During active addiction, the substance abuser often displays a change in behavior that isn’t aligned with his or her personal values. For this reason, the 12 steps of AA and NA include the process of identifying others who have been harmed by this behavior (Step 8) and making amends (Step 9) to repair the damage.
Why Making Amends Matters
Making amends is not the same as simply apologizing for your behavior. Instead, it’s the crucial process of demonstrating how your life and behavior have changed as a result of recovery. The process of making amends illustrates your commitment to this positive change and the value you place on repairing damaged relationships.
Direct Vs. General Amends
When feasible, amends should be made directly (face-to-face) rather than via phone, e-mail or text. For example, if you neglected a partner’s needs while using, an amends could be made by first acknowledging to the partner how the behavior was harmful and then demonstrating a change by showing up consistently.
If a direct amends is not deemed appropriate in a particular situation (or if you are unable to locate the person), an amends can be made in a more general way. For example, donating money to charity or volunteering your time can take the place of a direct amends to a former employer you cannot reach.
When Amends Might Cause Harm
Step 9 states: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Good judgment is necessary to determine whether making a direct amends is appropriate. A direct amends would not be appropriate, for example, in the case of unloading the details of an extramarital affair on an unsuspecting spouse.
There are also circumstances where there is no “black or white” answer as to whether a direct amends would be appropriate. If you stole from your current employer to support your drinking or drug use, making a direct amends could place your job in jeopardy and, in turn, threaten the well-being of your family. This is an example where the support of a sponsor, the recovery community and a higher power would be beneficial to help determine the proper course of action.
The process of making amends may, at first, appear daunting. However, you’ll gain momentum as you progress. Keeping in mind the “why” behind this important step can help provide the motivation to follow through.
If you're ready to make a positive change in your life by choosing sobriety, contact First Step Recovery today!