Addiction is hard on relationships. Addiction pushes otherwise decent people into negligent, dangerous, and unethical behaviour. People struggling with addiction often hurt people they care about along the way. Part of recovery is attempting to fix those relationships and make amends for past behaviour. This is difficult and sometimes complicated. Here are some suggestions for how to go about it.
Don’t start too early.
There is a reason making a list of people you’ve harmed and making amends are steps eight and nine, respectively. It’s hard to face up to the damage you’ve caused. If you put that kind of stress on yourself too early, it might jeopardise your recovery. Before you attempt making amends, make sure you have some time sober and feel you’re ready for the challenge. You might want to seek guidance from your sponsor or group.
Amends is more than an apology.
An apology is a good start, but to show you’re serious, you have to try to offset whatever harm you caused. If you stole money, pay it back. If you broke something, replace it. This may be inconvenient or expensive, but the sacrifice will reaffirm your commitment to recovery.
You might have to get creative.
There is not always an obvious way to repair the harm you caused. Some damage can’t be undone. What’s more, the onus should not be entirely on the wronged person to figure out how you can make amends.
Try not to make things worse.
Step nine explicitly says, ‘ Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others‘. There are many situations in which coming clean and making amends could cause problems for someone else. The whole point of the exercise is mitigate the damage you caused. When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Treat this situation as one in which making amends isn’t possible. For example, if making amends would result in your friend getting locked up, find another way to assuage your conscience. Maybe volunteer for a charity related to whatever problem you and your friend caused.
Don’t expect forgiveness right away.
Or ever. People may be justified in their scepticism. It may take a while for them to accept you are serious about turning your life around. All you can do is make the effort by admitting your wrongs and making a good faith attempt to repair them. You can’t force someone else to forgive you. Their forgiveness is not in your control.
Castle Craig Hospital is a landmark of addiction and mental health treatment in Scotland, serving the UK, the EU, and patients from all over the world. Our commitment to long term abstinence has created a successful programme of clinical and complementary therapies for mind, body, and spirit. Serving over 10,000 patients for more than 25 years, the Castle Craig model is proven in changing lives. Call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line for information: 0808 231 7723. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006
Page published: April 2, 2018. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 29, 2020