The Healers (Adventures in Step 9)

by Bill Brenner on May 4, 2010

Tripped on Step 9 many times. But I got back up. Here’s what happened next.

Mood music for this post:


Of the 12 Steps of Recovery, three are the thorns of my existence:

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

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

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

Step 9 has been especially vexing. There are some folks I can’t make amends with yet, though Lord knows I’ve tried.

I feel especially pained about my inability to heal the rift with my mother and various people on that side of the family. But it’s complicated. Very complicated. I’ve forgiven her for many things, but our relationship is like a jigsaw puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. Those pieces have a lot to do with boundaries and OCD triggers. It’s as much my fault as it is hers. But right now this is how it must be.

I wish I could make amends with the Marley family, but I can’t until they’re willing to accept that from me. I stabbed them in the gut pretty hard, so I don’t blame them one bit.

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with people deep in my past and, while the need to make amends doesn’t always apply and the relationships can never be what they were, all have helped me heal.

I recently got back in touch with two of my brother’s friends — John Edwards and Scott Epler. They were my friends as well, but they were always the older kids. Scott and I both lost a brother in 1984, and he had a hard road to travel like I did. But I found him alive and well, doing great things with his life. Last time I saw Edwards was at Sean Marley’s funeral. I always assumed he was angry with me, too. He had good reason to be. When he went into the military and Sean and I were being anti-military (in my case because I was a chicken shit, afraid of service and the danger attached), I was a real asshole to him. He’s a minister now, and I’ve gotten a lot of wisdom from him already. I’m loving the reconnection.

Getting back in touch with Shannon Ross Lazzaro has been a gift as well. She’s one of those people who was always part of the Point of Pines circle I existed in. She was close to my brother and was still part of the family after he died. She’s now in Atlanta and has two precious kids of her own.

Mary Anastasio I met through Sean, and she never really went away. But in the past year we’ve had a lot more to talk about. She often reads this blog and tells me I’m too hard on myself, though I don’t try to be. I used to have a Thanksgiving Eve tradition where I’d go to her house and shoot the breeze with her mom. Her mom had a heavy Irish accent and all the word color you would expect with that. One of my favorite lines from her was that Mary “could use a good blow” — Irish-speak for a slap in the face. I can’t remember what Mary did to get that response, but we laughed hard, and I still do. Now Mary lives in Revere with a great husband and son. Her husband, Vinny, is a biker type, exactly the kind of guy I expected her to marry. I say that as a compliment.

Then there’s Joy, Sean’s widow. She’s remarried with kids and has done a remarkable job of pushing on with her life. She dropped out of my world for nearly 14 years — right after Sean’s death — until recently. The contents of our exchange are private, but this much I can tell you: I was wrong all these years when I assumed  she hated my guts and wanted nothing more to do with me.

I have to be careful with this last reconnection. I still have a lot of questions about Sean’s final years and the OCD in me wants to know everything now. If I’m lucky, some answers will come in time. But I’m not going to push. I have no right to.

Besides, simply being reconnected is, as Joe Biden might say, “A big fucking deal.”

It is to me, anyway. And as remote as that connection may remain, it’s still gone far in helping me heal.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Angela May 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Making amends is a huge step. Amends is not saying “I’m sorry.” We have said those words one too many times, and they have lost their meaning. Action is the key to amends. Our behavior must change, to place meaning behind our amends.
We must walk the walk.
For me, making an amends is crucial to the relationship. Realistically, the pain we have caused others may be too great, but the slight chance that a relationship can be salvaged, makes the amends worthwhile.
This happened to me. One of my most meaningful relationships took four or five years to reach the point that we can be civil. This means the world to me, and it has made the wait and the change in my behavior and character worth all the effort.
TIME- Things I Must Earn!

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