Making amends in recovery is something we all go through as we “work the steps.” Steps 8 and 9 of the 12-step program focus on this, but just exactly how does one go about doing this? One of the unfortunate consequences of addiction is behaving in ways that hurt others and go against our own personal views and values. The Twelve Step recovery process includes the practice of recognizing how your behavior has harmed others and seeking to repair the mistakes and damage caused during your active addiction. Step Eight and Step Nine of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) call this approach “making amends:”
Step 8: Made a list of all 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 them or others.
On the surface, making amends might sound as simple as offering a sincere apology for your treatment of others, but there’s more to this cornerstone Twelve Step practice. Let’s take a look at this portion of the addiction treatment process of 12-Step.
What Does Amends Mean?
Amends is compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind. There are steps you take to make amends, which include:
- Take stock of the damage you caused.
- Express the desire to repair it.
- Admit to your mistakes.
- Find a way to repair the damage.
- Be patient about getting someone’s trust back.
In Twelve Step recovery from alcohol or other drug addiction, a direct amend refers to the act of personally addressing issues with people who have been harmed by our behavior or our treatment of them. The practice involves going back to those individuals to acknowledge the harm or hurt we have caused them and demonstrate our changed ways in order to provide them with the opportunity to heal. Whenever possible, a direct amend is made face-to-face rather than over the phone or by asking someone else to apologize on your behalf.
Step 9: Making Amends
Think of amends as actions taken that demonstrate your new way of life in recovery, whereas apologies are basically words. In active addiction, our actions and intentions aren’t aligned. For example, we might intend to go to a friend’s birthday party but, in actuality, we fail to show up for the event. While we might apologize later for missing the party, our apology consists of words rather than actions or changed behavior. In recovery, our actions and intentions are aligned.
The Truth About Making Amends in Recovery
Chances are, you’ve traveled a painful, uphill journey to get to Step 8. Before long, you realize that you’re are clean and sober and now have with seven steps under your belt. You’ve likely experienced some uphill battles but with that, but you’ve probably also experienced some of the many gifts of recovery.
By now, life is starting to calm down, life has calmed down, some relationships have become better and you’re starting to feel more peaceful. You may have the occasional bad dream but the sense of true freedom from active addiction is starting to take hold.
No doubt, you should feel very proud of the work you have done so far. The first seven steps of recovery is all about you. They are all about getting YOU right with the reality of your addiction, getting YOU right with God, and getting YOU right with yourself. You, you, you! Making amends in step 8 and 9 is about getting right with others. Here’s where it stops being about you.
Making Amends with Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Hear From Me
No matter how much you feel the need to make things right, forcing another to meet with your or hear from you is not part of the Steps. When those we’ve hurt are not able or willing to accept our amends, we can still move in a positive general direction by taking intentional steps to be of service to others.
The Best Way to Make Amends
There really isn’t a “best way” for everyone. You need to find the approach that works best for you. Talk with your sponsor or others in your recovery community about what has worked for them. If your actions match your intentions and you reach out in person, you are doing the next right thing to right past wrongs. It’s simple, but not easy. And remember, if you are feeling ashamed about mistakes made and damage done during your using days, you are not your disease.