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Making Amends in Recovery - Momentum Recovery

Making Amends in Recovery

Making Amends in Recovery - Momentum Recovery

The realization that you hurt your friends and family members might have been one of the first things that made you seek help for your addiction. Drugs and alcohol have a terrible way of making you do things that you would not do when sober. Over time, your addiction may have eroded your ability to uphold your values and standards for living.

Now that you can start living according to your true beliefs, you may still sense that you need to do something to make up for all that you put people through—learning how to make amends allows you to correct the mistakes from your past so that you can move forward with a clean slate and hope for a better future.

How Is Making Amends Different From an Apology?

Twelve-Step programs include the need to make amends as an essential part of the recovery process. In these recovery programs, you will typically be asked to make a list of people you have harmed and are willing to make amends to in step eight. When you reach step nine, you will begin the process of reaching out to those people to make amends.

Knowing the difference between amends and an apology makes it easier to understand the importance of this process. You have likely issued many apologies in the past, and it is possible that your words now ring hollow to people who have heard them all before.

Amends are more action-oriented than apologies. While you might say you are sorry for stealing money from someone, it doesn’t change anything until you commit a genuine effort never to do it again. In this case, making amends might mean telling someone that you will ask them for money if you ever need it but are also working on gaining financial independence through sobriety and maintaining a job. Then, you follow through with your commitment.

What Are the Benefits of Making Amends in Recovery?

Living outside of your standards leaves you feeling negative emotions such as guilt and shame for your behavior. Harming other people may have also cost you valuable relationships that you might want to restore. Taking the necessary steps to end the cycle of shame and guilt puts you in a better emotional place to work on your recovery. Making amends also tends to be the first step towards pulling people back into your social circle that you can depend on for support.

What Are the Different Types of Amends?

Making amends in recovery can require using different strategies depending upon what has happened in the past. Direct amends are when you meet with someone face to face to talk about what you are doing to change your past behavior. Ideally, you’ll do this in person, but it may be necessary to reach out over the phone if distance is an issue.

Indirect amends are used when reaching out directly could cause further harm or distress to the other person. You may also make amends indirectly if you fear that contacting someone could cause you physical or emotional harm. For example, trying to make amends to someone who is still in active addiction could draw you back into a dangerous part of your old life. An indirect amend could be a commitment that you make to yourself, a letter that you write and never send, or a financial contribution or act of service to a charitable organization. The idea is to find an alternative way of making your amends that helps you reinforce your decision to change your behavior.

What Are the Steps for Figuring Out How to Make Amends?

Once you have decided who needs to hear you make amends and how you will do it, the rest of the process is fairly simple. Just remember these pointers for reaching out to those you have hurt.

  • Make your amends with sincerity and a genuine effort to establish a personal connection.
  • Be specific as you acknowledge your wrongdoing.
  • Listen to their side and validate their feelings.
  • Ask what you can do to make things better and share what you are doing to improve your behavior now.
  • Remember the importance of your effort even if you get a negative response.

Trying to make amends is not easy. You might find yourself cringing as you reflect upon your behavior in the past. You will also want to prepare for a varying range of reactions from the people that you reach out to as you work through this important step of your recovery. Remember that you aren’t expected to make amends on your own. Relying on the support of your counselor, sober mentor, and other members of your support team helps you make amends and start building healthier relationships with people you might have hurt in the past.