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The consequences of drug and alcohol abuse don’t just affect the addicted person–they spill over into every area of a person’s life, causing the most amount of damage to their relationships. In the 12-step program, steps eight and nine are all about making amends and repairing the relationships that have been damaged by substance use.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The Difference Between Making Amends and Apologizing

We all make mistakes, and there is no shame in admitting when we’re wrong. It takes a good deal of maturity, humility, and courage to own up to our wrongdoings, especially if they are a result of alcohol or drug addiction. Although a sincere, meaningful apology is a part of making amends, saying “I’m sorry” isn’t powerful enough to repair the damage done.

Amends and apologies are two different things. Making amends is an attempt at reconciliation. You can’t erase the things you did, but you can actively work toward repairing trust and reaching an understanding. This can be done in a direct way, like replacing something you broke, or an indirect way, such as getting involved in volunteer work.

Regardless of whether you make amends directly or indirectly, the whole process is a part of the 12-step program that’s designed to get you to commit to changing your behavior and the way you approach life.

Direct Versus Indirect Amends

There are two different ways to make amends. Many people in the 12-step program work with their sponsor to determine the best way to proceed through these steps.

Direct amends requires you to confront the person you want to reconcile with, take ownership of your actions and work together to find a solution that compensates for your behavior. For example, replacing an item you broke or paying the person back for the money you stole from them. By making direct amends, you’re doing everything within your control to right your wrong.

Paying someone back or replacing an item may right a wrong in the physical sense, but it doesn’t always address the emotional damage that resulted from your behavior. Sometimes it’s not possible to reverse the emotional damage.

Indirect amends are necessary when you can’t meet with a person face-to-face. For example, someone you’ve hurt in the past may not be willing to see you. In that case, indirect amends can be made by actively working to modify your behavior, writing them a letter and never sending it, or volunteering for a worthwhile cause.

How Making Amends Benefits Your Recovery

Making amends is a crucial component of growth and healing, not just for you, but for the people you’ve hurt. By making amends, you’ll have the opportunity to reconnect with people you’ve harmed as a result of your addiction.

It might not be easy. You may feel guilty, stressed out, anxious, or fearful that you’ll be flat-out rejected. But there is a lot of good that can come from making amends that outweigh the potential bad.

  1. It’s a form of resolution. Learning how to change your attitudes and behaviors while in treatment can conjure up feelings of guilt or anxiety about the way you treated people in the past. By making amends with someone, you’re resolving conflict not only with that person but with yourself too.
  2. It improves your self-esteem. It can be intimidating or even embarrassing to own up to the things you’ve done, but it’s something that can vastly improve your self-esteem and confidence, which ensure your progress and success in recovery.
  3. It relieves stress. The guilt and anxiety that stem from your past actions can feel inescapable. Maybe you avoid the people, places and things that bring up those unpleasant emotions. Making amends is an act of courage that can help you get closure and move forward with your life.
  4. It repairs trust. You may feel like an entirely different person upon completing an addiction treatment program, but the people you’ve hurt in the past don’t know the “new” you. It may take a lot of work to rebuild the trust of your family and friends, and making amends can help move the process along.

Reconciliation is an important component of 12-step recovery and opting not to make amends hinders your growth. Recovery is a process, and making amends is one necessary part of it that brings you one step closer to healing. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance disorder, BRC Recovery can help. Our 12-step addiction recovery programs are designed specifically to help young adult men recreate their lives. For more information, contact us today.