toward family members in a way that is irresponsible, cold, or impatient.
  • Allowing ourselves to wallow in self-pity or depression.
  • Acting ill-tempered, lying, cheating, or being physically or verbally abusive.
  • Engaging in dangerous or aggressive behavior, such as fighting or driving under the influence.

How to Complete Step 8 of AA

Understanding Step 8 of AA is critical to completing the 12-Step program, but it is only part of the process. Next, you must learn how to complete Step 8 of AA. It is only with this comprehensive understanding that you can do the work of making amends.

Decades of experience have led to specific methods that have helped participants complete Step 8. Methods include:3

  • Taking a firm look back at what we have done and discovering the specific areas where we have been at fault. This may require extensive dedication to thinking about what went wrong and then writing down various things for which you may need to make amends. If you were in a blackout state, or don’t remember what you did, you may need to rely on the recollection of others.
  • Pondering the specific instances in which we have behaved badly, even if the person to whom the ill behavior was directed was behaving the same way. This must be done without blame or judgment and with an acknowledgment that our drinking may have “aggravated the deficits of others.”
  • Avoiding extreme judgments of both ourselves and others. This may be difficult, as we may want to berate ourselves for past behavior. Such temptation must be avoided: Self-flagellation obscures true responsibility and doesn’t help in making amends.
  • Asking for the forgiveness of others, and forgiving them for their bad behavior, too. It is important to remember that full restitution may not be possible, as the person in question may not accept your apology, or they may have already passed away.
  • Asking forgiveness of ourselves and noting that the entire experience of making amends “is the beginning of the end of isolation from our fellows and from God.”

How Step 8 Fits into Your Recovery Journey

A 12-Step program takes you on a full journey. The steps are not meant to be skipped or ignored, but completed in succession. As such, AA Step 8 is only meaningful if you also consider Step 7 and Step 9.

During Step 7, program participants “humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.”5 While this step can refer to spirituality, it also involves humility. Participants need to “gain new perspective” and acknowledge alcohol’s power over them. It is only by acknowledging these deficits that a person can begin to recover from addiction.5

Step 9 requires program participants to make “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”6 This step flows directly from Step 8–once we have completed a personal inventory, we must act to repair the damage we have caused. By doing so, we prepare to leave our old lives behind and enter a life of recovery.

Following Step 8 of AA as part of our recovery journey can be difficult. Fortunately, there are a few tactics you can use to complete this inventory.3 First, you can engage in calm, thoughtful, and non-judgmental reflections of personal relations with the help of others. Doing so can show others how serious you are about your recovery. You should also discuss the list of harms and fixes with a sponsor, therapist, or group. This can help you gain useful, outside perspectives.

Numerous AA participants have benefited from Step 8 and the overall program. Regularly attending AA meetings and following each step in the process lead to recovery from addiction, the development of healthier coping skills, and improved relationships.7,8

How to Find a 12-Step AA Program

Alcoholics Anonymous is among the oldest rehabilitation programs in the United States, with groups meeting at thousands of locations throughout the country.1 Finding a meeting is often as simple as searching the AA website, speaking with a therapist, or entering an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

AA is typically part of an addiction treatment program. Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may go through the following stages of treatment:9

  • Detoxification. This process removes alcohol from your body. Depending on the severity of your addiction, detox may involve medication to manage withdrawal or any dangerous physical symptoms.
  • Inpatient or outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment refers to hospitalization or residential care, which may be necessary for more severe addiction. Outpatient care involves attending treatment while still living at home, and potentially continuing with regular activities, such as work or school. Both forms of treatment will likely involve some combination of therapy or group meetings.
  • Aftercare. Aftercare may involve continued meetings with a therapist or sponsor or regularly attending AA group meetings.

Start Your Recovery

If you are interested in joining or already participate in a 12-Step program, you may benefit from formal rehab. Rehab can provide additional resources, support, and guidance to help you in your recovery journey.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) rehab facilities work with the Alcoholics Anonymous model to ensure that users can take full advantage of the 12-Step program. At the same time, they use advanced tools, including research-backed therapeutic modalities, to ensure that those in treatment can recover. Using the directory tool, you can find a facility near you that best serves your needs.

Health insurance often covers all or part of drug and alcohol rehabilitation costs. Fortunately, we make it easy to see if your insurance covers treatment. You can use our insurance verification tool or call AAC at and an admissions navigator can check your insurance information for you. Don’t have insurance? Don’t worry. There are ways to pay for your rehab without insurance.

You deserve to live life to its fullest without feeling trapped by addiction. Contact AAC today to learn more about starting your recovery journey.

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