I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about amends. I know that I had a twisted understanding of what they were when I first got sober, before I even got to step 9 or even had a sponsor. But I am not here to tell you what amends are or are not. I simply want to relate my experience and what they have meant to me.
What the Big Book Says
No matter what my understanding of steps 8 and 9 were when I came into the program, the book gave me a lot of insight into what they mean and how they are accomplished. And the steps are fairly straightforward: “We make a list of all people we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all “(Step 8), and then “make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others” (Step 9). But amends are so much more than just making a list and saying you are sorry, and this is where it became important to me to understand the difference between making an amends and making an apology.
Apologies vs. Amends
Many people think of making amends as simply apologizing for whatever wrongs they did in their using, however an apology is not an amend. An amend involves rectifying or making right what was wrong. For example, say that you stole $20 from your brother while you were using. In the midst of your ninth step, you say to him “I’m so sorry that I stole that money from you and used it for drugs”. This is an example of an apology. A true amend would be giving him $20 back along with the apology. You are making right what was wrong.
Amends Help Behavior
What the amends process has provided me with is accountability from the person I am making them to as well as myself. This helps dramatically when it comes to not repeating the behavior I am attempting to make right. If I open up to my wrongdoing, tell another person and promise to not do it again, I am putting a level of accountability on the table for myself as well as that person. This has helped me immensely as I progress further in my sobriety to recognize my actions and not engage in activities and behavior I no longer wish to repeat.
Amends are a Key to Your Serenity
The reality is, my using hurt a number of people. Family, friends, employers as well as the majority of people I simply came into contact with. I know, for myself, that if I do not make amends to this people and admit my wrongdoing, my world will become smaller and smaller as I make concerted efforts in order to avoid those people.
Amends to me mean freedom. Freedom to be the person I know I am meant to be without the fear of what other people may think. I am not saying that this is an easy path, in fact, it may even be harder than not doing them at all, but I do know that it is necessary for me if I wish to continue improving my spiritual condition.