Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
What I heard Tiger Woods say today was not a ploy to win back his wife, kids and sponsors. It was not penance. It was not superficial. It was a 9th step.
I have no proof that Tiger is in a 12-step treatment program besides what I have seen and heard. Tiger was in a Mississippi treatment center for 45 days. Among the staff is a renown expert in sex addiction whose treatment plan is based on a 12-step program. By going live on international TV, Tiger made “direct” amends to his legions of fans, critics, business partners, employees and friends. He could have taken an easier, softer way and made an amends via a press release, email or blog. But that would not have been a “direct” amends. A “direct” amends is humbling and often humiliating.
A 9th step prohibits laying blame on others. You won’t hear a “yeah, but …” in a 9th step. It is about honestly assessing our role in a wrong and taking responsibility for what WE have done and not the harm others have done to us. So if your wife comes at you with a golf club and bashes in the back window of your SUV after she learns that you have had multiple affairs during your marriage, you don’t blame her. You look at YOUR side of the street and the harm YOU have done.
A 9th step comes after a “searching and fearless moral inventory.” It is an opportunity to become right sized. Amends can be verbal apologies — such as Woods’ — or they can be financial, such as paying delinquent child-support or returning money embezzled from an employer. A 9th step can end a marriage or put you behind bars. Others require hard labor or time-draining chores.
Some 9th-steps are spoken. Some are written. In other cases, such as Woods amends to his wife, words are not enough. Action is the only amends and these amends can take years. The ultimate goal is the take responsibility for your wrongs and make amends without blaming another in the process. It means keeping the focus on our behavior.
What does any of this have to do with depression or mental illness? Everything, especially if you are dual-diagnosed, like me. Self-pity fueled my alcoholism and depression. I was a perpetual victim. So many wrongs had been done to me, and I spent countless hours replaying them in my head — never considering that I may bear some responsibility. I used these alleged wrongs to excuse my drinking. I was entitled to my martyrdom. You would be depressed, too, if you had been wronged like me.
Other times, when my mania kicked in, I believed I was different and special. I was entitled to behave badly — especially when I was drinking. I did not have to play by the same rules. The more I drank, the more special I became. My pride prevented me from asking for help. I was special. I could pull myself up by my bootstraps. I ignored my wrongs by focusing on the alleged wrongs that had been done to me. Often I used another’s wrong to justify my own.
I was thoroughly incapable of seeing the harm I had done others and myself — which is why I needed a 12-step program. I could not have seen this harm without the help of another alcoholic who had been where I was. I did my 9th step. It wasn’t easy but I knew my chances of staying sober and depression-free were not good unless I learned how to make an honest amends. I learned to clean my side of the street and keep it clean. I learned that I was not responsible for cleaning your side of the street or pointing out to you that your side of the street needed cleaning.
What I learned is that few things are as powerful as an honest, sincere apology. In some cases, I had already been forgiven. In others, my willingness to admit I was wrong completely diffused a volatile situation. Every amends I made, no matter how painful, left me feeling lighter and better about myself. I could not take back the wrong I had done but doing a 9th step gave me hope that I could change and stop the harm I had done others and myself.
You can call today’s statement by Tiger Woods whatever you want. You can listen to a bunch of talking heads analyze the hell out of it. You can watch it over and over on YouTube. I choose to believe it was a 9th step, and that gives me hope that Tiger will stop hurting those he loves and those who love him.
Keep coming back. It works if you work it.
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Last reviewed: 19 Feb 2010