So it's the end of August, and being month number 8 going into month number 9, many around here are gearing up to do their amends, or at least to brag about doing them in meetings. It's a heavy subject going in and a freeing experience going out, Here's what I've learned about the process along my way ...
1) I can owe amends to people even if they do not appear on my 4th step list. I have found this to be especially true for those newer in sobriety. The 4th step list is my list of resentments/fears/generally nasty feelings. However, I can harm people without even knowing it. This is why the twelve steps differentiate between a "fearless moral inventory" and "a list of all persons we had harmed". These can be two separate and different lists.
2) I should not attempt to make an amends if I'm not really sorry. Having a resentment is like active alcoholism: everyone can see it, regardless of how I think I'm covering it up. If you know deep down that you're not a bit sorry for what you did, you will almost always make the situation worse with a new act of dishonesty. The Big Book says that in this case we should pray for the willingness to make amends in these cases.
3) I should not make a direct amends to someone in order to manipulate them. When I did my first amends list, I couldn't wait to go to an old flame an apologize for the way I would sometimes speak to him when I had been drinking. I was genuinely sorry about that, but what I truly wanted deep down was to show him that I had sobered up and that now he should give our relationship another chance. Selfishness and self-centeredness was about to become the root of yet another problem! If I am still trying to control others' behavior, I am going to drink again, and luckily my sponsor saw through my sanctimonious b******t and forbade me from contacting him in any way.
4) I should remember that Internet is usually the easier, softer way. If my sponsor authorizes me to make a direct amends to someone, I need to see that individual in person. Anything else is cutting corners, with a couple of exceptions:
- You physically can't appear before them - you are a soldier deployed to a combat zone, you are incarcerated, etc. If someone has a protective order against you, DO NOT VIOLATE THE ORDER.
- They refuse to see you - this is their right, and we respect that, no questions asked.
- The expense of travel will be a financial hardship on you or your family - if you need to make amends to someone who is now a missionary in Pongo Pongo, airfare would certainly bite into the budget of the average family. We are responsible for our family's food, basic clothing or shelter in all stages of our recovery.
So, with this said, have a happy amends list! If I've left anything out here ... I apologize!