How to Make Amends While in Recovery

Last Updated: Mar 5th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

How to Make Amends While in Recovery

As an addict, you may find yourself behaving in ways that go against your values. It may even feel as if it is somebody else partaking in these actions. Addiction tends to rob you of rationality and understanding. 

The practice of being honest with yourself regarding your behavior is crucial. Recognizing how your behavior has harmed others is the first step. Once you become more self-aware, you can take steps to apologize and repair what may have become broken.

Who Do I Need to Make Amends With? 

This is where the self-awareness part comes in. You can start by making a list of all the people your addiction has affected. Those individuals may have been hurt by your behaviors. So be willing to make amends with them all. Ask yourself: how has addiction affected the current state of relationships in my life? Think about how your relationships have changed. 

It helps to write down specifically what may have hurt these people. When you’re doing this, it’s important not to get stuck in shame or guilt. It never feels good being the reason someone is experiencing pain. However, the steps you take now are the most important part. You must move forward and think about what you can change, not what you can’t.

What It Means to Make Amends in Recovery

Some think that making amends is as simple as apologizing. An apology shows that you regret a decision that hurt someone. On the other hand, making amends with someone deals more with justice. In other words, ask yourself: what can I do to right this wrong?

Direct Amends 

An amend may also be either direct or indirect. A direct amend entails going to the person you have wronged and taking ownership of the harm you caused. But it’s not just an apology. You must repair that damage by taking action. It can’t just be an “I’m sorry, let’s forget about this” kind of deal.

For example, let’s say you punched a hole in a friend’s wall while under the influence of alcohol. Making direct amends might mean meeting with your friend face-to-face and admitting that you were wrong. Then, you would take action by repairing the hole in the wall.

Direct amends are also defined by consistency. Just because you make a direct amend doesn’t mean the responsibility stops there. You must show you mean it by not making the same mistake again. Continue to show sincerity by being respectful, honest, and empathetic. 

Indirect Amends

Indirect amends refers more to the thoughts and attitudes behind the behavior. Indirect amends focus on the mentality that must change for the better. 

For example, let’s say that your addiction caused you to drop a relationship in your life. Maybe you became flakey and stopped answering a friend’s messages or spending time with him or her. An indirect amend would mean realizing that your action was wrong and then changing your behavior. You would change the way you treat people in relationships and ensure you’re being a good counterpart. 

Being a good friend means a lot of different things. You can consistently make yourself available to hang and let the person know that you are there for them.

In some cases, direct amends may not be possible. The action may have cut too deep. In that case, you would move forward with an indirect amend.

The Steps Behind Making Amends 

Making amends may seem a little scary at first. However, we assure you it’ll leave you feeling much better. Below are some key points to factor in when making an amend. 

Sincerity is Key 

It is crucial not to make amends if you don’t genuinely see where you went wrong. If you’re just apologizing for the sake of doing so, then that isn’t truly making amends. 

Also, refrain from making amends online in any way. Texting or calling isn’t a sincere way of making amends. You want to show the person how seriously you’re taking the apology. So, speaking with your friend or family member face-to-face is important.

Admit to Your Wrongdoing

There’s no way to go around being honest. No matter how much it may hurt, honesty will leave you in a much better place. Acknowledge what you have done and how you have hurt the person. Don’t just apologize— saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.

The situation will only improve if you are sincere in your efforts. Ask the person what you can do to remedy the situation and what would need to happen for them to feel better.

Be Specific

Just saying that you were wrong isn’t enough. It is best to specifically name your fault or faults. This will show that you are taking full responsibility for your actions. 

It may help to even write down the wrongdoing in detail and come prepared. It’s important to make sure the person understands that resolving the problem truly matters to you. Being detailed in your conversation demonstrates you care and have thought about things beforehand.

Listen and Validate

Be willing to listen to their side of the story, opinions, or thoughts regarding the wrongdoing. Validate their feelings by showing them you understand why they were hurt. It isn’t helpful to make them feel wrong for how they feel. 

Be empathetic and listen with an open mind. Don’t shut them down. Make direct eye contact and nod your head as they explain their feelings to you. 

Also, make sure not to interrupt. You want to ensure your body language shows that you’re listening too. 

Ask

Ask the person what you can do to make things right. Show them that you’re willing to work towards regaining their trust again. If you are not willing to ask how you can right the wrong, you are not ready to truly make amends. 

Remember, however, that just because you are trying to improve, doesn’t mean that everyone else is going in that same direction too.

There may be a situation when the person has an outlandish or manipulative request that you cannot fulfill. In this case, thank them for the opportunity of letting you take responsibility for your mistake. Then, tell them you cannot fulfill it but are still remorseful regarding your actions. 

Keep the Purpose in Mind

If making amends doesn’t play out the way you wished it would, let it go. You took the initiative and made an effort by taking responsibility for your actions.

The purpose of making amends is not to receive the “right reaction” from the other person. Truthfully, there is no right reaction. If the person you’ve just made amends with does not accept them, don’t let that take away from the purpose. You are improving your character in the process.

Overcoming Initial Discomfort

Before making amends, you may find yourself feeling nervous. There are a couple of mental barriers involved that are worth discussing and working through. These barriers include:

The Fear of Anger

You may feel afraid of the person’s potential reaction. Stirring up bad feelings is a valid fear. However, the process of making amends is very important. You can’t predict someone else’s reaction, but you can control yours.

Shame-Based Resistance

Admitting that you’ve done something hurtful can bring about shame. You may correlate doing something wrong with not being a good person. Making amends shows that you are putting effort into improving your character. 

It’s all about how you come back from the mistake and the actions you take after. You can’t change the past, but there’s a lot you can change in the present. 

Is My Apology Too Late?

Many of us were taught by our parents to apologize quickly. You may have even been rushed into apologies without actually feeling ready. This gives us the habit of feeling like a “late” apology is no longer valid. However, taking the time to truly think through an apology is far more valuable than a rushed one. 

More Tips on Making Amends After Addiction

As you’re making amends, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. It’s important to make sure that you are in the best mental space before making amends. Here are some tips on how to make the process smoother for you.

  • Make sure you are having this conversation at the right time. For example, it would be best to set a time you can talk or catch the person when they’re not busy. If they’re in the middle of working or heading out the door, that won’t work. 
  • Be cautious while making amends. You may end up speaking to toxic people that have also hurt you. You must be strongly rooted in your recovery and sobriety before approaching these people. 
  • Your fellow recovery peers and support network at your rehab center will be your best resource during this time. Not only can they empathize, but they are also here to support you. Be honest about your feelings and thoughts. Don’t hold back from expressing how you feel and you’ll be able to cope through any discomfort.

We’re Here to Guide You Through It All

We understand that the recovery process can seem a little daunting. Besides the process of becoming sober, the aftermath is just as important. If you’ve successfully recovered or are in the process of recovering, be very proud of yourself. Taking action to get better is crucial. If you’ve done that, you’re going to feel much more fulfilled in your life. 

Reach out to us here at 1st Step Behavioral Health today. Allow us to help you as you work through recovery and take the necessary steps in order to live a fulfilling life after addiction.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.