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Making Amends in Recovery

Much of the work we do in recovery is internal, healing our relationship with ourselves and coming to terms with who we are so that we can move forward. Once we’ve done this important inner work and become stronger within ourselves, we find that it’s time to make amends to the people we’ve hurt over the course of our struggles with addiction. This interpersonal work can be hugely important to our recovery journey. Without it, we are often still consumed by unexpressed guilt, shame, regret and remorse.

Our addiction stories usually contain more than substance abuse and addictive behaviors. They are also full of the pain we’ve caused other people. We’ve lied to and stolen from loved ones. We’ve hurt, manipulated, deceived and even abused people. We’ve done things we deeply regret. At the time we were so embroiled in the toxicity of addiction that we weren’t always thinking clearly. We weren’t always in full control of our actions. We were driven by destructive urges and acting under the influence of dangerous substances. Our judgment was impaired.

There is no excuse for our actions. There is no way to justify them. We can, however, seek to understand all of the factors at play. Many of us know we never would have done the things we did had we been in our right mind, had we been sober. The ways in which we’ve hurt other people are part of a long list of our regrets. We carry a great deal of shame within us, well into our recovery. Sobriety doesn’t erase the past. In fact, it usually illuminates it for us, making it clearer, more pronounced in our memories, and impossible to deny. We find that in recovery we can no longer hide from the truth, avoid or forget it. Silence is no longer comfortable, because we’re consumed with the deep pain of knowing we’ve hurt other people.

We’re now living with the after-effects of our harmful actions and bad decisions. We’ve lost people dear to us, people who felt they had to remove us from their lives for the sake of their own well-being, people who overdosed or took their own lives, people we have to intentionally distance ourselves from because they themselves are still struggling with addiction, and we can’t risk our sobriety. We’ve lived with tough financial and criminal consequences of our choices. We’ve dealt with challenging life circumstances, toxic relationships and recurring painful life issues. But we’re alive to tell the story, and one way we can begin this next chapter of our recovery story is by making amends to the people we still have left, the people we can still have contact with.

We don’t make amends just to soothe our guilty conscience, although this is part of it – we feel we need other people’s forgiveness in order to forgive ourselves. We find it hugely important that the people we’ve hurt know just how truly sorry we are, whether or not they can accept our apology. We need them to know how much remorse we feel. We need them to know that if we could do things differently and undo the hurt, we would.

The truth is, though, we can’t remove the hurt. And for many of us, we feel our hurt has strengthened us and served as one of our spiritual tests. The pain we’ve caused others and ourselves is part of our growth, a necessary element of our evolution. Without that pain, we might have stayed complacent, stagnant, stuck in the comfort zone of our addictions. We might not have felt the pressure to change. We might have continued on with the same destructive patterns because we weren’t experiencing any of the consequences. There might not have been anything to serve as a wake-up call, to shock us into action, to force us to change course and follow a different path. We might have continued hurting ourselves and other people.

Our feelings of regret and remorse don’t serve a purpose unless they are expressed. Without expressing them honestly to ourselves and to the people we’ve hurt, they are merely painful emotions that might always consume us and cause us further inner turmoil and distress. We have to speak our truth, and we have to speak it to the people most affected by it. We have to tell our stories, and we have to communicate our true feelings of remorse to the people we’ve hurt. When we’re able to do this, we further our healing, we repair our relationship with self, and we remove the heartache and regret that come with never getting to voice our apology.

Sometimes we get to repair those broken, estranged relationships as well. Sometimes the other person is able to forgive us. We have to accept though, that they might never be able to forgive us. We have to come to terms with that. For many of us, we feel the need to convey just how sorry we are anyway, whether they’re able to forgive us or not. We hope they are able to, but, regardless, we feel driven by an intense need to apologize just the same.

The courage we must summon in order to make amends is something we don’t always think we possess. Addiction can convince us we’re weak, powerless, shameful people. Our recovery work entails creating and believing new truths about ourselves. We are strong, we are courageous, we are capable of apologizing and making amends to the people we’ve hurt, and we’ll feel worlds better, and be significantly further along in our healing, when we do just that.

The Guest House Ocala provides unparalleled, premier-quality treatment to those who suffer from self-defeating behaviors brought on by trauma and its underlying issues. We are uniquely equipped to help our guests heal from trauma-induced substance abuse, process addiction, anxiety or depression in a safe, comfortable and confidential setting. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.