While in active addiction, we tend to create chaos all around us due to the destructive nature of the disease. As the situation worsens, the person with the addiction is like the eye of the storm, and everyone and everything in its circumference is susceptible to the damage.
What this might look like is burning bridges with an employer for stealing money to pay for their substance of choice. It might be causing a scene at their child’s sports game because they were intoxicated. Perhaps it’s simply choosing drugs or alcohol over a person in your life, and their feelings being hurt by it.
Once a recovering addict has some time under their belt and is able to reflect on the times they have wronged others in the past, they can begin the process toward making things right. As it is an intimidating process, it’s important to try to go in humbly and without expectation. At this juncture, the person is moving forward to pay for their past mistakes as the person they are now in sobriety, not the person they were.
What are Amends?
When we are using drugs and alcohol, we aren’t ourselves. The obsession of the substance takes over our mind and body, and it eventually gets to the point where nothing else matters. People will neglect their body’s nutrition and pay for drugs/alcohol instead of food. They might leave their young children unattended while they feed their habit in the next room or down the street. It hijacks the brain into thinking the only thing needed to survive is this substance, pushing everything else to the back burner.
Amends can be thought of as an apology of sorts, but it’s much more complex than that. They are a way of compensating for certain things you did when you were in active addiction and behaving in ways that are not representative of who you really are or values you believe in. Through this process, you recognize your harmful behavior and the damage it caused unto others.
In the 12 Step recovery process, they are broken down into two steps:
- Step 8: Made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure themselves or others.
While the amends process can be nerve-wracking to take on, as it can often bring up a lot of shame and embarrassment for the injurious party, it is a very important part of the 12-Step process. It can ultimately help with repairing relationships, building back trust, and be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling for all parties involved.
If you are going through the 12-Step process, you will first follow the direction of Step 8 and do just what it says—make a list of the people in your life you feel you have wronged. The Big Book explains how you will write this list, but it essentially names the person harmed and how you wronged them along with a few additional details that aid in exploring the past behavior.
Step 9 entails the actual process of reaching out to the person and explaining your current situation. It normally includes acknowledging the harm it caused them, and committing to doing anything you can to make things right.
A few things to remember:
- The way each amend will play out is not something you can plan for or predict. There are factors that might have an impact on the outcome, such as the level of damage done, the hardship it caused after the fact, the type of relationship, how much time has passed, etc. Nothing can be truly indicative of how the amends will go, however, because every person is different and deals with things differently.
- The relationship you have going forward with will be different. You are not the same person you were when you caused this harm. You have come to terms with your addiction, and are actively trying to repair the damage done. For that reason, you may seem like a brand-new person to the other party.
- Save the most important ones for later on. For family amends and those very close to you, it is recommended that you have been sober for a substantial amount of time in order to demonstrate your commitment. This is especially helpful if you had relapses in the past, and they may need some time to show them that this time is different.
- Listen. This entire process can be very humbling, and the amends process is no exception. Keep what you say short and simple; acknowledge that you wronged them and be very clear about it. Next, invite them to share how they are feeling listen with an open heart. This is an opportunity for them to get anything off their chest, or share things with you they could not at the time.
- Demonstrate how you have changed. The best way to do this is to back up your words with action. Prove to those you are reaching out to that you have changed, and that you are making sincere efforts to change. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
- Amends ≠ forgiveness. You do not know how your behavior impacted someone or their life, and the relationship might not be salvageable. It. It is important to know this going in, and the bottom line is that you are doing your best to clean your side of the street.
It some cases, an amend can lead to a relationship being healthier and better than it ever was before. Not only is your recovery a crucial factor in this, but also your humble apology and admittance of wrongdoing can be just what the person was hoping for. If they can see that you are making an active effort to clean up your life and that this is coming from a sincere place, you have done your part. The rest is in their hands.
They may also need more time to process things, or may not wish to have a relationship with you at all. As we said before, there is no way of knowing. It is often suggested to have faith in the process, and go in with sincere intention so you will be prepared, no matter what the outcome.
The Goal is to Heal and Take Accountability
No matter what, all amends are important—from the ones that seem simple to the more difficult. Each one matters, and each one will bring closure to that part of your life and the person you were while in active addiction. Just as our mind, body, and soul was ravaged by our addiction, our loved ones were harmed, too.
The best way to make amends is to go through it with the help of a sponsor or someone in your recovery community. This can be a difficult process that will likely bring up negative feelings, so it is best to have a solid support system in place and person to provide guidance when you need it. It also ensures accountability for our actions going forward so we can continue to live by our newfound values and recovery program.
Recovery is a lifelong process, and the amends gives us the opportunity to begin anew. By taking the time to invite the other party to share their feelings, we are opening a dialogue that makes them feel heard and cared for. It also strengthens our own recovery and propels us to keep moving forward.
When Seeking a Treatment Program
The commitment to bettering your life and repairing damage done due to a substance use disorder is the first step to take. If you or a loved one are having difficulty with substance use disorder, The Granite House utilizes a 12-Step rehab curriculum alongside individualized, evidence-based therapies to help lay the foundation toward a new, sober way of living.
Our team of Admissions Specialists is available 24/7 and would be happy to discuss any questions you may have. We can also work together to determine the best course of treatment that suits you or your loved one. Please give us a call today at 866.637.5288.