If you’ve struggled with addiction, you’re not alone. Millions of people are fighting that battle alongside you, and you’re the last person who needs to be told what a hard battle it is. The good news is that addiction is a treatable condition. With proper care, attention, determination, and resilience, you can overcome addiction. If you’ve managed to do this, congratulations are in order.

Unfortunately, there’s also a harsh truth awaiting on the other side of that journey. It’s entirely possible that some people were hurt by your struggle with addiction. As important as your recovery is, it’s not enough to mend those wounds all on its own.

At the Discovery Institute, we want you to know everything about addiction. Below, we will be talking about making amends. First, we will cover the importance of making amends and setting boundaries, then we will talk about the steps this process will normally take.

For that, you’re going to have to make an active effort, but that’s easier said than done. In order to help guide you in the process, we’ve put together this guide on how to make amends and rebuild your relationships.

The Importance of Making Amends

If you struggle with addiction and are seeking to make amends with family members or friends, sometimes it seems like a crazy thing to do. You may be asking why you would want to see these people again; it is not only hurtful for them, it is also a difficult place for you. In the following piece, we will be looking at the whole process of making amends, how to do it, and what to do afterward. However, it is important before this to understand why making amends is so important.

One of the hardest aspects of addiction is that, since it is a disease, your brain is literally rewired to chase the high. Substances change a person’s memory, motivation, and pleasure centers, so that they may no longer feel normal without the substance. Amends come in here. It can be difficult because although you “were not yourself” when you did the harmful things throughout your addiction, it’s important to accept that your actions affected others in a negative way.

An important aspect of the recovery journey is engaging the paradox that you were suffering from a disease and, at the same time, you played a part in the issues that came as a bi-product of an addictive lifestyle. Acknowledging your agency in this while accepting that you cannot control these actions because of the substances, is the first step in many programs for recovery.

The Benefits of Making Amends After Addiction

Beyond this, there are many benefits when it comes to making amends. Making amends is somewhat of a threshold; it shows that you are trying to leave behind the life you used to live and move into a new way of life. It is easy to say that you are moving on. However, if you have not helped people to heal from what happened during your struggle with addiction, then that part of you still exists to that person.

Feelings of guilt, depression, stress, or past memories of trauma are all triggers for addiction. This is why making amends is so important in the recovery process. It allows you to feel a sense of relief. But, it also allows you to help others feel a sense of relief. This will help you to build a community and establish healthy relationships with those around you. Having people by your side who have forgiven you will also give a great sense of accountability. They will be there to remind you that you are not the same person. Doing this provides a great break with your past self, helps to facilitate a sense of relief, and can give you a great group to rally around.

Lastly, making amends leads to understanding. There is a ton of stigma around addiction. This is due to a misunderstanding. When you make amends, when you apologize, it usually will lead to understanding. The person may ask why you hurt them, which will lead to an educating discussion on addiction. Making amends is part of ending the stigma.

The Importance of Boundaries

A huge part of making amends is setting boundaries. It is important to ask the question “will this bring hurt to the person or to me?” Sometimes, it is just too painful for the other person to have you back in their life. Even if you have the best intentions, it may be too hard to see you. Having you back in their lives, at least for right now, may be too painful for their well-being. On the other hand, you may not be able to handle seeing this person. These memories could be traumatic, or they could be a toxic person in your life. In these situations, you need to set boundaries. Make amends with the person in your own way, but keep your needs and theirs in mind.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) use the twelve steps formula. They have been proven to be extremely successful and helpful for alcoholics and narcotic addicts. They center around the idea that what is discussed in the meetings stays in the meetings. It may not surprise you to know that an integral part of the twelve steps involves making amends. Steps 8 and 9 focus on making amends.

Step 8 states: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”. Step  9 says: “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

These steps are incredible ways to recover, and their integration of making amends should reveal the importance. Consider seeking out a meeting. They are very open and welcoming places. A crucial part of AA and NA is being a judgment-free area. Do not worry about feeling judged there, because everyone is united around recovery.

Confronting Reality

Now that you’ve beaten your addiction, it’s understandable that you’d want to move forward and never look back. The problem with that is that it’s impossible to correct your mistakes if you don’t confront them.

Usually, your family and friends are the first to suffer when addiction reaches its full force. While you may have moved on, it’s very possible the echoes of that pain are still affecting them. So, as difficult as it is, you need to have a firm understanding of how your addiction affected the people around you. This doesn’t mean you need to dwell on the past and feel guilty. But it does mean that you’re going to have to look your wrongdoings head-on. By facing the reality of your past, you better equip yourself to deal with your present and future. 

Lead With an Apology

If you’ve ever received a heartfelt apology, you know there are few things more healing than that. This is why it should be the very first step you take when you reach out to your loved ones.

Even if you feel like a totally different person than you were while suffering from addiction, people need proof that you’ve changed. What better way to start than by letting them know you have genuine remorse for your actions?

With all that in mind, you should prepare yourself for the very real possibility that they’re not ready to hear your apology yet. Sometimes, you’ll be met with resentment and anger even upon saying sorry. Other times, they won’t be ready to talk with you at all. The only thing you can do is honor and respect those wishes. It can be hard to hear, but it’s likely that they’re working through some very complex emotions, just like you are. Give them the time they need to process everything.

It’s also important that you take the lead on this. Don’t wait to be called out for your past behaviors before apologizing for them. Complete honesty is crucial during every step of this process.

Furthermore, be detailed in your apology. Explain exactly what it is you’re apologizing for. The purpose of this step is to make sure you understand what you’ve done wrong.

Step two is confronting those things out loud. An apology won’t mean much if it’s vague and general. By being specific, you show the person that you have a clear understanding of how you hurt them. Sometimes, the apology comes with a more material aspect. If you’ve stolen money or goods from someone, it’s only right that you pay them back. This shows that your apology is more than empty words.

Demonstrate Your Change through Actions

Remember that time thing we talked about? Well, it also applies here. One of the biggest aspects of rebuilding your relationships is establishing trust through your actions, and that is going to take some time. The simple fact is that your loved ones may not trust you due to the effects of addiction on your life. Your duty now is to show them that your change is genuine and lasting. 

Staying sober isn’t easy for everyone. Post-recovery life comes with its share of hurdles and bumps in the road. But don’t let them throw you off course. Your family and friends need to be shown that this new you is here to stay. 

This ties back into making tangible reparations for your mistakes wherever applicable. Your actions need to be well-intentioned and consistent in order to be meaningful. Again, this process is going to take time. Rebuilding trust isn’t easy but by staying strong and unwavering, you’ll strengthen those bonds again.

Communication is Key

Addiction aside, the truth is that almost everyone could do learn to communicate better. For you, it’s going to be doubly important. As much as this 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 what you’re going through. That doesn’t mean you should make it all about you, but strive to be honest about how you’re feeling. Suppressing your feelings does no one any favors. Learning to communicate healthily about those feelings will go a long way to righting old wrongs. This also means that you need to check in on others. Make sure to stay involved and interested in what they’re experiencing. None of this works without communication. Keep the conversation going.

Recovery is a Continual Journey

The main thing to remember here is that recovery is an ongoing process that you’re going to be pursuing for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this hard. It just means that the work on yourself and maintaining your relationships shouldn’t cease. Keep striving for more and never stop trying to better yourself.

If you haven’t made it to this stage yet but are still ready to beat your addiction, you deserve a fresh start. Don’t hesitate to look into this excellent rehab program to provide that extra assistance you need.

Allow Us to Help

It is not too late. Whether you are ready to make amends, or you are thinking about taking your first steps toward recovery, getting professionally treated is the most important part of your journey. We want you to know that you have options. At the Discovery Institute, we are always ready to hear from you. Whether you have questions, need help immediately, or just want to talk about something going on, consider reaching out today. We are always here for you. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and the recovery community. Get help today by contacting us here at Discovery! 

References

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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