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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trying to Make Amends 101

One of the first amends letters I ever wrote to someone was returned to me, corrected, and it infuriated me.  I was hurt and embarrassed that my heart felt attempt at apologizing for past errors had been rejected.  I took the letter to my sponsor and demanded some kind of justice.  I wanted someone to validate my rage, to tell me the other guy was wrong and that I was right.  Instead, he read the reply, laughed out loud, and ripped up the letter.  

I was aghast!  "Why did you do that?" I yelled.

He looked at me and asked, "What were you planning on doing - keeping it and re-reading it over and over again?'.


I think making amends is one of the most difficult things to do.  People like me are, at our core, manipulative.  We try really hard to get our own way and when we make amends it is really difficult to not include something that implies, "I am really sorry YOU did such and such and caused me pain" or "I am really sorry YOU made ME behave badly".

My experience has also been that the hardest people to make amends to are people in 12 Step programs.  We have read the literature, we have our (dearly held) opinions on how something should be done and God forbid someone try and do a step and their action does not jive with how WE think that step should be taken.

When I make an amends to someone, I have been taught to leave anything and everything THEY did out of the equation.  I cannot apologize for their action,  I cannot make any allusion to my behavior being linked to something they have done.  It makes it virtually impossible for me to make an amends without going over what I am going to say with another person.  In my case, I go over it with my sponsor and I try very hard to 'stick to the script' when I am speaking to the person.   At some times I am more successful than other times but over the years I can honestly say I no longer need to make amends for the amends I make - and for someone like me, that is a huge improvement.

This week I am going to be working with another woman just like me and we are going to start Step 9 together.  She has her list and she has started her writing and we are going to be going over the scripts. 

As she begins this part of the journey, she is going to be amazed before she is half way through but it is going to be such a tough part of the deal.  

It is going to mean making herself vulnerable and possibly being rejected.  

It is going to mean working very hard to not blame the other person at all.

It is going to mean doing this without any expectations.

If she can do this, she is on the road to a life that is going to be amazing. 

My heart goes out to those men and women in our program who cannot, or will not, take this step.  I understand how difficult it is and how frightening it is but I can testify to this truth:

If you are willing to put the other person out of the equation and see this simply as a way to clean up your side of the street, taking full responsibility for your life, your life will improve one day at a time.

I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this process.

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