Making Amends to Ourselves — a Path to Self Forgiveness

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of self forgiveness lately. I think that self forgiveness presents a challenge for many people, in and out of recovery. As humans, we often judge our own actions through an unrealistic lens and are particularly hard on ourselves.

According to Freud, we all have three parts of our personalities — the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id being the part of our personalities that is responsible for our animal instincts, sexual desires, and aggressive drives. The super-ego is the part of our personalities that functions as the moral compass and the ego is the part that mediates between the id and the super-ego. Perhaps it’s the ego that can’t accept that we might say or so something that falls outside out ethics governed by the super-ego.

Now, I am not a psychologist, and I’m not sure that Freud got it all right, but this model may be somewhat useful as we explore the concept of self forgiveness.

When we do something that we regret, the idea of forgiving ourselves can be difficult. We act as the prosecutor (super-ego), defense (id), judge and jury (ego) in our own minds. Rarely do these disparate roles agree about an action that we regret. In fact, this internal conflict that arises between these three parts of our personalities may be the very essence of regret.

When this conflict is strong within us, forgiving ourselves may seem impossible. Perhaps the strength of the voices of our internal judge and jury make us feel that we are unable to forgive ourselves. But, I’ve learned it’s important not to confuse ability with willingness. We can always forgive — even ourselves — the question is are we willing to do so or not.

Steps 8 and 9 are all about making amends and hopefully receiving forgiveness. When we get to step 8, we often look back at step 4 to make our list of people based on our moral inventory — it makes sense that we would look to address our amends to the people who were affected by the items on the list. This list may include our friends, spouse, children, other family members, business associates or supervisors, former lovers, and even former friends or others to whom we are estranged because of our behaviors while drinking.

There is one person that I think is excluded from the list more often than not and I believe this is unfortunate. That person is ourself.

How often does the amends list include ourselves? Why should this list include ourselves? Don’t we owe it to others to make things right first? What does making amends to oneself even look like?

While it may appear egotistical to make amends to oneself at first glance, I believe that it is foundational to making amends with others. I believe it is foundational to loving oneself. Just as one can’t truly love another without loving oneself, I believe that one must make amends and forgive oneself in order to truly grow in the program.

If we go about our lives regretting the past and thinking horrible thoughts about ourselves then we can’t truly change as a person. Brené Brown says, “we become the stories we tell ourselves.” If we are constantly telling ourselves that we are no good because of our past or that we are defined by our past, we come to hold this as a core belief about ourselves. And if we believe in our core that we are unworthy, then we will live as if we are unworthy. We will act as if we are unworthy. We will hold in to and repeat those old behaviors.

One of the promises is, “we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” When we are newly sober this promise may seem the most extravagant of them all. How on earth could we not regret our past? It’s exactly what got us here. Our past is defined by problems, poor choices, misbehavior, and pain. How do we get to a point where we don’t regret it? The magic that makes this possible exists in self forgiveness. And self forgiveness begins with making amends to ourselves.

So, how do we do this? It starts, as all amends do, with an assessment of what when wrong and how it could have been handled differently — the core difference between an empty apology and an amends being that an amends tries to make things right, by fixing the mistake of possible and by ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. So in order to make an amends to ourselves we need to know how we hurt ourselves and how we might fix it, as well as have a plan not to do it again. Then we tell ourselves that we are sorry for what we did, acknowledging how it was hurtful, and explaining how we will avoid it in the future. That is what making an amends to ourselves looks like.

Suppose that we hurt ourselves emotionally and spiritually by putting ourselves and others in danger by driving under the influence. We now see that our behavior was reckless and dangerous and we may feel bad about it. We may feel a deep sense of regret and fell like we can’t forgive ourselves. We need to make an amends.

To do this, we could write ourselves an apology letter explaining that we can’t change the past, but we can ensure that we never drive under the influence again, which should be easy since we are not drinking. We could even take it further by promising ourselves that we wouldn’t drive under the influence even if we did have a slip. If writing a letter to ourselves seems strange, we could record ourselves making the amends and listen to it, or even say the words to ourselves with a mirror. And while this all sounds a little strange, there is something powerful about making this concrete rather than simply thinking about it.

After making the amends to ourselves, we are in a better position to forgive ourselves. Again, making it concrete is valuable. Actually saying the words “you’re forgiven” is invaluable. Repeating them to ourselves when we are triggered about the past is also valuable. We become the stories we tell ourselves.

While it’s certainly not required, I believe that when we’ve forgiven ourselves for our past mistakes — when we believe the story that we are making changes and living a better life — then we are in a better position to make amends to others. Our belief in ourselves inside shows on the outside and we carry ourselves differently because we have a new found sense of self respect. Our self respect builds and becomes love of self and we are able to show others that we have changed, and it is per cicely these changes that enable us to make amends.

And what are amends, if not an act of love?

Resignation Masquerading as Acceptance

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. … Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.

— page 417, Alcoholics Anonymous

I’ve been thinking about the difference between resignation and acceptance lately as a result of my therapy and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve let resignation masquerade as acceptance in my life for too long.

For years, I believed that I’d accepted my birth father’s suicide when, in reality, I’d resigned myself to the facts. While I knew in my heart that he had suffered from severe depression, that he’d been mentally ill, and that this was the root cause of his suicide, I still felt betrayed and abandoned. I wanted things to have been different. I didn’t, and may not ever, understand why he’d ended his own life.

I didn’t even know that his death had been a suicide until I was in the fourth grade, about nine or ten. I’d been told that there had been something wrong with his brain. I thought of it like a disease, like cancer.

Losing a loved one to suicide often leaves the family with a sense of survivor’s guilt. Sometimes it manifests as the sense that they should have done more to save their relative. Sometimes it comes up as a sense that they don’t deserve to be alive, that it should have been them instead of the person who is gone.

At the tender age of five I didn’t recognize these things in myself. Nor did I recognize them when I learned the facts behind his death. Until that point I blamed the doctors for not doing enough to save his life and I remember suddenly realizing that it had not be negligence on the part of the doctors.

I don’t remember if I blamed myself, or wished that it had been me instead of him. What I do remember is that I suddenly worried that he hadn’t loved me enough to stay — that maybe I had been the reason that he took his own life. Or maybe it was my brother or my mother, or all of us. In a word, I felt confused and abandoned — left behind.

I don’t know if I ever expressed these feelings. Probably not. I held them deep inside and I was angry. And I’ve remained angry for 43 years.

And this anger was only compounded when my step father, who I call my father, died suddenly when I was 29. It was a chilling blow. He and I were very close and I had many plans for us as Dad moved into his later stages of life. I imagined us hunting and fishing together. I imagined him bouncing my unborn son on his knee. I imagined him taking my son to the firehouse and letting him sit behind the wheel of the engines. None of those things happened. They couldn’t because he was gone. I resigned myself to theses facts as well.

Resignation may be a form of acceptance, but if so, resignation holds a grudge and includes a resentment. Resignation holds on, and wishes for things to be different. Resignation breeds anger and provides no relief.

Over my many years I have often said, “I have accepted this, but I can’t let go,” or “I don’t know how to let go of this,” — I have come to understand that this is the fundamental difference between resignation and acceptance. When I can’t let something go, I have resigned myself to it rather than accepted it.

And that underlying anger has often spilt over into other parts of my life. I’ve long had a history of explosive anger, fits of rage even. Only recently have I come to understand that my anger is not the same as other people’s anger. It comes on quickly and my blood boils in split second.

It is not something I am proud of and it is something that I am working on. I’ve been working on it for a long time actually. But just as I often said that I couldn’t let go, I’ve frequently said, “I don’t know how to control this anger.” Sure, I have cognitively known about many tools to cool the flames, but in the instant I frequently fail to access those tools.

Often the event that has set me off has not been that big of a deal — the trigger has very little or even nothing at all to do with my anger. And the anger has been disproportionate to the trigger.

Knowing the underlying roots of this anger is helpful. Knowing that I’ve been clinging to anger deeply rooted in childhood trauma helps me to recognize more quickly that the overwhelming emotions I am feeling in the moment have little to do with the actual moment.

I’ve come to believe that the key to ending this cycle lies in the full acceptance of my fathers’ deaths. And I am not sure exactly what that looks like, but I know it will be more peaceful, and more serene than how I’ve “accepted” things in the past.

Recently, I received some unwelcome news. News that will fundamentally impact our family and will require some changes in our lives. Nothing that is earth shattering, nothing life threatening, and in some ways fully anticipated — but still news that is not easy to accept.

And yet, upon receiving the news, digesting it, and forming the very beginning of a plan, I have felt relaxed with the news. I’m not angry about it. While unwelcome, it had brought a certain sense of relief. It has already changed me and my responses to situations which used to baffle me. I’m less angry and can deal with certain difficulties with greater calm and ease.

That is what acceptance looks like.

Memories, Feeling Better, & Carrying the Message

We lost my Uncle Danny yesterday and while it’s sad that he’s gone, I’m grateful that one of my earliest memories from childhood was him playing with me at the playground. He showed me how to do a “skin-the-cat” on the rings. I was perhaps 3 or 4 at the most.

My head cold seems to be in retreat and I’m grateful to be starting to feel better. With the exception of going to the drug store, I haven’t left the house all week. I may get out for a much needed walk today.

Yesterday, I got a text message from a man who I’ve never met in person, but with whom I’ve had a few conversations. He is a friend of a friend, and last year I took a call from him to talk about his drinking problems. He wanted to let me know that yesterday was his 1 year sobriety anniversary. It was truly the best text message of 2020. I’m grateful that I was able to help another person find this path of recovery.

Healing, Running, & Sleeping In

Yesterday, I talked with my dear friend who had open heart surgery last week. It was wonderful to hear his voice and even better to hear that he would likely be discharged to day. I’m grateful for the success and healing and grateful to have him in my life.

It was unseasonably warm yesterday, and will be today as well. I got out for a long run (6.88 miles) and enjoyed making my way through the neighborhoods. I am grateful to be able to run. Running has changed my life in so many ways. Even though I run solo, it has made me feel more connected to my community because there is something about being in the community rather than viewing the community from behind the car windshield and doors.

I slept in today. In the past I’ve often felt guilty about my propensity to sleep late. There is a mythos around the early riser in this modern world and I don’t buy into it, but sometimes it’s hard not to feel guilty because there are so many messages that we receive about being the early bird. However, I know that my body needed the sleep and I’m grateful for it. I’m also grateful that because I slept in, I can sit my Adirondack chair in the sunlight as I type this out on my phone before posting it.

Have a great Sunday.

How Empathy and Compassion Helped Me Heal

Have you ever been afraid for your life? Not just scared, but really concerned that you just might die — right here, right now.

I have.

It was a late summer evening and I was 15 years old. School had already started but the sun was still high enough in the sky that we could go out after eating dinner and cruise around town on our bikes — we ate early, 5:30 every day. My brother and I had ridden into town on our freestyle box bikes and met up with our friend Matt to go to Sheetz — Central PA and North Western MD’s incarnation of a 7-Eleven, except they didn’t have Slurpies.

We got some junk food and as we were leaving Andy and his crew walked in. He said something rude to me and I ignored it. Andy was my bully. Andy was 17 and huge. I knew to let his comments roll off my back like water off a duck’s ass. The three of us sat in the curb and indulged in our candy before starting to ride up the road. Before leaving we talked to a man and his wife (perhaps girlfriend) about how nice the night was. No more than ten minutes had passed.

We’d gotten about 200 yards from the Sheetz when Andy and his crew pulled up beside us in their dark green muscle car — maybe a Chevy Nova, or an old Pontiac, I don’t know for sure — and Andy leaned out from the drivers seat and screamed something at me. He was slurring his words. Clearly intoxicated. Slamming down the accelerator, he sped off. I thought it was over. I was wrong.

Somewhere he had turned around and came by to talk more shit to me. I was scared. He had a car and I had a bike. The three of us decided to book it and cut through the school to try to find safety. I thought that by doing this we’d effectively cut him off the chase. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might not need a road to drive on.

With Andy and his crew in hot pursuit, I peddled as fast as I could and made a beeline for a tree-line where there was a fence that he couldn’t get through in his car. But I also had to ditch my bike. There was a cut-down corn field on the other side of the fence and just beyond that field was Main Street, where Matt lived. It was perhaps 75 to 100 yards to safety. I made it about fifty before I felt Andy’s massive left had grab my shirt collar and flip me around so that his right fist had a clear shot at my jaw.

Matt had made it to his house and I watched him scale the privacy fence to get to safety. My brother was being held back by Andy’s crew and he was younger and smaller than me. We wouldn’t have had much of a chance against the four older boys.

Andy beat the shit out of me.

I was smaller, lighter, and unable to gather my wits to punch back. All I could do was shield my head as best I could. I remember, after a solid hook to the face, the ground rippling beneath me, thinking, “I’m gonna die,” as he pulled me up for another swing.

When I was sure that I was going to die, I heard the man from Sheetz shouting, “Hey, let that boy go.” I never got his a name but that man may have saved my life.


For many, many years, I held an angry grudge against my assailant. I’d wanted him to serve time. He didn’t, despite being a repeat offender and was my first introduction to the failures of our criminal justice system.

I sometimes thought about how I might get revenge. Either beat him or better yet, catch him in a crime and get him licked up. I wanted him to get hurt. I wanted to hurt him. I thought that if I could get even, I would feel better.

Every now and then, I would Google his name and once found a reference to him being in prison.

“Good,” I thought.

But it wasn’t good. Neither revenge and retribution, nor Andy’s poor choices and his incarceration would actually fix things. Nothing would fix things from that day. I’ll always have been brutally beaten. And I’ll always remember it. All that changed was knowing that he’d served some time. The anger didn’t go away.

As I’ve grown in my recovery, and as I’ve worked through my past traumas, I’ve learned that the way to heal from them is to find compassion for myself and for other. I’ve learned that forgiving others releases me of the burden of carrying the grudge.

When my son was attacked, I worked hard to find compassion for his assailant. I knew that there had to be something deeply wrong in his life that would lead him to attack a younger boy. I was right about that. I learned about some of his troubles in the court room.

Today when I think of Andy, I wonder what hurt him. I wonder what was so broken and wrong in his world that drove him to bully me. We knew his family. They were nice folks. His brothers and sisters were kind to me. I don’t have the answer. I probably never will.

What I do know, is that when I dug deep and cultivated empathy for Andy, I was able to forgive Andy for beating me up. I was able forgive myself for being weak and failing to fight back. And I was able to let it go.

Thoughts on Understanding vs. Empathy and National Healing

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately, in part because the tone of our nation borders on uncivil at best and out right bellicose at worst. Indeed, the tone of the nation is not uniform. There are pockets of civility, at the individual level, but by and large, the tone of our national conversation rears its ugly head by envisioning anyone who does not think or act in the manner that we do as the enemy.

I am guilty. I am quite conscious that I have painted people who think differently than me as the enemy. I’m working to change that, and that’s where empathy comes in.

While I’m rabidly agnostic, I have always loved the Prayer of Saint Francis and was delighted to find that it was beloved by the 12 Step community as “the eleventh step prayer.” I love the dichotomies that it sets up, each line setting the intention to chose the high road.

Grant that I a may not so much seek…to be understood as to understand.

These lines set the intention of placing others before ourselves. They set the intention of working to understand others before insisting that they understand us. They ask us to drop the insistence that our world view is the correct worldview.

I’ve long known that we can’t fix problems if we don’t understand them. I’ve also known in my heart that we take the time to understand others points of view then we may see how similar we are rather than how different we are. Understanding others has long been an intellectual construct rather than en emotional construct. For many years I have thought this is enough.

And yet, I have come to believe that merely understanding rather than being understood is not enough. Understanding implies knowledge — facts, figures, even opinions — but it does not imply feelings. To truly understand someone, we must understand their feelings. To make progress we must empathize with others.

We must be in a position to take on their feelings, not necessarily own the feelings, but to feel those feelings ourselves. The oft repeated 12 Step anecdote “I never felt like people got me until I came to the rooms” has its roots in a common suffering, addiction to alcohol or another substance, but really, what it’s all about is empathy. We feel this way because empathy runs deep in the 12 Step fellowships.

It’s easy to empathize with someone when we share a common problem or common suffering, it’s not so easy to empathize when our lived experience is not shared. And yet, that’s what we need right now in our country. We need more empathy.

Over the summer, I spent some time at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Deep in the heart of coal country. The Greenbriar is owned by West Virginia’s governor, Jim Justice. Mr. Justice supports Coal. He supports President Trump. He and I are unlikely to agree on much politically.

My son, upon learning this, asked me why we would spend our money at a place where the owner didn’t believe in supporting renewable energy. Where the owner, had made money on dirty fossil fuel. In my son’s eyes, fossil fuel is the old way (I agree with him on this) and it is also evil (I do not agree with him on this).

My son exclaimed, “Dad, we can’t support someone who makes his money off of an evil fuel like coal!”

It was a teachable moment. I talked to him about the fact that people need to make a living. That people need to put food on their table. That while Jim Justice may have made a lot of money in a lot of ways that might sit well with my personal politics, he was also employing a large number of people in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia who needed to feed themselves and their families.

I talked with my son about how we need to empathize with people who may need to make hard choices about their employment. I talked with him about coal miners who had for centuries gone into the mines, risking their lives, so that their kids could eat. I asked him, “who are we to judge that decision?”

So, today, as the nation awaits the final results of the 2020 election, I’m thinking a lot about empathy. Many people are stunned that President Trump held on to the margins that he did. It’s the tightest election in memory. People are asking a lot of deep soul searching questions:

How can people support this man who is openly racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic? Are people really okay with a grifter and criminal running the country? Why don’t the republicans wake up and see that the emperor has no clothes? Is this really who we are as Americans?

I’ve asked myself these questions over and over again for the past four years. I haven’t come up with good answers to them. I have many friends who support Trump, and I know that they are good people. They would give me the shirt off their back. They have given me places to sleep when I was without a place to call my own.

Increasingly, I’m questioning the questions. I’m not sure these are the right questions. I think the question we need to be asking is more along the lines of this:

What is it people who support President Trump are truly concerned about? What drives otherwise wonderful people to support someone who has so many obvious character flaws? What feelings are driving these decisions? Are we hurting? Why are we hurting? How can we help to address those feelings in a meaningful way?

When we seek to see the humanity of our fellow beings, then and only then can we seek to understand rather than to be understood, and develop a meaningful sense of empathy for them. And out of that sense of empathy, we may be able to forge a path forward towards national healing.

1827 — Five Years, One Day at a Time

One thousand, eight hundred, twenty-seven days without a drink — one day at a time. But who’s counting?

Well, I am.

Five years is a long-ass time without taking a drink, considering that I drank daily for seven years, and at least weekly for 25 years, leading up to September 23, 2015.

It has been a rough road, especially in the first year and in the last two years. The first year was, well, the first year. I spent months walking around in a fog. I sometimes forgot what I was saying mid-sentence. I craved booze, especially in the first six months. Everything was a trigger. Having a good day, I wanted to drink. Having a bad day, I wanted to drink. The weather was cold, the weather was warm…you get the picture.

The last two years have included family and societal trauma. I went through some things that no parent should ever go through. I watched my son suffer and he showed me what resilience looks like. I’ve been living in the same pandemic as you are and 2020 has been a shit-show with one hit after another. But I’ve always held on to hope and faith that things will get better. And I’ve stayed sober through it all.

These last five years have also been a time of self reflection, rediscovery, growth, and joy. I uncovered the root of my addiction. I discovered that I could let go of the God of my childhood and embrace an understanding of the universe that made room for the mystery without subscribing to a particular dogma. I began running at the young age of 45.

I am grateful that I am now living a life that I couldn’t have imagined back in 2015. I am safe, secure in who I am, have a loving family and a wide circle of friends. I’ve traveled and enjoyed making new friends. I’ve been a better dad and a better husband. I have truly discovered a new freedom and a new happiness. I don’t regret my past; I can look at it honestly and openly. I’ve found peace and I know that my experience can help others. I do not fear people or economic insecurity. My whole outlook on life has changed. These are only a few of the AA Promises, and I am here to tell you that they do come true.

I couldn’t have gotten here without help and hope. Hope and faith that things would be better. Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I came into the rooms with only a grain of a mustard seed of hope but I had a why. My reason to live was for my son and may family, quite simply, I wasn’t ready to die and I knew that dying was on the agenda.

I often think about the darkness and despair that I felt as I walked into that 6:00 AM meeting in 2015. I think about the newcomer, and all those out there who are struggling, often in silence — our stories may be different, but we have a kinship of common suffering. We also have a kinship of a common solution.

And so I want to leave you with this as I celebrate my fifth anniversary of choosing to live —

If you are struggling,
If your world feels dark and lonely,
If you look in the mirror and hate the person you see there,
If you can’t imagine living without alcohol or drugs,
If you can’t imagine another day of drinking or using,
If you know that you’re killing yourself with your addiction,
Know that this is how I felt,
Know that others have been right where you are,
Know that you are not alone,
Know that there are ways out,
Know that people want to help,
Know that they can help,
Know that you can accept their help,
Know that you are worthy,
Know that you can overcome this,
Know that you can not only make it, but thrive.

It all starts by surrendering, accepting the fact that you can’t continue to live like you have been, and asking for help.

Resilience in the Time of COVID-19

The mysterious universe seems to be built upon cycles. Stars are born out of gas clouds and cosmic dust. As the dust spins and collides, heat begins to build, and a proto-star is born. These proto-stars grow in size to become stars. Over the lifetime of a star it expands as it burns off fuel. Stars burn for eons until the fuel is consumed, at which point, they collapse upon themselves forming either white dwarves or black holes.

In this vast, infinite universe, 8 planets and one other object (sorry Pluto) orbit around one of these stars. Each circling the sun at its own rate according to it’s distance. Several of these planets are circled by rings and moons. We live on the third stone from the sun, and one revolution around the sun is what we humans call a year. Our moon revolves around the earth every twenty eight days.

Here on earth, we witness cycles as the seasons change from winter, to spring, to summer, to autumn, only to begin again, over and over — year after year. Tides come in and tides go out, about every eight hours or so. What we call day and night are the result of the earth spinning on its axis, gradually exposing the land and oceans to the warmth and light of the sun or the chill and the darkness of the universe.

Life itself ebbs and flows.

Only a fool would deny that we are in a crisis at this point. The Coronavirus was a pandemic long before WHO officially pronounced it so. Hundreds of thousands of cases have been documented, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of cases have gone undocumented. Over 14,000 people have died as of 3/22/2020 according to Johns Hopkins University

The stock market is down significantly. Businesses have been ordered to close. Schools are out. In my state, we have been advised not to gather in groups of more than ten. Our grocery stores are under-stocked, not because of a food shortage, but because people are panic buying. Many of us have never experienced anything like this, and for that we are fortunate.

Worldwide, people are worried, and with good reason. Fear seems to be ruling the day. And some of these fears are justified. We don’t know what we don’t know about this virus.

We do know that it can be deadly. We do know that it has spread around the world devastatingly quickly, despite the fact that we don’t truly know how it spreads (as of this posting). It would be disingenuous for me to tell you not to worry.

And yet, we (Homo Sapiens) are miraculous.

To our best knowledge, our world is the only world that sustains life. Conceivably, other life sustaining worlds exist, but we haven’t found them yet. Science tells us that we are the product of millions of years of evolution. We descended from other living organisms that adapted and changed in response to stressors and stimuli in this world. We share DNA with many other species on this earth including, cats, mice, pigs, and other primates. Ninety-six percent of our DNA is shared with Chimpanzees.

Our best genetic research indicates that Homo Sapiens began life in sub-Saharan Africa and gradually migrated to all corners of the globe. We are highly adaptable, having proven that we can not only survive but thrive in many different environments including the Arctic, the deserts of Africa and Asia, as well as more temperate zones in Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Asia. We’ve consistently beaten the odds as a species, and for most of our existence we did this without modern medicine, central air conditioning, heat, electricity, public water, and indoor plumbing.

We are the picture of resilience as a species.

Yes, we are going to go through some very difficult times in the near future. There will be losses, tangible and intangible. People are going to suffer. And while this is happening, it will be difficult to watch. We will feel helpless — because we are. We will feel powerless — because we are. We will feel lost, but we can find our way.

This won’t last forever. Yes, people will die, but most will recover from the illness. As more people recover from the virus, more people will develop immunity to the virus. And we may even develop a vaccine for the virus. Our institutions, our economy, and our way of life will recover. Just as the day turns to night, and the tides come in and go out, this will be prove to be another cycle.

Homo Sapiens is not about to be destroyed by the Coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19. This is part of the cycle.

Knowing that we are in a cycle, we can also know that we will recover. And knowing that provides hope in a time when hope is in short supply.

Step 10: Pay Attention, Admit When You’re Wrong, And Fix It If You Can

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

At this point in our journey we’ve presumably learned how to identify patterns of behavior and how they lead us to make mistakes as well as how to make amends for our failures. Step 10 asks us to practice these skills as we move through life.

The Big Book suggests doing this at night, before going to bed. Perhaps that works for you, but this doesn’t work for me. First and foremost, at the end of the day I need to let my mind rest. I have a routine that I already practice around bed time. It includes turning off screens, reading, perhaps listening to a relaxing podcast or meditation.

The idea of making a list of the things that I did wrong during the day and then resolving to fix them the next day sounds onerous. I don’t know about you, but I can’t settle down and go to sleep after that exercise. My monkey mind gets activated and I stress about how to fix things. That leads to a less than stellar night of sleep.

I find it much better to be conscious of my words and actions moment to moment during the day and to make my amends as soon as I recognize that I’ve made a mistake. This takes work. It takes awareness. It takes practice. In short, it takes mindfulness, which is a big part of how I approach the next step.

I’m not always great at this. There are times when I don’t recognize that I’ve hurt another person. There are times when I let my emotions get the better of me and go on the attack, forsaking the feelings of others. There are times when I feel justified in my anger and hold in to it longer than I should. But with practice, I’ve come to recognize when I’ve caused harm more quickly than I did in the past.

I find it interesting that this step doesn’t say anything about making amends. It simply says we should promptly admit that we were wrong. This seems strange. The Big Book explains that’s amends are implied, “Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along.” — Alcoholics Anonymous page 84.

Why not make it explicit rather than implicit?

At any rate, one cannot have a clean conscious unless one tries to right a wrong. If we do this as part of Step 10, if we make it a habit — part of our existential being, our ethos — the we will never build up a long list of failures like we had in Step 4. We will be living more in harmony with ourselves and the others in our lives.