Potentially the only disease to devastate integrity, alcoholism causes the sufferer to undergo complete moral corruption. The seemingly solid set of moral standards that were instilled at a young age are rapidly depleted, and we become warped shells of our former selves. Getting the next drink or drug quickly becomes our ultimate priority, and we lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate in order to do so. In most cases, this leads to excessive bridge burning and the destruction of innumerable interpersonal relationships. Because the damage is so deep and far-spread, simple apologies will not do. Our loved ones have likely heard us say ‘sorry’ so many times that the word no longer bears any semblance of meaning. Rather than apologizing in the classic sense, the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous calls for the making of amends. Amends are mentioned in both the 8th and 9th step of the program:
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 whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
The Process of Making Amends
Successfully carrying out this process will take the guidance of an entrusted sponsor or counselor, and should be avoided until the previous seven steps have been completed in full. Because making amends is such a delicate process, it is likely that many related questions will arise. We have compiled a list of some of the most common inquiries and answered them to the best of our ability. Of course, this list is only intended as a brush up – be sure to work through each step with a sponsor!
Making Amends – Commonly Asked Questions
Q: How do amends differ from apologies?
A: As previously mentioned, there is a huge difference between saying, “I’m sorry,” and actually taking the initiative to change. While we were active in our addictions, we likely said ‘sorry’ quite a few times, only to repeat the same exact behavior in a matter of days, weeks, or even hours. Making amends means truly becoming willing to change the things we are ‘sorry’ for. Essentially making amends has to do with actively restoring justice.
Q: What is the difference between direct and indirect amends?
A: A direct amends essentially means sitting down with the person we have harmed, taking responsibility, and asking what we can do to right the wrong indefinitely. For example, we may sit down one-on-one with our father or mother and admit that we have not been the greatest son or daughter. We will explain that we recognize our downfalls, and in doing so, clean our side of the street. Expecting nothing in return, we will commit to being the best son or daughter we possibly can be for the remainder of our time on earth. We will commit to change, and work to directly smooth out damaged relationships. However, we may not always be able to make direct amends. Perhaps we greatly harmed someone who has since passed. Perhaps we cause a fatality in a drunk driving accident. Rather than raising the dead, we can sign up to be an organ donor, or begin a non-profit organization for victims of drunk driving accidents. These would be examples of indirect amends.
Q: What is a ‘living’ amends?
A: A ‘living’ amends simply means that we whole-heartedly commit to living differently. We dedicate the remainders of our lives to thoroughly changing our behavior and living by way of the spiritual principles outlined in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Perhaps most importantly, this comprehensive change will allow to stop adding to our extensive list of harms, while allowing us to begin remedying all past shortcomings.
Q: Will I always be able to make a direct amends?
A: We should not make direct amends if we could potentially injure ourselves or others. For example, say a man cheated on his wife once five years ago. Since then, he has gotten sober, and their marriage has become harmonious and utterly fulfilling once again. He should probably not approach her and say, “You know, dear, I had a torrid one-night stand half a decade ago when I was black out drunk. My sincerest apologies. Won’t happen again.” Will the admission of this past blunder do more harm than good? Some things, if they have the potentially to gravely hurt others (without serving a crucial and clear-cut purpose), should probably just be left in the past. The reformed husband can remedy this wrong by living his amends, and never being unfaithful again.
Q: How will I benefit from making amends?
A: Is there anyone on this planet that you would not like to be stuck with on a malfunctioning elevator? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you may have another amends to make. If we have continuously harmed those close to us and have not made any effort towards amending our past wrongdoings, then there are likely a lot of people out there that we feel it best to avoid. Making amends allows us to travel through life unafraid. We will no longer feel the need to cower, hide, or avoid – we can trudge forwards with our heads held high.
A Beautiful, Life-Changing Process
Making amends is a beautiful and life-changing process, though it can be somewhat intimidating at first. If you have any additional questions regarding the process of making amends or the 12 step program of addiction recovery, we recommend that you seek out a qualified sponsor to take you through the steps. We at Next Chapter introduce all of our clients to this specific method of recovery, offering a mandatory, comprehensive 12-step immersion as part of our daily curriculum. For more information on our program of recovery, please feel free to contact us today.