What If I Can’t Make Direct Amends?

A big part of addiction recovery is making amends to those who have been directly affected by your drug and alcohol abuse. Not only is this a great way to preserve the relationships that may have become strained or even ruined by your drug abuse, but it allows you to accept responsibility for your actions so you can move on and embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Simply put, there is a reason why making amends is part of the famed 12-step process used by Alcoholics Anonymous and similar programs. While making amends with those you’ve wronged can help you come to terms with your past and repair damaged relationships, there are times when it isn’t possible or advisable. Let’s take a look at what you can do when you find yourself in this kind of situation.

How To Make Amends

Before we go on, let’s talk about what it means to make amends as part of a recovery program. In the 12-step process popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous, step 8 is to make a list of everyone you’ve harmed, and step 9 is to make direct amends whenever possible except when it would harm them or others. While it sounds like making amends is the same as apologizing to those you’ve wronged, there is more to it than that.

You should apologize to others – preferably in a face-to-face meeting – but you also have to show that you are making a conscious effort to change your ways. You have to demonstrate that you know you’ve hurt someone, that you are truly sorry, and you have to show that you are making an effort to ensure that you won’t hurt them again through your drug and alcohol abuse if you can help it. It’s like the difference between simply apologizing to a friend for blowing off your plans with them and doing something to make it up to them. Naturally, making amends can take some time, especially if you really hurt someone and have to earn back their trust.

When Direct Amends Aren’t Advised or Possible

Making amends may be an important step in your recovery process, but you also need to know when you can’t make direct amends or when you shouldn’t try. It is possible that your attempt to confront someone you’ve hurt will only open old wounds or even lead to bigger problems than the ones you created in the first place. You could bring up a particularly painful or traumatic event that will trigger a PTSD episode in someone you hurt before. In other words, some things are better left in the past.

You should also avoid trying to make direct amends with someone who is in active addiction. It is possible that you’re far enough along in your recovery that you can be around someone who is abusing drugs and alcohol, but it is also possible that you could be dragged back into old habits and relapse. Yes, it may be important to make amends with that person, but only when it is safe to do so. You do want to avoid hurting others, but you also need to think of your own health and sobriety.

Finally, there will be times when it will be impossible to speak to someone you’ve hurt face-to-face. They might live too far away for you to see them, or they may be in some other situation where an in-person meeting simply can’t happen. In these cases, you can make amends in other ways such as volunteering your time to help others, donating to charity, or otherwise demonstrating your intention to make things right.

Making A Plan

When preparing to make amends for your wrongdoings, it’s important to have a plan. Step 8 already involves making a list of those you’ve hurt, but you should also consider how you want to make amends to these people or if you might make things worse.

Think carefully about your actions, and decide if you’re thinking about other people or yourself. You may be the one in recovery, but making amends is more about acts of servitude and helping others. It’s not about you, even though it feels that way sometimes. There is no right way to make amends for the things you’ve done.

It’s something that is different for everyone in recovery, and something that you need to figure out for yourself. If you need any assistance in this or any other issues related to substance abuse, know that we’re always available if you need to speak with us. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 833-680-0165 if you have any questions or concerns.