Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
Maybe you'll know the origins of this AA suggestion? I'm referring to the general 'scripting' for making an amends. I was taught that in making an amends I should ask "what can do to make this right?" I've looked and not really seen that in the Big Book or the 12 and 12. Am I not seeing it or what? Is this how you do it?
Thanks for not just this question, but all the wonderful emails you've sent me.
Here's what I was taught to say and how I was told to conduct myself when making an amends:
If appropriate, explain how the amends is related to my staying sober. The book "Alcoholics Anonymous" -- AA's Big Book -- cautions against emphasizing this element of the amends process, or bringing the "spiritual aspect" into it too soon -- or at all. Wisely it points out (to paraphrase), that someone we ripped off or abused is going to have little patience with us if we play at being a Blues Brother and declare, "I'm on a mission from God." An amends, in and of itself, does not require an admission of being in AA -- though certainly sometimes -- even often -- in some form or another it's the right thing to do.
Next I apologize for what I did, that is, I own my part, "my side of the street." (Much time is given in the AA literature to determining if you should make amends to someone at all, and while it is a worthwhile discussion it is also a lengthy one, so to keep to the spirit of your question here I will only quote the 9th Step in part and say "Made direct amends ... except when to do so would injure them or others" is the bottom line we always work from.)
I then offer whatever restitution might be appropriate or that I am capable of. (In the Big Book the example used is a man behind on his alimony sending a payment with a letter of apology, rather than just a letter.)
Then I ask if there's anything else I can do to make it right, and (here's the hard part), I shut up and let the other person have their day in court. This can be difficult and scary, but I have found it's the most powerful element, as it takes real humility and willingness to make such an offer, even when we're nervous or reluctant to do so. It's the actions that count. And it makes certain that if my recollection of what I did is incomplete I will have fully cleaned my side of the street by allowing the person I wronged to add whatever they might recall that I (accidentally! I swear!) forgot.
And at this juncture immediately of course the "what if's" start. "What if they say to make it right I have to [insert ridiculous, impossible or inappropriate thing here]?" Each case is different, but I have almost never heard of someone facing the ridiculous or impossible this way. The 9th Step is also where the literature describes that we aren't "servile or scraping" and "as God's people we bow before no one." If that were to happen I believe you would recognize it as such -- we know in our hearts when, however difficult, what someone says is an appropriate request to make something right, versus someone taking advantage of our offer. If you're truly afraid you'll be confused or bamboozled, then bring someone with you -- your sponsor even. Nothing says we have to walk through this (or anything in our sobriety) alone. But such a situation is, again, rare, and unlikely for most amends. You can "what if" yourself into a panic -- that's why it's a great idea to consult with either your sponsor or any other AA's you feel might offer good experience on this before even contacting the person you are going to make amends to. No doubt just because I haven't heard of it happening doesn't mean it's never happened, but in general I have found that the people we screwed over, while maybe never numbered among our greatest fans, are more about restitution than revenge.
So now that we've got that all outlined, I can address the heart of your question, and that is, no, I don't know of anyplace in the literature that the "what can I do to make it right" is specifically stated. For me that suggestion comes from the general, collected wisdom of the fellowship of AA -- the distillation of people's sober experience, passed along via shares and sponsors through the years; a channel of helpful information I value as much as I do anything we have in print.
I hasten to add, even if the 9th Step process, with a "what can I do to make it right?" was very specifically scripted someplace in the literature, I am certain it would be balanced by reason. People can be dogmatic and rigid. AA literature is not. All of the suggestions AA makes in writing are mitigated with things like, "the wording was, of course, quite optional, so long as we expressed the idea" (from the 3rd Step in the Big Book) or "... there is no pat answer which can fit all such dilemmas." (from Step 9 in the 12&12). So even if it were specifically scripted in such a fashion, the spirit of AA literature, no matter what the topic, always leaves room for common sense and for differences in what is right for each situation.
Two things I always remember when it comes to amends:
1. "A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won't fill the bill at all." (Big Book, pg. 83, in the discussion about Step 9.) Prior to AA my life was a long, pathetic litany of "sorry sorry sorry." An amends is much bigger than an apology. It is about restitution. It's about making things right. It's about changing our behavior so that we don't repeat the offenses we're cleaning up.
2. You don't have to make any amends you're not willing to make. Of course, if you're not willing, then you're not on Step 9 anyway.
You're on Step 8.
Hope that helped.