April 2nd – National Reconciliation Day

One of the tell-tale symptoms of chemical dependency is behaving in ways that go against your personal values and standards. That’s why the recovery process includes the practice of recognising how your behaviour has harmed others and seeking to repair the mistakes and damage caused during your active addiction. This approach is called “making amends:”

On the surface, making amends might sound as simple as offering a sincere apology for your treatment of others, but there’s more to this reconciliation which is so vital to addiction recovery and spiritual health.


What is a direct amend?

The act of personally addressing issues with people who have been harmed by our behaviour or our treatment of them. The practice involves going back to those individuals to acknowledge the harm or hurt we have caused them and demonstrate our changed ways in order to provide them with the opportunity to heal. Whenever possible, a direct amend is made face-to-face rather than over the phone or by asking someone else to apologise on your behalf.


What is the difference between making amends and offering an apology?

Think of amends as actions taken that demonstrate your new way of life in recovery, whereas apologies are basically words.

In active addiction, our actions and intentions aren’t aligned. For example, we might intend to go to a friend’s birthday party but, in actuality, we fail to show up for the event. While we might apologise later for missing the party, our apology consists of words rather than actions or changed behaviour.

In recovery, our actions and intentions are aligned. An example would be telling someone how sorry you are that you stole from them and actually giving back what you took.


Are there times when direct amends are not possible?

Yes. We make amends “except when to do so would injure them or others.” We don’t want our actions to cause further damage, harm, or stress. Also, we might owe amends to people we can’t reach. In those cases, we can make amends in a broader sense by taking actions such as donating money, volunteering our time, or providing care.

It’s also essential to take great care when making amends to someone who is in active addiction because our primary responsibility is to safeguard our own health and recovery from substance abuse.


Should I try to make amends with someone who doesn’t want to hear from me?

No matter how much you feel the need to make things right, forcing another to meet with you or hear from you is not what its about. When those we’ve hurt are not able or willing to accept our amends, we can still move in a positive general direction by taking intentional steps to be of service to others.


What if my attempt to make things right goes wrong and things get worse?

It’s important to have a plan in place before you reach out. We can’t know for certain how another person will respond—or even how the interaction might affect us emotionally. So be sure to talk with your sponsor and/or support group about your plan in the event you would need support. Remember, this is a Twelve-step process that can provide a platform for healing, but the person you are reaching out to may not be at the same place in recovery as you are. We are only in control of our part—living and making the amends. We cannot control how others respond, whether they will forgive, or whether they will hold onto negative feelings or resentments.


Sourced from Hazelden online:

Back to resources