Making amends may sound easy, but listing people harmed then following up with amends (in action or words) is one of the more challenging aspects of recovery. The very act of making amends requires thoughtful introspection about the reality of addiction and the true cost exacted on family, friends and oneself. True growth in recovery comes from admitting wrongs done and addressing the harm with others, even when it feels difficult.
Art of Making Amends
The definition of amends is “to make reparations for loss, damage or injury.” To make amends is “to compensate, improve, as in health.” Think for a moment on what it means to be in recovery, but also to see making amends as a source of improving health. Most people do not think about making amends as a way to increase one’s health, vitality or being. Making a list of people in one’s life who experienced harm builds character, strength and virtue for the giver, but also the receiver as well. To this end, it is a true art form to understand the possibilities making amends can open for all parties involved.
Relationships are at the heart of step 8. Looking back on the past, reflecting on the present and preparing a better future are all elements of making amends to family, friends and loved ones hurt by addiction. When wounds are opened, the air is allowed in which gives space for transformational healing. There is power in acknowledging one’s own actions as part of the bigger picture in recovery.
A large part of making amends is personal forgiveness to oneself and others. Often when reflecting on harmful actions, it is easy to minimize another’s pain due to their perceived wrong behavior. When focusing on oneself, all the wrongdoings by another give way to openness and a sense of perspective on owning the only part that can be controlled: one’s own actions. The act of forgiveness opens doors but it takes two (or more) people to walk through them. Not everyone will be willing to forgive (or forget) and it may never happen. Making amends is less about whether another person offers forgiveness back or accepts what is given but that it is offered at all, as an olive branch of peace and reconciliation to build hope for a better future.
Harmful actions come in all shapes and forms. Spiritual, physical, emotional, financial- the list of types of amends goes on. When creating a list of persons harmed, consider all the ways harm can be done, big and small, and work through the process slowly. Meditate on the meaning of true forgiveness and remember, growth in recovery is more about the act of offering, than what is returned.