I remember working up to my 9th Step and how the first several names were just automatic. It was clear that a 9th Step amends was owed. They were made up up people from the last 20 years of my life. I was almost 46 when I wrote it. The list comprised girlfriends, business associates, close friends of the time and some family.
It was clear that damage and harm had been done and that I would have to see them. To keep any of the top tier people off would have been dishonest and an act of fear. However, as I started to get a little deeper in, the word “harm” started to take a different meaning. I began to look at different forms of harm rather than just theft in its many forms or emotional grief.
When I finished the list and was going over it with the guy that helped me in this process, we got to the name “Richie”. He asked me about him and what the story was. It wasn’t a name that had come up in any prior conversations or the 5th step. So I told him the following.
When I was about 11yrs old, my best friend at the time was Richie. We used to always hang out after school. One afternoon there were about 5 or 6 of us hanging at his house playing a game called Numbers Up. This game is played one person at a time. There are 20 numbered pegs placed upside on slots so that you can’t see the numbers. The object is to pick them up one at a time, look at the number, and then place them face up in numerical order on the posts. So if the first peg you choose is the number 6, you have to put that back where you found it, keep it mind where the #6 is, and then keep choosing until you find #1. When you find #1 you put that on the first post and keep going in order until you reach #20. It requires speed and memory. While playing, there is a loud timer ticking away. It’s counting down from 3 minutes. If you don’t finish in time and press the button to stop the timer then the game “pops” upward and all the pegs go flying. You’ve lost. So the goal is to get all 20 done in the shortest amount of time.
It always sucked waiting to go. On that day it was my turn after Richie’s little sister Bridget. I remember standing behind and looking over her as she sat down playing. She kept pulling
and placing pegs and finally finished with time to spare. Instead of immediately pressing the “stop” button to record her time and pass to me, she panicked and just sat there. I got irritated because it was now supposed to be my turn and she’s just sitting there “hogging the game”! In my excitement and anticipation of playing, I yelled out “Bridget, press the button!” As I did that, I leaned over her and banged on the button to stop the timer. I then moved her out of the seat and got the game set up for my turn. When I went to reset the timer, it was broken and would not reset. I had broken Richie’s game.
After telling my story, my AA friend looked at me a little confused and said he wasn’t sure if there was a 9th Step amends owed. I sort of went with that and ended up scratching Richie off of my list.
Several months later after doing some big amends on my list, I was on Facebook. I started looking at the suggested friends that they show and there out of the blue was Richie. My immediate reaction was “pfft, I don’t think so!”. I remember scrolling to get him off of my screen as soon as possible. I was irritated that this guy I hadn’t seen or talked to in so long was suggested as a friend to me. To see his picture and name set me off. I remember asking myself why was I so upset about that. Why was I bothered by seeing Richie and the thought of him being my friend? After all, I had broken his game, he didn’t break mine.
I looked closer and thought back to that day and that time in general. Though I had been an Honor Roll student, Richie was smarter than me. I knew it and didn’t like it. I went to public school and he went to a Catholic school. He got to dress up in that nice neat uniform and I had to wear my raggedy clothes. He used to come home after school and do his homework first before he could hang out and play. His parents were still together. He didn’t have worry about the fighting at his house, the divorces, the courts, the police coming by. He was never asked things like “who do you want to live with?” by parents, lawyers, court-appointed lawyers or even the judge. Richie’s life to me seemed so calm and predictable while mine was constant chaos. I was jealous and mad that he had it so “easy”. I was embarrassed about how my life was compared to his. So when Richie ran into the living room and said to his father “Jon hit my game so hard that he knocked it off kilt and broke it.” I was ashamed and angry. I remember when he said the word “kilt”. I had no idea what it meant. I just knew it was bad. He used a word I didn’t know. He was rubbing it in that he was smarter! Richie said that I would have to buy him a new game because I had broken it. I told him that I didn’t break it. The game must have been broken already because all I did was press the button like I was supposed to! Our friendship ended that day. I never paid for his game and stopped hanging with my best friend. I was hurt, angry and resentful. I didn’t have the money or the inclination to pay for his game. So when I saw him on Facebook, all that came back.
I didn’t say all this to my AA friend that day. I didn’t have the capacity at that time. I put Richie back on my 9th Step amends list, requested him as a friend on Facebook and went onto Ebay and purchased Numbers Up. I kept that game in its original box for over a year until I was able to see him face to face to make that 9th Step amends. When I saw him, I talked about that day and the years afterward. I told him how I had stopped drinking and was trying to clear up the wrongs of my past. We both spoke of personal matters as well as our feelings of inadequacy back then and how we had both come to address some life issues as we got older. It was a good talk. We spoke for about an hour and at the end, I admitted to breaking his game and handed him the replacement.
It felt good to be able to look at the how and why of things and to clear that up after so many years. I was able to take a better self-examination and see what the underlying issues were. I was not capable of this before.