The wisest slogan I ever heard in the rooms for when it comes to making amends is this: “we have broken something; we must ‘a-mend’ it.” There are plenty more good turns of phrase out there, and the literature is full of suggestions on making amends. It is a huge part of the program. It’s the piece about cleaning up the wreckage of our past. The damage we have done, the harm we have caused, all keeps us from moving forward with our new lives. Failing to make our amends? That, my friends, is a recipe for relapse. The weight of our past misdeeds weighs us down. Making amends is how we handle that burden, how we learn to lay it down and be free of our old lives. We don’t make amends to purge ourselves of guilt. We do it because it’s important for us to admit we have been wrong, and to do what we can to try to make things right. That’s the way to walk to the spiritual path. Not all amends go well. I’ve had people cut me off barely after I’ve begun to tell me I was already forgiven long ago; I’ve had those who listened politely and told me, ‘well, uh, thanks for saying that but go fuck yourself.’ We don’t know what’s going to come out of our making amends, and we can’t control others. We need to have some good solid Recovery under our belt before we even attempt making amends to those we’ve harmed. There is a real danger in trying to make amends too soon. We could be setting ourselves up for more pain and hurt. It takes time to learn how to live the clean and sober life. It takes a while for others to see the change in us, and still longer for them to believe that it’s actually permanent. The greater danger is not making amends at all. The damage we’ve done is like an anchor keeping us tied to our past. We can’t be free until we address it. It’s definitely a process of humility, but it doesn’t need to be humiliating. Often times, just stepping outside ourselves, putting ourselves in the shoes of others and looking through their eyes at what we’ve done, is enough to create the necessary willingness to make amends. Admitting we were wrong is part of becoming ‘right-sized’. We’re not perfect. That may be humiliating at first, but as time passes and we think of ourselves less (note: not less of ourselves), we discover that the process is freeing. We aren’t perfect. And we’re not failures for not being perfect. We are, above all, merely human. Just. Like. Everyone. Else. That’s the real point of humility—recognizing that we are only one of many. Some of us don’t want to be just like everyone else. Some of us refuse to admit we’ve been wrong. And you know what happens to those folks? They walk back out the doors and their misery is refunded. In full.
read more: “A-Mending the Past”