Step Nine says : Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Making amends can be one of the most difficult things you do in recovery, especially for the first time! One of the things that makes it so difficult is other people’s reactions. Sometimes the people you make amends with respond in love, forgiveness, and even joy. You owning responsibility for how you hurt them brings them peace, freedom, and restores the relationship. It can be a wonderfully freeing and restoring experience. I have seen badly broken relationships reconcilied through amends. Sadly,this is not always the case. Some people will choose to reject your amends. They have been too hurt and are not at a place where they are ready to forgive. I love the way Keith Miller describes this in his book, Hunger for Healing
Some people may not accept your amends. Some people have been so bruised in their relationship with you or with others that they can’t believe you are sincere, or if sincere that you have the power to change. Or the people to whom you want to make amends may be parents who are going to try to control you; they’re not about to go for this new program, because as you get free you’re out of their control. But the amazing, wonderful thing is that whether your amends are accepted or not, you can get over the guilt, pain, and shame and become free from the unhealthy control of parens, spouses, and other people to whom you have given your power in the past.
The reality is that the other person’s reaction is not our responsibility. If they are angry, they will have to own that. If they are unforgiving, that is theirs to own. If they chose to reject us, they will have to take responsibility for that. Step Nine is about cleaning our side of the street, we are not responsible for the other side of the street, even if others wish us to be. Making amends challenges our addictive behavior. When addiction is active, we desire to run, hide, and avoid conflict and especially other people’s anger and strong emotions. Making amends asks us to step out of that addictive behavior and face the responsibility for our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. This step is about transforming our inner lives with an outward expression, we are seeking true change in the way we relate to others and making amends is the first step.
In my experience, there were people on my amends that not only had a difficult time forgiving me, but refused to allow me to change. As my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors began to change, it made them uncomfortable because the relationship was changing. One relationship in particular, the person continued to try to pull me back into my old behavior because they did not want to change. The dynamic of a relationship will dramatically alter when just one person radically shifts their behavior. In order for our relationship to be restored and grow, it was going to require change in them and they were not ready. Be prepared for some people to embrace your choice to make amends and for others to be uncomfortable.
Regardless to how people respond, making amends is about verbalizing your responsibility. It is an outward communication of the change that is happening in you, but remember you are not required to convince others of this change. Some will be so grateful and relieved for you to have this conversation. It will give some the peace they have so desperately needed in relationship with you. In any case, be aware that these conversations can create upheaval in your emotions. Many of the relational dynamics you are stepping into are the very triggers that have driven your addiction in the past. Be aware of the behavioral patterns you discovered in Step Four as you go into these conversations so that you can be conscious of your responses. Be sure to be in close contact with your sponsor through this process when strong emotions and past behaviors start to show up.
I am going light on the work this week, because I know what hard work it is to prepare for these conversations and have them. So here is just a little bit to consider in your notebook::
- Have I made amends with myself yet? Explain.
- Is there anything interfering with my willingness to make direct amends?
- How do I feel about writing letters when direct amends in not possible?
- Are there difficult amends that I am avoiding? Describe
- Have I already had some amends conversations?
- How did I experience them?