July 19, 2022

Making Amends in Recovery

Read time: 8 minutes

If you are in recovery from substance abuse, you know that many changes are happening all at once. You are establishing new routines while taking care of new responsibilities. These new aspects of your life can be both exciting and challenging, but your time in treatment will have prepared you for this.

In addition to all of the newness of life in recovery, there are many aspects of life before treatment that you will have to confront once more. There will be situations and places that trigger cravings that you must handle. There will be old habits that you need to avoid falling back into. 

Above all, there will be the important people in your life who were there during your substance abuse. These relationships can be complicated, and navigating them during recovery might require some delicacy. Often, there will be the need to establish new expectations and boundaries in addition to seeking forgiveness.

The Strain on Relationships 

While abusing drugs or alcohol, you were most likely not the best version of yourself. That is why you started treatment, whether that was your own decision, one made by you and your loved ones, or one made by a court. Part of being in treatment means accepting responsibility and taking accountability for decisions and actions that may have harmed others, particularly those closest to you. You most likely have taken time to think about how your substance use impacted not only your own life but the lives of those that are important to you. 

Perhaps you have not been as present as you should have been, missing important events and occasions because of the effects of drugs or alcohol. Maybe you became angry or violent with a significant other when experiencing the effects of substances, cravings, or withdrawals. It is possible your substance abuse made it difficult or impossible to keep up with responsibilities like caring for your children or keeping on top of work and paying the bills. There may have been too many arguments to count between you and your friends and family as they expressed concern or confusion about your addiction.

Reconciling With Those We’ve Hurt

It is likely that, even after you have committed to treatment and are in recovery, those wounds are still fresh for the people in your life. There is probably a significant amount of uncertainty, confusion, grief, and maybe even anger as your friends and family try to reconcile the person you were with the person you are striving to be. This is why the process of making amends is crucial to saving and improving those relationships. 

Amends-making is incorporated into the 12-Step program, which systematically guides participants through the recovery process. As the ninth step, it is an important part of positively changing the way you interact with people going forward.

Having a clear idea of the people who have been harmed by your actions while in the midst of addiction will help you get started. It is imperative to know what exactly you are apologizing for, as meaningful apologies need to be sincere and well-thought-out. You can likely think of a time when you were wronged by someone and received an apology that felt forced, superficial, or lukewarm – like it was just a formality and there was no discernible regret. You may not have forgiven that person, or if you did, there might still be lingering feelings of doubt or irritation. 

In addition to apologizing in a manner that demonstrates cognizance of what you did wrong, it is also necessary to show that person how you intend to change. In many cases, that can be a commitment to recovery and continued efforts to stay sober. In other cases, there might be further reconciliation that needs to happen, like returning money that was borrowed or stolen to acquire substances or paying for property that was damaged as a result of being under the influence.

Once you have made a sincere attempt to apologize, the ball is in the other person’s court. Many people will be happy to accept the apology and look forward to a better future. Some people may have stipulations or conditions on which they will accept the apology. For example, they might need to see that you have been sober for a certain amount of time or that you have been able to hold down a job or other responsibilities before they will invite you back into their life. 

In some cases, certain people will not wish to engage in the process of making amends and have come to the decision that it would be better for you two to no longer interact. Being prepared for all of these potential outcomes and trying not to become defeated if things do not go exactly to plan is important.

Choosing Wisely

There are some people you may decide are not beneficial to have in your life anymore. These could include people you have used drugs or alcohol with or someone you have relied upon to receive or buy substances from. You do not need to keep these people in your life, especially if they are still actively using substances and might pressure or trigger you. You have the power to reinvent your life and only include people who support your continued health and wellbeing.

Making amends in recovery can be a difficult and intimidating process, but it is worth it. One way of making this process easier is to involve your family in the treatment process from the beginning. Working with a licensed clinician and engaging in sober monitoring services can support your sobriety and help keep you present for the important people in your life.

If addiction is affecting your life and the lives of those around you, it is time to seek help. The first step to getting your life back and saving relationships with friends, family, and significant others is to seek treatment. Family-Centered Services is here to help you every step of the way through that process. Our team of Master’s level licensed clinicians is trained and experienced in assisting individuals and families through the struggles of substance use. We offer comprehensive services such as interventions, individual and family therapy, case management, and sober accountability and monitoring. Our Family Recovery Program includes the whole family in order to prioritize those relationships and set everyone up for success throughout treatment and the recovery process as a whole. You and your family need the stability of a life free from drugs and alcohol, and you can take the first step by calling (509) 991-5822.