9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
I have made hundreds of amends in my time, as I’m sure, many who will read this have. Step 9 tells us that it is vital that we make restitution to those we have hurt in our past. When the guilt and shame that we feel are uncovered by our past behavior, it can be too much for us to bear. It may send us back out drinking and keep us stuck in a place that continues to make us miserable even when our drinking has ceased. Making amends and meaning it sets us free.
But the real value of making amends, I have recently discovered, is how it makes the person who is receiving the amends feel. The hard thing to swallow for me, is that even though I’m expected to make amends and continue to take personal inventory of myself and my treatment of others, unfortunately the same regard and respect, I have gained for other people, is very seldom returned. But that is the difficult fact for those of us who live in recovery. In my adult life I’ve been kicked, punched, spat on and grabbed by the throat. I’ve been verbally abused, abandoned at the most vulnerable times of my life, manipulated to such an extent that I was left questioning my sanity and became suicidal, and all by people who claimed to have loved me.
I have no problem in admitting my faults and there have been times that I have been abusive also, although not to the level of being physically abusive. I have a tongue that I’m sure, was manufactured in hell. I can cut you down in an instant with quick, poisonous wit and leave you feeling like you have just been stabbed in the heart. I’m not proud of this fact; at all. However, I can usually get humble enough to pick myself up from the gutter and make amends and most of the time, I really really mean it. Usually, this less than wonderful part of me comes out when I am attacked or feel threatened. However I am getting better at controlling myself, and I am beginning to be able to stand up for myself without getting nasty. But I am far from perfect and I still have to deal with very nasty people who are still in my life and my devil tongue can jump into action from time to time. And may I add, a devil tongue is not my only offensive character trait.
The horrible reality for me is that as much as I have been abused and degraded in my life, I have never heard even a sorry from most of the perpetrators. I’ve had conversations with several of these people about their actions, but it seems they are totally justified in their actions. It has become all too clear to me that for some people, I really am unworthy of respect of any kind. On occasions I am taunted by them and basically told I have no right to feel the way I do. I’ve always been seen as “a problem” and for a long time I really believed I was unworthy of respect also. But with working the program and attending therapy and all the other stuff I’ve had to do to get well, I have found that actually, I am as worthy as the rest of the people on the earth. Which is pretty cool. But it still hurts that some believe they are justified in their abuse of me and I have trouble dealing with that sometimes. It makes me very distrustful and I withdraw from people as much as I possibly can because of this. I seem to still attract people like that into my life, but admittedly to a lesser extent.
But very recently my faith in humanity was given a little boost. I received, probably one of the only genuine amends ever in my entire life. The funny thing is that it wasn’t over something life threatening, or abusive. It was a simple difference of opinion; albeit something I found very offensive, but still nothing to write home about. So this other person and I exchanged words about the topic. It was an intelligent and non abusive conversation in which we both got our point across and it ended pretty amicably. I thought after our exchange there would be no more about it and really thought nothing more of the matter, but was glad I stood up for what I believed in. Then a few days later, this person came back to me and said after thinking about it, realized that they were wrong and hoped I would accept an apology. And it wasn’t just a quick sorry. It was a detailed, humble and honest admission of their part in something and they had the balls to own up to it. Very few have ever afforded me that level of respect in my life. Even though it may seem like a small and insignificant thing to some, it was HUGE for me. Someone actually took my feelings into consideration and didn’t make me feel bad for having those feelings. WOW. Someone saw me, heard me and recognized I was there.
This person, needless to say, is also a member of a 12 step program. We don’t even know each other that well and yet this person thought enough of me, themselves and his program to work a 9th and 10th step like it’s supposed to be. Often in this program, we are so intent on being right, and letting it seem as if our sobriety and knowledge is better than anyone else, we forget that working it means more than just talking about it. That simple amends made me cry, it changed some of the most horrible thoughts I had about myself and it has made me want to perhaps try to have faith in people again. So if you think that making a proper amends to someone really, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty insignificant, I can tell you, it may change some of the most fundamental negative feelings they have in their soul for better ones. Now that right there, is life changing!