What is your motive for making amends?
Is it to truly right the wrongs that you have done?
Or is it to relieve yourself of the burden of guilt?
Find out the difference in this episode of Recovery Talk.
Today we’re going to be talking about making amends, which I think is a very important topic, because it’s not something that we should take lightly or rush into. This is something that I’ve seen in the SHAIR Facebook Private Accountability group, as well as here at Costa Rica Recovery, the rehab center I work at, where those of us that are in early recovery, typically those that dive right in, the ones that dive right and really start to embrace the program. Start going to meetings. Start working steps. Start having these Aha moments, these white light moments. The mind starts to clear. The memories start to come back and so does the guilt, shame and remorse.
You start to go back in time and you remember all the people that you harmed, all the people that you hurt, all the wreckage that you caused and it literally makes you sick to your stomach. So you start to beat yourself up. You start to stew in that shit, so to speak. It’s a mind fuck. The more you try not to think about it, the more vivid the memories start to become. And it is. It’s this really icky feeling. You feel dirty. You feel almost subhuman at that moment, because you start to think about the things that you’ve done and you’re like “God, what the fuck. I can’t believe I did that or said that or behaved in that way or put that person through this.”
These things start to run through your mind. Before you know it, you’re on the phone, calling people that you haven’t talked to sometimes in years, to ask them for forgiveness, to say you’re sorry. In many cases, these people are blindsided. They’re obviously not expecting this phone call. Nobody’s sitting around at home wondering when you’re going to call them to ask for forgiveness or to say I’m sorry. This is where the importance of having a sponsor, talking with your sponsor, working the steps, getting to step nine comes in. Instead of moving from step one to step nine and circumventing all the steps, the right move, the smart move is to again, talk to your sponsor, work the steps, ask for guidance, take your time and do it right.
So why don’t we do that? In many cases, you go to your sponsor afterwards and go “Gosh, you know, I had to do this. I just had to go and do this. I had to go and call this person and make it right.” So if you wanted so desperately make things right, why didn’t you talk to anybody first? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because in many cases, that feeling, that icky, disgusting, filthy feeling that you have, the guilt, shame and remorse that is just covering you like a blanket, you want to remove it as quickly as possible. You want to cleanse yourself of this. So this isn’t about making amends. This is about you trying to remove this filthy, disgusting feeling that you have over yourself. You are trying to purge yourself of all these horrible things that you’ve done. You need someone to tell you “You know what? It’s alright. It’s okay. I forgive you. I accept your apology” which does nothing for them and does everything for you.
I hope you’re following along with this because it’s all about you. You are calling someone out of the blue, asking for forgiveness and saying I’m sorry, is all about me trying to relieve myself of the guilt and shame that I feel in this moment. Because how does you asking them for forgiveness, asking them to take action, asking them to accept your apology, how does that help them? How does you acknowledging the shitty person that you were, help them? Sit with that for a moment. Just sit with that for a moment and ask yourself, how does that help the person I’m calling? Does it help the person that I’m calling? Or am I really just simply trying to relieve myself?
One of the definitions for taking a shit, is relieving myself. So in many cases, I pick up a phone and I take a shit in your living room, because that’s what I’m doing. I’m relieving myself. I am purging myself. What is another example of purging myself? Vomiting. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why making amends should be done with a sponsor, should be done with preparation, should be done with communication. In many cases, it doesn’t need to be done at all, because the only person you’re trying to help in this situation is yourself. That is something that your sponsor would be able to point out for you. That’s why we don’t ask for forgiveness. We don’t say we’re sorry.
We make amends. We take action. We take responsibilities. “Hello so and so. How are you? Great. Listen, the reason why I’m calling is because I have done somethings that I am ashamed of and I’m calling to see if there is any way that I can make amends for the harm that I have caused you. Is there something that I can do to mend or fix the damage that I have done?” Now what does this do? This takes the responsibility off the person you are calling and puts the responsibility to where it belongs, on you. You’re asking them what you can do for them. You’re not calling them, asking them to do something for you, which is what asking for forgiveness and saying I’m sorry is all about.
It sometimes a tough pill to swallow. It’s sometimes difficult to realize exactly what it is that we’re doing in the moment. Which is why many times, it happens so quickly. You know you’re not supposed to be doing it. Something deep down inside of you is telling you don’t do it, but you do it anyway and you don’t ask anybody. This is one of those situations where it’s better to again, ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission, because you want to relieve yourself or purge yourself of these horrible feelings of guilt, shame and remorse.
So when we are making amends, it’s important that for this to take effect, that number one, you talk to your sponsor or a mentor or a life coach, or somebody you trust and say “Here’s what happened. Here’s what I’d like to do. And what do you think about my course of action?” Number two, always keep in mind that making amends is fixing something. Fixing something that is broken. So as not to add insult to injury, you are the one that needs to take the action. You are the one that needs to do the work. If you’re going to make the call, then make it right and ask “So how can I make this right? How can I fix the situation? How can I amend the damage that I have caused? Is there something that I can do for you to make things right?” And number three, in no way do you ask them to forgive you, to accept your apology, because now you’re asking them to do something, without you doing anything.
I hope this sheds some light on making amends and what the appropriate steps are when making amends. More importantly, what is your motive for making amends? Is it to truly right the wrongs that you have done, or is it to relieve yourself of the burden of guilt? That’s the question that you have to ask yourself. So I’ll leave you with this quote. “It’s not a person’s mistakes which define them, it’s the way they make amends.” Frey North