Are you ready to repair the harm done to the people you love?
“Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
This is Step 9 of the 12-Step program, a part of the process of taking ownership of one’s behaviors and attempting to repair damage done in the past, thereby freeing oneself of any remaining guilt and moving forward in recovery. It is simpler said than done, but taking on the act of essentially apologizing in both word and deed is, in many cases, most beneficial to the individual who is working on repairing harm caused by past choices.
How to Address Past Harms
Though everyone will have a different method of making amends, some general steps follow:
1. Make a list. Think My Name Is Earl, the sitcom in which every week’s episode was dedicated to the main character assisting someone he harmed during his addiction in an effort to “make up” to them whatever he had done. Get detailed. Be thorough. If you are remembering it, then it is significant to you, and that means it is necessary to address.
2. Prepare yourself. This is going to take some time. The longer your addiction, the longer the list of people you will be interacting with over the next few months. Understand that this could be an emotionally difficult process and make sure you have backup – a sponsor, a therapist, and sober friends who have been where you are and are prepared to support you.
3. Know that not everyone will be receptive to you. There will likely be some people you reach out to who will not respond at all. Others will be aggressive and rude, or dismissive and disinterested. That is okay. Their response is not as important as the fact that you are taking responsibility, following through, and doing the difficult thing because it is the right thing.
4. Work on forgiving yourself as well. It is not easy to fully face up to all that happened during active addiction and realize how much has changed as a result, especially if some of the people you deal with are not receptive to your attempts to rectify the situation. But what you are doing is important and positive, and your continued sobriety is still your highest priority. Give yourself permission to let things go after you make your best efforts to make amends and stay focused on the positive.
5. Talk to others who have been where you are. As you make amends and experience different reactions, obstacles, surprises, and challenges, share what you are going through with other people in recovery who done the same thing. Listen to their stories and learn from them. You may hear some excellent tips on how best to handle different situations, and you may learn what not to do as well. It will also help you to remember that no matter what happens, you are not alone and you can get through this without relapse.
Have you started the process of trying to make amends to people who were hurt by your addiction? If not, what is holding you back? If so, what tips would you give to others who are about to undertake the process? Are you potentially ready to mentor someone else as they go through the steps and make amends?