Why is Making Amends Important?
If you’ve struggled with addiction or substance abuse, you’re not alone. There are millions of people struggling alongside you. And you’re the last person who needs to be told what a hard journey it is. But the good news is that addiction is a treatable condition. With proper care, attention, determination, and resilience, you can overcome addiction.
Unfortunately, individuals don’t live in a vacuum. We are members of families, communities, societies. And that means that one person’s destructive addiction patterns don’t impact only themselves. There are friends, loved ones, and colleagues that were negatively impacted in the wake of your addiction. That’s why making amends and rebuilding relationships is such a key part of the recovery process.
Overcoming Guilt and Shame
According to the journal of Addictive Behaviors, how a person handles shame and guilt is one of the biggest obstacles to making amends. If guilt and shame make a person shut down and return to the same issues that caused substance abuse in the first place, they need to be handled differently. However, if a feeling of guilt motivates a person to come to terms with their actions and do their best to reconcile, it can be a helpful part of the recovery process.
Furthermore, it’s important to keep in mind the addiction paradox: you were suffering from a disease and, at the same time, you still played a part in the destructive byproducts of addiction. By acknowledging your agency and simultaneously accepting that you cannot control these actions is often the first step in many addiction treatment programs.
What Are the Benefits of Making Amends?
There are many benefits when it comes to making amends. Some benefits may include:
- Marks your decision to move into a new way of life
- Helps you process feelings of guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, and fear
- Provides a way for the family member or loved one to process their pain, mistrust, codependency, and other side effects
- Helps you to build a community and establish healthy relationships
- Facilitates a greater sense of accountability
- Establishes a separation with your past-self
Lastly, making amends leads to understanding. In the midst of stigma around addiction, apologizing can help others understand what addiction is and is not. Honest conversations facilitate an openness to learning about addiction and recovery, and so all in all, making amends is a part of ending this stigma.
Tip #1: Facing Reality
Now that you’re on the path to recovery, it’s understandable that you’d want to move forward and never look back. But it’s actually impossible to correct your mistakes if you don’t confront them.
As you probably know, your family and friends were the first to suffer when your addiction reaches its full force. Therefore, despite the difficulties of facing the reality of your actions, it’s important to get a firm understanding of how your addiction affected the people around you. This doesn’t mean that the answer is feeling guilty or shameful. But it does mean confronting the wrongdoings against those closest to you. It’s only be healing the past that you can equip yourself to deal with your present and future in a healthy way.
Tip #2: Lead With an Apology
A part mending your relationships is addressing past wrongdoings out loud in the form of an apology. Here are some pointers for formulating an honest apology:
- Avoid vague and general statements
- Be specific and show the person that understand how exactly you hurt them
- Take ownership of your actions and acknowledge the difficult position you put them in
- Leave time and space for the person to respond
- Prepare yourself for the possibility that they’re not ready to hear your apology yet
- Prepare yourself for possible resentment and anger
- Respect their wishes if they’re not ready to talk with you yet
Tip #3: Demonstrate Your Change through Actions
After verbally apologizing, one of the biggest ways to start rebuilding your relationships is establishing trust through your actions. And that is going to take some time. Your loved ones may not trust you due to the effects of addiction on your life and how it affected them. Your responsibility now is to show them that your change is genuine and based on real actions.
Keep in mind that you need to make tangible reparations for your mistakes wherever applicable. If you stole from someone, pay them back. If you lied to someone, tell the truth instead. Moreover, your actions need to be consistent in order to be meaningful. And although rebuilding trust isn’t easy, staying strong and unwavering will help strengthen those bonds again.
Tip #4: Communication is Key
Communication is one of the most important parts of your recovery process. And this applies to communicating with others on relationship healing. As much as this “amends” process is about your loved ones, it’s also about you. Healing is a two-way street. That’s why you have to keep the channels of communication open at all times.
Explain to your loved ones what you’re going through. Be transparent about your growing process even though it may feel vulnerable. Suppressing your feelings doesn’t help anyone. Learning to communicate about difficult emotions will go a long way to building trust again.
Conclusion: Remember that Recovery is a Lifelong Journey
All in all, it is important to remember that recovery is an ongoing process that you’re going to be pursuing for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean it will always be as hard as it was at the beginning. But it does mean that the work you do on yourself and healing your relationships shouldn’t stop. Those who truly love you will put in the effort to rebuild a new relationship. Leaving behind old habits and forming new ones takes work, but it’s worth it for all parties involved.
To learn more about how to start your healing journey at Impact Recovery, get in touch with a member of our team here.