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How To Make Amends in Addiction Recovery

Making amends in addiction recovery is a vital part of repairing the relationships in your life. During addiction treatment at Royal Life Centers, each guest is able to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and gain insight from their past and present. Guests are provided with intensive therapies to gain this insight in order to use it to make positive changes in their lives. Recovery from addiction holds many changes, it is a transformative experience that changes your life for the better.

What are Amends?

Amends are basically a verbal acknowledgement of your wrongdoing, and asking what that person needs from you to make the situation right again. You make amends in a process, first you must be willing to make the amends. Recovery requires acceptance and accountability on your behalf.
The amends process is a part of the 12 steps of 12-step programs of recovery like Alcoholic’s Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Gambler’s Anonymous. These recovery programs are based around a 12-step approach, originated from Alcoholic’s Anonymous’ 12 steps which go as follows:

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable
    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
    6. Were entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character
    7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
    8. Made a list of all people we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

When Should I Make Amends?

You should make amends when you reach step 9, if you are working a program of recovery and going through the steps with a sponsor. If you are not working a 12-step program of recovery, we highly recommend it, however, you can make amends during your recovery process. Only make amends that will not cause more harm than good. This is very important. As it says in step 9, make amends to someone only if it will not injure them or others. Some amends are best played out as a commitment to yourself, not to engage in the same behavior that caused the wrongdoing.
Make amends when you are confident in your sobriety and ready to face the reality that is the impact your bad behaviors have caused. The amends process can be an emotional one, as you are having to admit your fault to various people you have harmed in the past. Despite being difficult, the amends process is exceptionally powerful, rewarding, and a truly moving experience. If you have lived, there is no doubt that you have amends to make. We have all made mistakes, making amends is your way of taking responsibility for the mistakes you’ve made and the hurt you have caused— whether it was intentional or unintentional.

Who Do You Make Amends To?

You will make amends to the people you have listed after completing step 8. If you are not working a 12-step program of recovery, take this time to identify all the people who you have hurt. This is a time to focus on the hurt you’ve caused, no matter how big or small. List out the people who you can identify as having caused harm to in some way— whether or not they are aware of the harm you caused them. For example, if you stole money from your mom’s purse, but she never found out, you should still write her name down and list what you did to harm her (stole from her purse) underneath her name.
Again, you should only be making amends to people when it will not cause injury; do not make an amends if it will cause more harm than good. The purpose of making an amends is to mend the wrongs you have committed, not to create more harm to the person. Be cautious and use your best judgement when deciding whether or not to make an amends to someone. Before actually making the amends, be sure to make a list of all persons you have harmed and owe amends to, so that you have an idea of who you need to contact.

How Do You Make Amends?

Making an amends may seem like an overwhelming process, but it’s much easier to do and feels much better than you may think. Here are a few steps to take in the amends process:

  • Be Sincere
  • Don’t make the amends unless you are ready to be sincere in owning your wrongs. Avoid making an amends by text message or email, you want the amends to be as sincere as possible— showing effort and care.

  • Acknowledge Your Wrongdoing
  • Be completely honest and forthcoming when you are acknowledging your wrongs and the harm that it caused. Also acknowledge what you have avoided that may have caused harm. Don’t apologize— saying “I’m sorry” is not enough, you need to be acknowledging what you did wrong and asking what you can do to remedy the situation or relationship.

  • Be Specific
  • Just saying you were wrong is not a proper amend. Specifically name your fault or faults, it will show that you are taking full responsibility for what you have done.

  • Listen and Validate
  • Be willing to listen to their side of the story, opinions, or thoughts on the matter. Validate their feelings by showing them you understand why they were hurt.

  • Ask
  • Ask what you can do, if anything, to right your wrong. If you are not willing to ask how you can make it up to the person, you are not ready to be making the amends in the first place. If the person has an outlandish or manipulative request that you cannot fulfill, tell them you are unable to fulfill that request and thank them for the opportunity in letting you take responsibility for your mistake. Just because you are getting better, doesn’t mean that everyone else is growing also.

  • Remember the Purpose
  • If making an amend doesn’t pan out exactly how you had hoped it would, let it go. You made the amend to clean up your side of the street, acknowledging your wrongdoing and taking responsibility for your actions. You don’t make an amends for the “right reaction” from the other person, because there is no right reaction— if the person you’ve just made an amends to does not take your amends the way you wanted, don’t allow it to pull you away from the purpose of why you were making the amends in the first place. You are bettering yourself with this process.

    Types of Amends

    There are a few different types of amends that you can make, including:
    Indirect Amends— made only when contact with the person is harmful to your sobriety, or direct contact with a person cannot be made face to face. You may make indirect amends by writing a letter, send an email, etc. You should still follow the guideline above when making indirect amends.
    Direct Amends— a face to face amends, following the guideline above.
    Financial Amends— this is the type of amends you make when you have stolen money or an item or caused financial harm to someone. You will go into the amend with the money you owe to that person or place. You will still follow the same guideline as above when making financial amends.
    Living Amends— a living amends is when you live out new behavior, committing to yourself and the other person not to make the same mistakes with another person. The point of a living amends is showing that you have learned from the hurt you’ve caused, and have vowed to be a better person from it. A living amends is necessary in some cases to show the person that you’ve changed. This is also the type of amends you will make to someone who has passed away that you owe an amends to.

    Tips

    A few things to remember during the amends process are:

  • make an amends only if you are in the right frame of mind.
  • use your best judgement when choosing the right time to make an amends.
  • be cautious while making amends, many of the people you will be making amends to could be toxic people, or people that have also hurt you— you need to be strongly rooted in your recovery and sobriety before approaching these people to make amends.
  • remember, the amends process is not just for the people you’ve hurt, but the process is mainly for you— you are taking responsibility, practicing accountability, and building integrity.
  • do NOT ask for an apology from the other person if they have wronged you. You are the one making the amends, you cannot force the other person to make a return amend.
  • amends will get easier to make once you have started making them, so don’t be discouraged.
  • you cannot control people’s feelings and reactions, you can only control what you do in response.
  • people in recovery with some time are going to be the most valuable resource of support for you during this process. A recovery support network is invaluable to you during your journey of recovery from addiction.
  • consult with your sponsor about your amends, he or she will guide and support you through out the process.
  • if you are working steps from a 12-step program of recovery, you need to do all twelve steps in order. Do not skip to step 9 and begin making amends before you have done steps 1-8.
  • amends are basically saying sorry, without actually saying sorry. You want to avoid apologizing during the amends process, because in our addiction we would hurt people and then give them a sincere apology, which we expected to excuse our behavior. Apologies are made without any action to make the situation right, which is why an amends should be free of “I’m sorry’s” and more along the lines of “I did this, I acknowledge my wrong, I am working on myself to make sure I don’t repeat this wrong, what can I do to make it right with you?”
  • some amends are best done in the form of living amends.
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, and looking for an addiction treatment center, please reach out to us at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team of addiction specialists are available to take your call 24/7. Because We Care.

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