It is not uncommon for those relatively new to sobriety to want to immediately begin making apologies to those they may have harmed while active in their addictions. Getting clean means getting clear headed, and overwhelming feelings of guilt relating to unfavorable acts committed in our using days are exceedingly normal. However, it is important to remember that making amends is more than merely making an apology. Making amends is a crucial step of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs that comes slightly later in recovery, after one has had ample time to truly understand the gravity of his or her actions and recognize that apologizing is entirely different than committing to change.
Making Amends – Worth the Wait
It is common knowledge that addiction and alcoholism cause moral wreckage. Those who are active in addiction stoop to stealing, lying, and cheating those they love and would never have previously dreamed of hurting. Amends are important in the sense that they essentially restore a sense of justice to a situation. To those who have been harmed by the actions of an addicted loved one, a simple “sorry” may seem empty and bear little significance. In making amends we either attempt to improve a situation we initially damaged in a literal or a symbolic way. For example, if we have stolen $300 from a family member, we may be able to make financial amends by returning the $300 in full as soon as we are able. If we steal a candy bar from a grocery store as a teenager, we may not be able to replace it, but we can buy a candy bar for a friend or homeless man or vow to never steak a candy bar again – something symbolic and sincere that suggests we know where we lacked and we are honestly attempting to improve.
Making Amends Means No Longer Running Away From Our Pasts
If we have gone around for years of our lives causing nothing but wreckage in the lives of others, we undeniably have a lot of people, places, and things to actively avoid. Living in fear of past mistakes coming back to haunt us is not living at all, and making amends allows us the opportunity to shut doors that may have long since remained open. It is unrealistic to assume that making your amends will go over well across the board – there will inevitably be some people who tell you to stay the heck away, the damage is done and nothing on Earth can repair the wounds that were made. Thus, amends are also about acceptance; accepting that sometimes your actions may have been unforgivable, and that is okay as long as everything is clean on your side of the street. In some cases, you may find you are making amends more so to forgive yourself than for others to forgive you – and this is okay.