Drug and alcohol addiction has the potential to severely damage relationships between the addict and their loved ones, leaving behind only a shell of the relationship that used to be. Steps eight and nine of the 12-Step Program clearly reference making amends, highlighting the importance of repairing those relationships, if possible.
Repairing the damage done by addiction is a difficult process and it may not always be possible. Even still, making amends in recovery is an important part of the self-growth process and it will provide gradual healing and restoration where it is needed most.
If you’re unsure what it means to make amends, you’re struggling with the idea of asking for forgiveness, or you don’t know how to make amends, this blog may serve as a helpful guide to help you get started.
What It Means to Make Amends in Recovery
Making amends is not the same thing as simply making an apology.1 An apology expresses the fact that you are remorseful for your behavior and you regret the decision(s) you made to hurt a person. On the other hand, making amends with someone deals more with justice, and righting a previous wrong.
An amend may also be either direct or indirect.2 Step nine of the 12-Step Program says direct amends should be made whenever possible, but in some cases, an indirect amend may be necessary instead.
- A direct amend involves going to the person you wronged, taking ownership of the harm you caused, and actively repairing that damage. For example, if you got drunk and punched a hole in your mom’s wall, a direct amend would require going to your mom, admitting that you were wrong, and then repairing the hole in the wall for her.
A direct amend doesn’t stop there though—it should be followed with long-lasting life changes that will demonstrate your sincerity. So, in the example listed above, this would involve treating your mom’s home and property with respect at all times.
- An indirect amend refers more to the thoughts and attitudes behind the behavior. You can make a direct amend to someone, such as repaying them for the money you stole and then follow it up with an indirect amend, such as modifying your attitude and not asking for or expecting your loved one to give you money. Or, if you do borrow money, commit to a repayment plan and repay it in a timely fashion.
In some instances, a direct amend may also not be possible. For example, if someone was killed as a result of your addiction, you may not be able to bring that person back, but you can start a charity honoring their memory or you can dedicate your free time to volunteering for a cause that holds some significance to the loved ones that they left behind.
Every person enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program will have a different experience making amends. Depending on their prior behaviors and experiences in active addiction, a client may have a long list of people to make amends with or a short list, but either way, making amends is an important part of the recovery process because addiction doesn’t just affect the addict—it affects the friends and loved ones of the addict too.
The Importance of Making Amends in the 12-Step Program
12-step drug and alcohol rehab programs emphasize making amends during step eight and nine.3,4 Often times during active addiction, addicts will harm the people in their lives by lying, cheating, stealing, or physically hurting them, but making amends in recovery may help repair and restore those relationships despite the damage.
Clients in drug and alcohol rehab programs may find that making amends also comes with the following personal benefits:
- It provides resolution. In drug rehab, as you learn to adjust your behaviors and attitudes, you may feel some remorse and anxiety regarding the way you treated your loved ones in the past. Making amends with them can provide a sense of emotional relief and resolution in your own life, as well as the lives of others.
- It helps to restore trust. Upon completion of your drug and alcohol rehab program, you may feel like a completely different person but you’ll still need to work to regain the trust of your friends and family members. Making amends is a big part of this process.
- You increase your self-esteem. Taking ownership of your actions and making things right with your loved ones makes you feel great and helps you rebuild your confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy in recovery.
- It helps decrease stress. Running into people that you’ve hurt or burned in the past can be a stressful experience, especially if you haven’t seen or talked to them since you were in active addiction. They may not know that you’re in recovery and you may feel ashamed or nervous while in their presence. Instead of avoiding people or places that make you feel this way, making amends with the people you’ve hurt will give you the courage to overcome your shame, take ownership of your past behavior, and move forward with your life.
Making amends with the people in your life may take weeks, months, or even years to accomplish, but it’s well worth the time and effort to get it done.
Helpful Tips on How to Make Amends in Recovery
If you’re not sure how to get started making your amends in rehab, here are a few helpful tips to make the process easier.
- Make a list of people you need to make amends with. Take some time to think back to the days of your active addiction. Who did you hurt, physically and/or emotionally? Did you insult any family members with your words or actions? Were any of your friendships damaged as a result of your substance abuse? How did you treat your co-workers? Part of taking a moral inventory involves making a list of any and all people you need to make amends with now that you’re in recovery.
- Be specific about the behavior you’re addressing. Whether you stole money, damaged a vehicle, or hurt someone emotionally with harsh words, be very specific about the behaviors you’re addressing when you make amends. Although it will take courage and bravery to face the people you hurt in the past, they will appreciate your effort to make things right with them.
- Ask the person what you can do to right the wrong if you’re unsure. You may not always know what you can do to right a wrong, but there’s nothing wrong with asking the person how you can make things right. This may help communicate the fact that you really are sincere about making amends and that you truly desire to rebuild that relationship and make up for past mistakes.
- Accept the person’s response—good or bad. Once you make amends with someone, they may or may not want to forgive you. They may also need some time to process their thoughts and emotions after you approach them. However your friends or loved ones choose to respond, you will need to be okay with accepting that response, whether they’re willing to forgive or not.
- Be patient. Some friends and family members may be hesitant to forgive you and move forward with the relationship, despite your sincerity. This is okay. Be patient and give them time to process, understanding that every person heals in their own way and at their own pace.
12-Step Program Recovery at Nova Recovery Center
At Nova Recovery Center, clients in drug rehab work through the 12-step recovery program with recovery specialists who have had their own personal experiences with addiction and making amends in their own lives. When the time comes to start making amends in recovery, our staff is able to provide advice, assistance, and support to clients who are struggling to make amends.
Step eight and nine of the 12-Step Program may not be easy for everyone, but our caring and experiences treatment staff is prepared to help you through the process at your own pace.
If you’re ready to begin the healing process and start your journey to recovery, Nova’s long-term drug and alcohol rehab program provides 90 full days of thorough 12-step programming, behavioral therapy, and peer support to help you achieve lifelong sobriety. Please contact our admissions team today to get started.