If you have ever had an addict in your life you may be familiar with 12 step work. You probably know that the first step is admitting you have a problem. As anyone in recovery can tell you, the steps don’t get any easier.
I have attended Al-Anon and ACA because I’ve had addicts affect my life and I come from a family that has suffered from the dysfunction. I’ve worked the program. It’s benefited me enormously and I recommend it anyone who has experienced the harms of addictions. Because of this experience working the program when I see others in recovery I try to remind myself that working the steps is for them. I don’t owe them anything. But I do believe in grace, forgiveness and redemption is possible.
I had a formerly very close friend reach out to me to work the 9th step recently. They wanted to make amends.
Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
The 9th step is arguably the most powerful culturally to emerge from 12 step programs. While we all know admitting you have a problem and giving yourself up to a higher power is crucial to begin your recovery, making amends is about taking responsibility for yourself. It’s a step people can rush or even avoid entirely. Amends is not about saying your sorry. Amends is about taking responsibility for what you have done so you can move forward in recovery. Only by owning your past actions with those you have harmed can you begin to forgive yourself and believe that you are worthy of sobriety. It’s not really a step about other people so much as it is showing to yourself that recovery is possible.
I was overcome with sadness when this former friend reached out to me. Their alcoholism made me feel deeply abandoned as I lost what has been a close and meaningful friendship. But I didn’t feel any anger. I didn’t particularly feel wronged. Just a deep aching sadness that my friend has been taken from me and there was nothing I could do.
There are people in my life that are in recovery that have never made amends to me. Or at least they have not formally asked to make amends as part of a program. They’ve simply slowly done the work to show me I can trust them in my life. And I’ve forgiven them. But the actual step of making amends is a meaningful one. There is a reason it’s so hard to do right.
I don’t know what the future holds for my former friend and I. The fantasy I have is that they remain sober work to rebuild the trust and friendship we once shared. I missed them terribly. I mourned their loss like a death. But this is my fantasy not reality. Reality will he more complex.
I’m sad that even having been lucky enough to receive amends from them, it doesn’t mean all is well. Our actions have consequences. That’s why the 9th step is make amends and not apologize. Amends is fundamentally about owning what you have done. So while they can now begin the process of forgiving themselves, and knowing that in good faith they did make amends to me, my journey towards regaining trust in them is just beginning.
Which means I need to be responsible for my own feelings. How will my actions to accept contact, make amends, and forgive affect me, my family and my friends? There are other people that were harmed by their alcoholism. I don’t actually know yet. The sadness is still so strong. But I do know that I will attend an Al-Anon meeting, and I will pray, and I will work the steps too. And I pray willingness will come.