Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.
Step 9 Reading
When it comes to taking the step to reach out to other people with your apologies, it's important to remember not to be impulsive but not to procrastinate either. Personally, I have a tendency to jump into things too quickly because if I'm going to do something I usually feel like I just have to go do it before I forget or put it off too long. So I'm naturally the type of person who jumps right into things. Because of this, in my past I have usually dug up dirt a lot more then necessary with people. I've apologized, then apologized again. I think people get sick of hearing it from me.
So for the first couple times I've done this step I was really not changing much about my usual habits except for trying to pray a little more about how to talk to people about things that were still bothering me.
In one way, this was good. But this time as I approached step 9 I had a realization that hit me hard.
I looked back at the list of people and the little notes I wrote to them but to myself, and I realized that most of them had already heard me tell them these very things. Why was I still bringing this stuff up? Do they really need to hear from me about this stuff again?
Realization #1: I need to forgive myself for these things.
Instead of approaching these people again, I decided to write another letter to myself with these events particularly mentioned so I could put it behind me. I needed to let these things go.
Realization #2: I wasn't forgiving other people.
As I began Step 9 another person's name came to me and as I added them to the list, the fear of approaching this person was stronger. I found myself asking myself why I was feeling the need to apologize, and REALLY asking. I felt the figurative curtain being pulled back from my underlying motivations and realized that all my life I have actually used apologies as a tool to get an apology back. I recalled times in my younger years when I would use just the right words to get the other person to feel guilty or sympathetic towards me so they would cave and apologize to me or at least show me pity. I was disgusted with myself.
Realizing this made me realize I hadn't been forgiving these people. Step 8 comes before Step 9 for a reason, and that is to forgive others FIRST before going to them to apologize. Because if I have really forgiven these people already, then when I'm apologizing I have no other motivation then to just apologize to them. I've already forgiven them, so I don't need them to apologize to me. I don't even need to tell them, "I forgive you for..." because that is only digging things up again. I can keep that part to myself.
So after thinking about this for a while I returned to my list of people, and began taking names off as I began forgiving myself. After doing that my list only had a couple names left and so now I'm going to approach only those ones.
The Lord has His own timing for this stuff. Sometimes you might feel like things have taken way too long for you to let them go, but it might just be the exact time for Heavenly Father's plan. Things happen the way they do because if they did not, something wouldn't be right. I truly do believe that the Lord puts things in our path when we are ready for them. He gives us countless opportunities to do things and if we take those opportunities we are blessed. If we don't take those opportunities, he gives the opportunity to someone else. But that doesn't mean we don't get another opportunity later on. I believe that the steps really give me an opportunity for more perspective.
Maybe the steps aren't for everybody. I've recently read a post where a wife of an addict talked about how she didn't feel the steps were for her. I respect how she feels. You should do what works for you. However, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the steps can work in some way for EVERYBODY. This woman said she thought maybe the steps aren't for her because she is already doing these things every day. She's already repenting and using the atonement in her life. Great! I felt the same way when I started the steps. But the steps bring in a new way to contemplate the atonement. It provides little areas where we can each do a little bit better. And to me, that's worth a try.