How to Make Amends in Addiction Recovery

make amends in recovery

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One of the steps many recovering addicts take later in their addiction treatment is making amends with those who they have hurt. Making amends is a difficult process because sometimes people aren’t quite ready to accept your apology. That’s okay, and it’s a big part of making amends. Amending is all about apologizing to those who you have hurt during your addiction and then taking action to prove that you are truly sorry and want those people back in your life. Understanding the proper ways to make amends is of the utmost importance. Here are some tips for making amends properly. 

What Does It Mean to Make Amends?

Making amends with someone is not the same as apologizing to them. While an apology is the verbal act of stating your wrongdoing and showing that you have remorse for your actions, making amends is more about stating what you did wrong and explaining your remorse, and then taking the proper steps to make things right. 

Steps eight and nine from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) outline the process of making amends: 

  • Step 8: Make a list of all the persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. 
  • Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

Direct and Indirect Amends

AA outlines both direct and indirect amends. Direct amends are more ideal, however, they may not always be possible. If this is the case, indirect amends are suitable.

A direct amend is when you personally address the individuals you hurt, explaining what you did to hurt them while you were struggling with active addiction, and then taking action to right your wrongs. Direct amends should always be made face-to-face to show your remorse and that you are taking the process seriously. You want to show the individuals who you hurt that you are genuinely sorry and are taking the proper steps to earn back their trust. 

Sometimes making direct amends are not possible. This is outlined in the second part of step nine, which states “…except when to do so would injure them or others.” There may be people that don’t want to hear from you because they are still hurt by your actions. There may also be people that you cannot make direct amends to because they are out of reach. Making amends is about righting wrongs, and they should not cause more harm to the individuals. Therefore if you cannot make direct amends, you can make amends in indirect ways. This can include helping others in recovery, donating money to charity, volunteering, or other selfless acts. 

Should You Try to Make Amends With Someone Who Doesn’t Want to See You?

Again, making amends should not cause any harm or stress to the people you are making amends to. Therefore, if you are trying to reach out to someone to try to make amends and they don’t want to hear from you, you should not try to force it. Making amends is a selfless act that is about the other person and healing the hurt you caused, not about clearing your conscience or absolving your guilt. 

If someone does not want to hear from you, you should respect their boundaries. You can still move forward in your recovery and make positive changes in your life and the lives of those around you. The person may reach out to you in the future or they may not, and that is something you must learn to live with in your recovery. 

Tips for Making Amends

Make a List

To start, you should take an inventory of relationships that were damaged or people that you caused harm when you were struggling with active addiction. This can be physical or emotional pain, friends or family members, near or far. Once you have a list of the people you hurt and need to make amends to, think about the ways you hurt them. When you apologize to them and make amends, you need to be specific about what you did. Making a list will help you organize your thoughts and help you know who you need to make amends with.

Be Specific

Again, you need to be specific when you are making amends. It is not enough to simply say sorry and be done with the conversation. Making amends is about genuinely addressing the behaviors you did that hurt the person, and then taking steps to rectify those wrongs. If you stole money, crashed a car, or physically hurt someone, you need to address that specific action. This will show the person you are facing your past actions and trying to make things right. 

Listen

Make space for the other person to talk. They most likely have things to say to you, good or bad. Give them the proper time to speak what they have to say. This is a great way to show that you are serious and want to do what you can to make things right. Here you can also ask what you can do to make things right if you are unsure. 

Accept

Whatever the person’s response to your amends is, take it with grace. It is not their responsibility or obligation to forgive you just for you to have a clear conscience. They may need time to process what you said and to think about how they want to respond. Some people will be open to making amends and forgiving you, while others may not. Either way, you must accept their decision and continue moving forward in your recovery. 

 

Making amends is a crucial part of the recovery process, as outlined in steps eight and nine from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Admitting your wrongs, facing them, and then taking the proper actions to right them is a great step in healing both for you and for those that you wronged during active addiction. Be sure that you are making amends in the proper way, understanding the difference between making amends and apologizing. It is not enough to just apologize verbally, you must show that you are through your actions. Be ready to accept whatever response a person may have, and continue to show them that you are genuinely sorry. It is only through changed behavior and genuine actions that you can show your loved ones that you are truly sorry. For more information on making amends, call Hired Power at (714) 559-3919. Together we can make a plan for continued recovery.