“The best apology is changed behavior.”1
Recovery is a journey, not a destination. If you or someone you love is in recovery from substance use disorder, then you are probably familiar with the 12 steps in AA. Two of these steps, both 8 and 9 are about making amends for any pain you caused loved ones in the depths of addiction.
AA defines steps 8 and 9 as:
- Step 8: “Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
- Step 9: “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Many people find that these two steps are some of the most difficult challenges in recovery. After all, you have to face your past and the hurt that you may have caused to others, whom you care about. This might bring to the surface feelings of guilt and feeling badly about yourself. As tough as this may be, making amends is an important step in recovery. Why? The underlying theme of making amends is forgiveness, not only from others but forgiveness of yourself, which can bring healing, hope and peace to all parties. Because this part of recovery can be daunting, here are some tips to help you work through steps 8 and 9.
#1 – Work with a plan.
Before you begin making amends, you should first follow step 8 and make a list of who you hurt when you were struggling with addiction. You must also get to the crux of what you did to hurt them, so that you best understand their pain and can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It might be wise to try to imagine yourself in his or her shoes. Write down feelings that you think they may have experienced, such as distrust, betrayal, sadness, disappointment, etc.
#2 – Make a sincere apology.
As you explore steps 8 and 9, you’ll find that saying “I’m sorry”, isn’t enough. A real apology requires:2
- Freely admitting fault.
- Fully accepting responsibility for your actions.
- Humbly asking for forgiveness.
- Changing your behavior.
- Actively rebuilding trust.
To ensure your sincerity comes across, make sure you take full responsibility for negative actions — without resorting to excuses. Let your loved one know how much they mean to you. Most importantly, be honest with them and accept responsibility. Outline the steps that you are taking to get better and how you will work to regain their trust.
#3 – Remember that actions speak louder than words.
Remember that not everyone will be quick to forgive and move on. Your loved one might need time to heal and may need to see you progress and stick to your word before he or she will let you in again. With certain people, they will need to know that you won’t hurt them again before letting you back into their life. This is where the term “living amends” come into play, where a true lifestyle change shows your commitment to yourself and to those around you. If you put the time and effort into rebuilding your relationship, you can slowly but surely cross this bridge. It will be more than worth it in the end.
Do you have any advice for someone working steps 8 and 9 in AA? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.