I took Step Nine, completely and thoroughly, thirty-one years ago. I’d been a compulsive thief and cheat and often a manipulator and bully, so I had a lot of cleaning up to do. My sponsor kept me at it, doing one thing each day. It might be searching for a phone number for someone I hadn’t seen in fifteen years, or locating the owner of a now-closed business, or cleaning out one more drawer in my home to find more stolen goods.
I contacted a cemetery I’d stolen grave markers from, a museum I’d stolen items from, people I’d babysat for and stolen from. I contacted the university at which I’d cheated on my master’s exams, ready and willing to turn in my falsely obtained degree. (This could have meant leaving my job, but I was willing). And, I contacted the government to repay benefits I had claimed dishonestly.
Some amends were ongoing, like leaving appropriate tips for waiters to make up for all the tips I’d never left in my selfishness. I stopped taking free items just because they were there for the taking. When making each amend, I explained exactly what I was doing, as suggested in the Big Book and the AA Twelve and Twelve. I stated that I’m a compulsive overeater and that part of the Overeaters Anonymous program I’m working involves cleaning up my past by making amends to people I’d harmed.
As a result of cleaning house and changing behaviors, I had a new sense of feeling clean that I’d never experienced before. I no longer had secrets and had nothing to hide. As I continue living in Step Ten, making amends whenever I make new mistakes, that clean feeling continues.
It also cemented Step One in my mind and soul forever because the truth about me was no longer a shameful secret. The fact that I’m a compulsive overeater no longer has any power over me. It’s just true. I’m so grateful for the clear directions in the Big Book and for a sane and abstinent sponsor who did not let me get away with less than what I needed to do to stay abstinent. I’ve never had to go back and clean out anything from my pre-OA past that I omitted from Step Nine, because everything I was aware of came out and was taken care of the first time.
When I moved a year later, I found two stolen items buried deep in my home that I hadn’t seen or remembered before. My sponsor said I didn’t have to go back to Step Nine, for Step Ten is clear: “When these arise . . .” So, I worked my Step Ten and made the necessary amends and reparations.
Thoroughness and honesty really pay off: I’ve been gratefully abstinent, one day at a time, since December 1980.