The 9th Step: When making amends goes wrong
9th step: Amazing results (a lot of work)!
Ah the ninth step! This step is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the rooms of recovery. It’s also one of the hardest to do…but the payoff of going out and cleaning up the wreckage of our past? Nothing short of amazing!
Various recovery literature covers how to write an eighth step, how to go out and complete a ninth step, and the MANY benefits that come afterwards. I won’t retread that tired ground. What I will do is offer my experience, strength, and hope when it comes to people NOT accepting amends. See, I’ve had a couple of amends experiences where I’ve been told to get the *&$@ out and never come back.
Those weren’t fun.
In fact, they almost soured me on the whole amends process. I kept on going though and I’m glad I did. You remember those ninth-step promises? They absolutely come true. Anyway, without further ado, I present to you, “When making amends goes wrong!”
POSSIBLE REACTION 1: “I Don’t Care That You’re Sorry”
Like most addicts, I was desperate for money when I was drinking and drugging. There were never enough substances and there was never enough money.
I tried to work to support my addiction, but I always seemed to be getting fired. Working at bakeries, restaurants, bookstores, and retail stores never lasted long. Then, by some divine miracle, I was hired as a sales associate at a popular nationwide jewelry store. They paid well and, at first, things were looking up. Still, my addiction caught up with me, as it always did, when I woke up one day and I was withdrawing from heroin.
I was scheduled to work and I did. I showed up and promptly stole an expensive diamond bracelet. I was obviously going to get caught. There were cameras everywhere and no customers in sight. I don’t know what I was thinking. Actually, I WASN’T thinking. I was reacting and running on instinct. So, obviously, I was caught. My parents metaphorically bailed me out, thank God, so I didn’t have to be literally bailed out. Still, I always felt bad about stealing that particular bracelet.
When it came time to make my financial amends, I saved and saved. Within a relatively quick period I’d saved enough money to pay my parent’s back for bailing me out. I did and they accepted my amends. I didn’t get that sense of freedom and happiness, though. I felt like I should go to the actual store and make amends too. Thankfully, I didn’t have to pay both my parents and the jewelry store. I just wanted to apologize and have that be that.
So I did.
My manager was still working there. When she saw me walk in the store, she instantly turned red and started yelling at me to leave. I tried to tell her I was here to right my past wrongs. She didn’t hear me. She was just yelling that she didn’t care and that I had to leave. I kept on trying to apologize to her and she kept telling me to leave. Finally, like the header above says, she simply said, “I don’t care that you’re sorry. Get out now!” and threatened to call the police.
POSSIBLE REACTION 2: “You Stole My Daughter’s Life!”
This amends is a bit simpler, but ultimately a lot sadder. One of the girls I used to use with was still getting high when I got sober. Our families had been friends for a long time. This girl and I went to high school together. We rode in the same limo to prom. I also introduced her to the world of IV painkiller abuse.
I’d stolen a bottle of champagne from their family. After getting sober and starting my amends process, I figured I owed the family some money and an apology. So, I showed up and made the amends. I guess, at some point, my friend must have told her mother that I was the one who introduced her to shooting up. Her mother didn’t care about the money. The effects of addiction on the family could not be financially repaired. She started crying and told me I’d stolen her daughter’s life. She asked me to leave and never come back to their house again.
As I was walking to my car, the father came after me. He thanked me for what I was trying to do and apologized for his wife.
It Isn’t about Other Peoples’ Reactions
The common theme in both those stories is that my amends wasn’t accepted. Guess what? It doesn’t matter! Recovery is a lifelong process.
See, the ninth step is all about action. It’s about going into the world and trying, to the best of our ability, to make the past right by amending, or changing, our behavior. It’s about showing up and doing something for our self-esteem in addiction recovery. But sometimes forgiveness simply isn’t possible. What’s important is that I took the action. What’s important is that I showed up and tried to make things right.
The other person’s reaction is out of my control. It doesn’t matter if they slam the door in my face or hug me and call me a saint. What matters is that I put on my grown up pants, go out into the world, and show others that I’ve changed.
Fiona Stockard is a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute (http://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com). She’s been in recovery since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping other young women achieve and maintain long-term recovery.
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