Making Amends With Family Members After Addiction

Family sitting on the bench

What is Making Amends With Family Members After Addiction? How is this different from an apology? According to Dr Chris Ebberwein at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, making amends means taking ownership for causing hurt, then doing something to correct or heal it [1].

Making amends can help a recovering individual to move forward with correcting hurts or wrongs that were made during addiction. Dr. Barbara Wood, author of Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home states that those in early recovery states should not focus on amends, but work through their shame first.

Focusing on amends and hurts caused in early stages of recovery can trigger intense urges to use again. Allowing the neurological damage heal from repeated alcohol use is crucial before beginning the amends phase.

Individuals start to view themselves with a greater perspective and can tolerate more vulnerate, intense emotional states during the amends phase without a high risk of relapse [1].

How Making Amends Contributes to Healing

For over 20 years researchers have been looking at how forgiveness and amends relate to healing, emotional, physical, and psychological health. In the AA 12-Step Program, Steps 8 and 9 are based upon the addict’s ability to recognize and admit wrongdoing to others and make restitution wherever possible [5].

When the addict holds resentment or anger it is a way to avoiding amends and denying the wrongdoing that he or she has done to another. Resolving hurts and one’s personal internal emotions can shift the recovering addicts focus and allow the person to connect to the here and now.

FamilyThrough the amends process, the addict also begins to release guilt and shame related to the past addiction life and move into a more personal growth and development.

Mindfulness encourages forgiveness of self and others and allows the addict to promote further psychological healing and positive change; Improve physical and mental health; restores a personal sense of power; and Brings the addict back into a larger support group [5,1].

Forms of Making Amends With Family Members

Making Amends With Family Members After Addiction can take various forms. There are types of amends that one can make: Direct, Indirect,and Living amends. Direct amends are when the addict takes personal responsibility and confronts the person whom they want to reconcile with.

The individual(s) will intimately discuss and break down why the wrongdoing occurred and what behavior will be done to rectify the hurt. An example would be if the addict stole $100 from a family member and during a Direct Amend, the addict repays the family member in full.

Indirect Amends are those there the damage can not be behaviorally repaired. If the addict has committed a crime or the person who received the wrongdoing cannot or refuses be contacted, there are ways to make amends indirectly.

For example, if the addict physically assaulted a person, or the person who received the wrongdoing is passed away, the addict can volunteer at a shelter or take part in a community program that honors that person in some way.

The third amends is Living Amends where the addict uses a positive display to others to ‘prove’ themselves to the person(s) that they are free of the addiction and addict personality. Living amends is a personal and public promise that means a genuine lifestyle change.

Making amends is a crucial part of the recovery process and making amends when the person feels they truly understand the situation and feel an urge for atonement and it should be remembered that approaching the 12- Step 8 and 9 is not to be done spontaneously. These two steps require discussion, planning and reflection.. [4, 5].

The 12-Steps include Step 8 and 9 which are about making amends. The are defined as, according to Alcoholic Anonymous as, Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others [5].

Making Amends in Addiction Recovery

family holding handsMaking amends means of thinking about those who the addict has hurt and how they want to go about making Direct, Indirect, or Living amends with each person. It also includes being genuine with each person confronted.

It is important to ask each person to talk in private and having the addict explain what they are trying to do and why. During this process it is imperative for the recovering addict to listen to the friend or family member, even if they are unwilling to talk about past events.

Being able to admit past mistakes is crucial to the recovery process. Admitting personal mistakes, taking responsibility for them, and taking time to talk with family and friends can restart the rebuilding of trust and relationships.

Recovery addicts working on making amends can say something like, “I am sorry for the hurt I caused you, and I would like to try to make it up to you. Please forgive me.” The individual offering amends also has to be prepared to listen to the family member or friend who may or may not be ready to offer forgiveness. Remember that rebuilding trust takes significant time and genuine changed lifestyle and behavior [1].

Overall, making amends can be a slow process for the recovering addict. Making Amends with Family members After Addiction can take time. Utilizing a support system, practicing with others what the person will say or do to make amends, and being patient for the family member or friend to be ready to listen and hear what the recovering addict has to say can be a crucial part to the 12 step process.

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

What are some examples of how you have made amends with loved ones in your recovery process?

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS, is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS) who works with individuals and families in the area of eating disorders. Mrs. Lyons works in the metropolitan St. Louis area and has been practicing in the field for 11 years. Libby is also trained in Family Based Therapy (FBT) to work with children-young adults to treat eating disorders. Mrs. Lyons has prior experience working with the United States Air Force, Saint Louis University, Operating Officer of a Private Practice, and currently works with both Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute within their Eating Disorders Program and Fontbonne University



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 5, 2016
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.