The 12-Steps are a lifeline for those of us that need basic instructions on how to live. If you are not familiar with the steps, I have posted them at the end of this writing. The first time I went into a meeting, I saw this list on the wall and I thought to myself, how lovely! Then I realized that these printed ideas were actually suggested moves toward living a life without resentments. Resentments are one of the greatest threats to my sobriety. When I find myself in a place of expectation or fear or superiority, I am quick to assume that I know better. And then my mind is off to the races. A hallmark of the program is to work the steps with another person (called a sponsor) that has already worked the steps and has qualities of life that you admire.
I began working with a sponsor early on, but it took time to make it to the steps that I had dreaded from day 1:
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.
Some of you reading this were on that list. This was one of the most pride-leveling experiences of my life. I was taught in working my program that amends were a part of healing. Making amends was the best way to reconnect with the people who have been deeply hurt as a result of your actions. Making amends is about taking a hard look at your past and being able to admit your wrongdoing to others. It’s recognizing when you tell yourself lies about what really happened. It is not about blame or shame or even just apologizing. It is about responsibility, which for most of us is all but impossible.
We are humans, and we feel hurt and grief in broken relationships. Many times I could see things in others that THEY had done wrong much quicker than I could see my part. It was in that headspace that I was taught a prayer that I began praying for those on my amends list and this is what it said:
Dear God, I have a resentment towards a person that I want to be free of. So, I am asking you to give this person everything I want for myself. Help me to feel compassionate understanding and love for this person. I pray that they will receive everything they need.
I dare you to try this. I did this as I prepared to make my amends. I knew that many of these relationship required face to face time for me to say these precious words. Often, I had to make amends for things that people knew happened, but I also had to tell them about things that they had no idea about. Things that drove a wedge in our relationship that they could never understand because they didn’t even know it existed.
Making amends is so counter intuitive for many of us. When I would make the initial contact, I often feared – Would they answer the phone? Would they want to talk to me? Could I even gather the words to explain?
In one of the hardest of these conversations, I connected with one of the friends that I most deeply injured in active addiction. I laid my cards on the table and prayed for the words to explain how not just sorry, but absolutely broken hearted I was by the chasm in our friendship. My friend was gracious. She asked questions – hard ones. I took responsibility for my part, and she took responsibility for her part. We cried. And we made the commitment to walk forward without holding each other hostage with the past.
Making amends is not about instant fixes. It is about first steps. I had no idea how any of these conversations would change my relationships. What I discovered after time and healing, is that with each passing day, things grew. For those that were committed to healing, we trusted each other a little more. And with few exceptions, I can honestly say that the relationships that I share with those on my amends list are bigger, more healthy and more loving than what we shared years ago. It is far more than I could have asked for or imagined. I’m so thankful for all of the steps, but what I dreaded as my least favorites, ended up being some of the best medicine to help cure the ails that my disease creates in my life.
*Amends are not just for those in recovery. If you are interested in learning more about this way of healthy living, drop me a note.
If you are not familiar with the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, enjoy: