My obsession with Seinfeld continues. In “The Apology,” Jerry’s friend “Hanky” (played by James Spader) is a recovering alcoholic. As he approaches Step 9 and begins to apologize to people he had harmed in the past, George is miffed for not getting his apology. Apparently Hanky had insulted George years ago by refusing to lend him a sweater, implying his large “melon” head would stretch out the fine cashmere sweater’s neck.
Many followers of Alcoholics Anonymous were not happy with this simplistic view of Steps 8 and 9. They take issue with the fact that these steps refer to serious harm, not minor insults, that were done to people during one’s drinking career. An insult over the size of one’s head, or in the case of this episode, Hanky calling Jerry by the wrong name (Gary) are not the kind of amends that these steps were intended to address.
The requirement for Step 8 is to make a list of all the people you have harmed and be ready to make amends for the harm. Step 9 is the actual action step whereby you make amends where and when you can, if doing so causes no additional harm.
For me, this was not a step I could really complete. A lot of the people I had harmed were long since out of my life, living on a different continent. In some cases, “making amends” would have opened up wounds in them that would not have done any good for either of us. But more than that, because I had never really “worked the steps” that had come before, I was not entirely aware of the harm I had done.
I was, however, aware of the harm that had been done to me by other alcoholics. Family members who had gone through the AA program had neglected making amends to me, much like Hanky had forgotten George Costanza. Those amends have yet to be made. Recognition of the harm that was done to me as a child and teen, and continues to be done to me to this very day go completely unrecognized by all parties. So, perhaps part of me rejects the idea of making amends until I receive mine first. Extremely selfish, I know.