For those in a twelve step program for their recovery, making amends can be one of the hardest tasks for them to complete but it is one of the most beneficial to their progress. Steps eight and nine in most programs ask the addict to make a list of all the people they have harmed, become willing to make amends to them and eventually speak to them directly, making amends whenever it is possible.
These two steps are a delicate process and can force addicts to face their own mistakes and people they have hurt in the past. They could be dealing with overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt but making amends is the only way to move beyond these emotions and repair broken relationships. In order to make amends, the addict must provide more than just an apology in many cases. They must restore what they have broken or damaged in whatever way they possibly can.
Preparing a List and Meeting with Loved Ones
In order to make amends, an addict must spend adequate time on step eight preparing themselves mentally and emotionally for the process. They must honestly consider every person in their life they have wronged and not gloss over anyone because it may be a situation too difficult to face. They must list each and every person that they could possibly speak to directly. Step eight is also a way for them to become willing to make amends and not do so out of obligation. They must feel genuinely that they take responsibility for whatever wrongs they have caused and want to repair the problem and heal any pain from the past.
Once an addict has taken stock of all the damage they’ve caused they must reach out to each person on their list and arrange a private conversation with them. In this conversation it is important to be honest and vulnerable, explain what they are trying to do and why they want to make up for the damage that has been done. It is also important to listen to the other person’s thoughts and feelings about the situation no matter how painful it may be to hear.
Being Active in Repairing Harm
Throughout the conversation, the addict needs to take responsibility for their behavior and acknowledge that they have problems they are trying to work on. Owning up to mistakes and apologizing for them is the first step in healing the relationship. Asking for forgiveness for the wrongs that have been done allows both parties to start from a place of connection without resentment or anger. In making amends however, the apology is only the first step in a bigger process.
To continue the conversation the addict might ask if there is any way they can make up for the damage they have caused. If it is something clear cut like returning money they have borrowed or replacing something stolen or broken then they can take care of this right away. In other cases an addict may have to make up for things they have done in the past by giving time and attention to a relationship harmed through addictive behaviors. They may have to be creative in some cases where they can provide no direct reparation but the important thing is to actively make amends through more than just words.
Making amends is never easy but in the end it can provide closure to everyone involved in the situation. Addicts can finally take responsibility for their actions and do something positive for others so that they are no longer haunted by their mistakes of the past. Resolving anger, bitterness and resentment can prevent any negativity that could interfere with recovery. Taking steps eight and nine seriously will bring each person in recovery closer to their goals of successful sobriety.