Preparing to Make Amends is Tougher than it Seems

Contributor: Lexi de Coning writer for Beachside Rehab

man sitting on edge of cliffTaking part in a 12-Step program can be daunting, regardless of your type of addiction, how long you’ve been an addict, or how long you’ve been sober. Part of what makes this approach to addiction treatment so challenging is that it’s not simply about abstaining from alcohol or drugs.

It’s also about facing parts of yourself that you’re not proud of, owning your past, and taking responsibility for it. In this post, we’ll offer some advice on how to tackle Step 8.

The eighth step requires that we make “a list of all persons we [have] harmed and [become] willing to make amends to them all” . This step is often considered in conjunction with Step 9, in which we actually go about making amends.

But let’s focus on just this initial phase: making a list of people we’ve hurt, and preparing to make amends. It may seem like an obvious and straightforward task, but there’s more to it than that.

Making Your List

Assuming that you’ve already completed Step 4 – “made a searching and fearless moral inventory” – then you most likely already have an idea of some of the people you want to include on your list. The first people to come to mind are usually close family, friends, and spouses or ex-partners.

But also think about how your addiction has hurt others in your life, from roommates to employers or colleagues. Some of the harm done may seem minor, but this step urges us to “nevertheless make an accurate and really exhaustive survey of our past life as it has affected other people” .

Happy marriage at the and of therapy sessionIt also requires us to consider how we’ve harmed people who may have hurt us in return, which can be incredibly challenging. It’s easy to get defensive in these cases, and we may want to act as though these mutual transgressions ‘don’t count’. But that’s simply not true. Let go of your ego, and admit that even reciprocal harm is still harm done against another person.

The next thing to consider is what kind of harm was committed against these people. In some cases, the harm may be one-dimensional – for example, you may have skipped paying your rent and lied about it in order to pursue your addiction.

Your landlord may not have been emotionally hurt by this action, but it’s still considered harmful because it was dishonest. If you borrowed money from a friend and never paid them back, this is more complex: you betrayed your friend’s trust as well as squandered their money.

But, if you’re being really honest with yourself, both of these instances belong on your list. Think about harm as including “physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual damage” . Identifying the kind of harm done can help you figure out how to make sincere and meaningful amends (more on this below).

What is ‘Making Amends’?

Making amends is different to apologizing. To ‘make amends’ actually means to make some kind of compensation or reparations; it is meant to be a restorative action. This is where following through with Step 9 can be very difficult – in many cases, it’s simply not possible for you to ‘fix’ the harm that has been done.

However, Step 8 is all about considering ways to repair that damage. Paying back some loaned money is fairly simple; making amends to an ex for a destructive relationship isn’t that easy. Sometimes the best you can do is to acknowledge your abusive behavior, empathize with the person you’ve hurt, and let them know you’re working on it.

In other instances, volunteer work may be a positive way to channel your desire to make amends where you cannot directly address the harm done.

Young Happy CoupleThese steps are also not about making yourself feel better at the other person’s expense – that is not in line with making amends at all! Don’t expect everyone you contact to be willing to forgive you, or even talk to you, so be mentally prepared for some disappointment.

In some cases, the best amends you can make is simply to leave that other person alone – especially if your contacting them constitutes harassment or could cause them more harm.

As much as this step is about digging up the past and making up for mistakes, it’s not just about your own sense of satisfaction. Truly making amends means that you are willing to acknowledge that you were abusive, pledging to change that behavior, and actively working to better yourself at every opportunity.

This is a lifelong process, and you will probably make mistakes along the way. But be self-reflexive, willing to learn, and open to constructive criticism. When you feel ready to do this, you can move onto Step 9. Talk to your sponsor, counselor, or a rehabilitation professional about how to make meaningful amends.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How did you prepare to make amends in your recovery process? What worked well for you? Were there struggles at times, what advice do you have to share?

About Beachside Rehab: Beachside Rehab is a private facility that provides personalized treatment for every patient. With a holistic approach to recovery, our highly qualified and reputable staff are there to assist you with every need. Situated on beautiful Hutchinson Island in south Florida, Beachside Rehab ensures you’ll beat your addiction in a serene and comfortable environment.

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 November 6, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.