Making Amends: How it WorksWhen I got sober the only part of the process I was truly concerned about was making amends. I didn't even want to think about it - so I stopped. I didn't exactly stop thinking about it. It was still on my mind but I stopped spending so much of my time and energy worrying about it. One reason I did this was I wasn't yet finished with step eight. At that time I was still in the midst of six and seven. Speaking of which, if you look at the steps, the way they're numbered, does it make sense? Where people generally run into trouble is the time-line of the progression. Should you put off step eleven until you've "completed" ten? That doesn't stand to reason when step ten starts off with continue. Are we supposed to ask someone when we can start meditating? "Hey boss, do you think I'm ready yet?" The way I look at it, in hind sight is, even though the steps are in list form they should be taken swiftly and as a whole.
If we look at the process of recovery as a system for change we'll move through the process faster. There is very little to physically do where the steps are concerning. The physical part involves lists. This takes very little time if we don't try to finish - once and for all. I haven't found anything in the change process that gets finished, other than the actual addictive practice. I don't do heroin, that's a change, but it's not 'the whole' change. It's one thing that I've managed to move passed. To get ourselves in a mentally receptive attitude towards making amends we can stop looking at it as a step to be completed. Even if the person getting started on the road to change thought of amends as a 'thing to do and be with' it wouldn't get done. We can get the financial amends done and be done with that for ever but what of the rest? If there is a part of this change process that needs to be thought out and approached with care it's the making amends portion.
The first thing to do is understand what an amends is. I've seen a lot of people rushing out to make, what they think is, an amends when it's in fact an apology. Is an apology an amends? The first thing we should do if we are going to attempt making amends is find out what it means. Another reason some people want to make amends is because they feel guilty and ashamed of themselves. They imagine that once they do this thing and get it over with they'll feel better - that the guilty feeling will go away. Is this true? Why are we making an amends? Is an amends meant to relieve us, or to mend something that we broke? I would suggest we be very careful of how we go about this. I think when we get to this point it's time to slow down and really look closely at the whole idea. We'll also want to examine feelings. For one: Guilty feelings can't be trusted. As with all feelings they come from us - we make them - we're like a feelings factory. They are always a product of thought. If we assign a past act as a cause for guilt then running out to fix the past makes sense. If we think that people telling us they forgive us will make us feel better then we'll probably be anxious to give them that opportunity. Will this fix us as far as our guilt is concerned? Not unless guilt is be produced by another person or act and then is somehow being projected on to us. That's not the way it works.
That just isn't possible - except in the imagination. If you think that this is possible you're down for some serious hard times. While imagination is the seed of progress and invention it is also, when rooted in fantasy, the cause of all goofiness. We have guilt because 'we' produced it. We produced it according to our data, the information we've accepted so far. If our accepted data dictates that certain acts warrant guilt, we make guilt. If this isn't fully understood or accepted that's OK. Still, if you want out of whatever you're in, set acting on feelings aside for a while. When guilt shows up just tell it you're busy and you'll talk when you've finished what you're doing. Don't think feelings will listen? Try it.
What Is An Amends?Make amends for: to compensate for some injury or insult. www.thefreedictionary.com - amends.
What kind of injury have we done? Financial things are the easiest to figure and I see this as what should get started on first. If we owe money it's best for us to pay it back. If we don't any money we can't very well pay our financial debts. No money is an acceptable condition. If you want to contact those you owe then do so. If you want to wait for them to find you, that is also an option. Should you try and make financial amends? If you want to follow a twelve step program and set the principles in motion, then yes you will need to do it. I see it more as an opportunity to deal with yourself and your feelings. Owing people money won't kill you. You could be imprisoned for owing money but it wouldn't kill you. If you owe money to someone who kills people for not paying, well that's different - good luck. These financial amends are pretty straight forward but they hold some keys to understanding the amends process as a whole.
What will happen when we decide to pay the money we owe? First we'll get a hold of the people and - what? We'll probably say something like "It's me, I owe you money" they'll probably take it from there and set up the payment plan. They'll tell us how to make our amends. This is how the amends process works. What if I owe Joe an amends for messing around behind his back? We take the same approach as we would for a financial debt. Contact the party and say, "I'd like to make amends for my behavior", is there something I can do? That would be our part. Then would come the response. This would start the amends process. There is no telling where it will go from there. It's usually not the actual amends part that's difficult. It's putting things off that's really tough. What we usually go through is the intense and sometimes suffocating emotions that we produce around the stuff we think of as scary. This often comes up when think about mending relationships. One of the reasons I say we should slow down a little bit here is because if we aren't practiced at dealing with feelings, if you don't understand them, it can kill us.
These feelings are the only reason people go back to active addiction. I've heard people say, gee, I was doing real good, there was nothing wrong, I felt great, then I just wound up in the bar. The problem with thinking that it just happened like that is - it's not true. It didn't happen that way. No matter what anyone says, it didn't happen that way. Either this person had no idea of what their problem was (which never translates into everything's dandy) or they couldn't deal with their feelings. In neither case is everything OK. If we don't get rid of our old ideas about life, and what we are, we're going to wind up in trouble again. If we don't get some factual data, then we can't have factual ideas. Data, to ideas, to thoughts, to feelings...Gotta have the real data to have a realistic existence. When you think about this person who was doing fine and wound up in the bar it's fairly obvious that he wasn't connected to reality in any way. Even after it happens he doesn't know why. The statement that it just happened, for no reason, can only be true in a world of fantasy. Can you see this? Being in a real world means that all these mysterious things don't just happen. In the real world: there aren't any mystical, magical, mysterious happenings going on... If this isn't clear then maybe we should start back at page one. Read everything again from front to back, practice the meditation, watch and listen to all the audio and video. It's all here as parts to a whole. If we don't understand the concept of the real world - if we don't recognize and discard our fantasy worlds, can we sanely approach real amends to real people?
There are no rules that say we have to run out and make all of our amends today. The fact is - it can't be done. We might instead start small and ease in to it. That we begin is key to the whole. Making amends can be pretty uncomfortable. Even if we see intellectually that we are generating these emotional states they're still present. Even once we get a good grasp of our emotional dilemma we'll still feel these emotions. We'll feel it when we have to deal with those "Things" and it doesn't ever feel good. But, if we're going to do it, we might as well do it. Getting started will lessen the intensity of the feelings associated with making amends. It's crazy how intense it can be "knowing we should get started". Starting is always less intense. Doing something is the easier softer way....
Here is a good pragmatic way to start on the amends process - Make a list...
What did I break that needs mendingThe only thing to do now is start doing something. Remember that on the personal amends stuff contacting people is only the beginning of a life long process. Remember that beginning the process is all there is to do and that we don't know anything about what will happen after that - so why worry about it. You may get a lot of, Oh yeah thanks..., responses. People may not believe you. (why should they?) They may not care. They may not know what you're talking about. The possibilities are endless and "no expectations" is the best plan. We're just doing it - because we decided to. Once we do it, that part is done. The important thing is we continue making progress in our endeavor to change. The most important thing we can do, for all we think we need to do, is continue to examine ourselves and make progress.
What did I break? A promise? A contract? An agreement? A relationship?
What did I break that can be mended?
What did I break that can be mended now? (Got some income, have the phone numbers...)
What did I break that can be mended but not now? ( no money, no contact info, no trespassing...)
What did I break that can't be mended?
And So on...
"Classic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing." Aldous Huxley
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." Buddha