The road to recovery is a cross-country stretch with several dips, hurdles and sharp objects for that flat tire you don’t have time to fix. Making amends, which is a vital part of any 12 step program, can be one of those obstacles. It’s bittersweet, really. It should be the most beautiful part of recovery. Being forgiven for your transgression by those you have hurt lights the dark tunnel to redemption. But it’s not easy.
Sorry is not enough –
There’s a difference between apologizing and making amends. Apologizing is recognizing that you’ve erred. Oops, I spilled some coffee on your shirt, sorry. That’s nice, but it doesn’t throw the shirt in the laundry and clear the stain. Making amends is doing something about your mistake. It’s paying back the three hundred dollars you stole for booze and/or drugs. It’s buying a coffee table to replace the one you destroyed during a wild wave of withdrawal symptoms. It’s showing through actions and not words that you are taking steps towards a sober life.
Have Help when Making Amends
Recovering involves a lot of lists. This part in particular involves making lists of all the people you’ve hurt, physically or emotionally. The memories may be too painful, especially when listing family members. One thing is to hurt strangers, but it’s even worse when you’ve hurt those you love. When attempting direct amends, there might be some people who will not forgive. Their pain and your pain could twist into a formidable knot, too overwhelming to deal with on your own. That’s where counselors step in. They can guide you through this painful process. They know what you’re going through. They know how to deal with it.
Don’t think of making amends as a one-time thing
Sometimes direct amends will not be possible. If you killed someone in a car accident, you will not be able to go to a cemetery, light some candles and bring back the dead. Some mistakes are forever. If this is the case, you could try to make indirect amends: sign up to be an organ donor, for volunteer work, etc.
Don’t think of amends as a one-time thing. It’s like a diet, you might lose ten pounds in a week but after the diet is over, the weight will bounce back like a basketball.
It’s all about making amends that can last forever. The pain of betrayal and distrust will not be erased by monetary means. You have to make living amends, those than change your life for the better. That can be as simple as being the best person you can be.
Dirty looks or awkward pauses, no matter the reaction, remember that you are doing this for yourself. Making amends is part of an ongoing process that leads to your eventual liberation. Don’t give up on recovery.