The holidays are a time where families come together to celebrate. However, for some families, stress and tension can be high during this time of year because of unresolved issues with family members. If you are a person in addiction recovery, you may want to take this chance to make amends with your loved ones.
Making amends is a part of the 12 Steps of AA. Step 8 is about making a list of the people you’ve harmed, while Step 9 involves making direct amends. But how do you do that exactly? Is there a guide to make the process easier?
Making amends is not always easy but it can help you move on from past grievances and mend relationships that have been fractured by years of conflict. Below are some tips to help you handle this situation and hopefully move forward.
1) Plan the Event Carefully
You cannot just go to your family members at the last minute and start apologizing when it is convenient for you. For example, you cannot just ‘ambush’ them at a holiday party and potentially ruin their night in front of your other family members.
Making amends requires some preparation, so plan carefully when and where you will speak with them. Choose a time and date that is not too busy for them. Ask them where it will be comfortable for them to speak with you, whether in private or if they prefer to meet in a public place.
If you are having a hard time reaching out, consider coursing it through a common loved one to schedule your meeting. Make it clear that you are not demanding anything from them and that you are simply ready to make amends.
2) Don’t Make Excuses
It’s very important that you acknowledge that you’ve caused them hurt. Accept responsibility for your actions and what those actions brought. Apologize by admitting your fault without reasoning out or making excuses for your past behavior. Making excuses will only make things worse and your family may not accept or forgive you for what you did in the past.
You cannot justify making amends by saying you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at that time. Instead of defending yourself or opening up past wounds, you have to be honest about the hurt you’ve caused and be ready to show them that you are willing to change.
Be open to questions and answer them honestly. Don’t leave anything out because it might be the key for your family member or loved one to understand where you’re coming from. If you do not have the answers to their questions yet, be honest about that too.
3) Be Receptive to Their Responses and Feelings
Your meeting with your loved one will not be a one-way street. Expect that they will have questions and that they might still be upset about your past behavior. It is important to listen to their concerns without getting defensive or trying to minimize their feelings regarding the situation.
4) Don’t Expect Them to Forgive You Outright
Just because you’ve apologized does not mean your family member will accept that right away. It may take some time for them to trust or forgive you, but this step is a huge part of the process and it’s important not to rush things up.
Make amends with peace of mind knowing that it is important to apologize, even if they do not accept your apology right away.
Making amends doesn’t finish with just one conversation so be patient and don’t give up on trying if they say no.
Doing this will not undo what has been done but it can help build trust and positive experiences with each other again moving forward.
5) Follow Up with Action
Making direct amends involves showing your commitment through action. You can say sorry repeatedly but if you do not prove to them that you are serious about it, they may be less inclined to forgive or trust you.
Show your family members what has changed in your life since the time when you last hurt them. How have things improved now? What do your actions say about how sorry you really are? Keep in mind that making amends is not just saying sorry, but also about showing your loved ones that you are committed to changing.