Making Amends: How it Works
When I got sober the only part of the process I was truly hesitant about was making amends. I didn't even want to think about it - so I didn't. 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...
Speaking of which, if you look at the steps, the way they're numbered, does it make sense? 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 concerned. The physical part involves writing... this takes very little time... I haven't found anything in the change process that gets finished, other than the actual using drugs. I don't do heroin, that's a change, but it's not 'the whole' change.
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?
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 amends thing and get it over with they'll feel better - that the guilty feelings 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... but that's not the way it works.
That other people, that an act, makes us feel guilt isn't possible. If we think that this is possible we'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 the information we've accepted about ourselves and Life. If the accepted data dictates that certain acts warrant guilt, we make guilt. If we want out of whatever we'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.
The following is my opinion about making amends and how I went about it...
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. Making a financial amends is pretty straight forward.
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... 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 this stuff. 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, these emotional situations can kill us... Literally.
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. 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 never feels 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....
My advice on making personal amends is this: Do what you have to do... don't worry about the rest. I haven't come close to making amends to everyone for everything... Still here, still clean and relatively sane. We all know what "we have to do" is for us...Here is a good pragmatic way to start on the amends process - Make a list...
What did I break that needs mending
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...
The 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...