Note: I found the above picture on SoberNation.com. I haven’t explored it all but it looks to be a fabulous website for anyone that needs to either get or stay sober.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of making amends, not only in the recovery sense but in real life as well. You know, the day to day shit that you do that results in the need for an apology.
I’ve been apologizing for one thing or another my whole dang life. At one point or another, I’ve apologized for everything from spilling my milk to being born. I’m Catholic, Italian and the child of a narcissist…it comes with the territory.
But there’s a difference between being sorry and making amends. As a Catholic, the concept of confession always offended me. Why in God’s name (pun intended) would I tell a virtual stranger all of my deepest, darkest thoughts and sins when I could just go to the Big Guy directly? It wasn’t until I became an adult and really looked at the act did I realize that it was meant to be a way to make amends. It’s not about just telling the priest what you did and then ringing a little bell and saying “sooorrrryyy”. It’s about feeling it in your heart of hearts and being contrite enough to say it out loud and receive penance.
I still think it’s bullshit but at least I understand it better.
For me, making amends after getting sober was…confusing at first. Again, I’m used to apologizing so I was either ignoring the “night before” (hmmm…no one’s saying anything…maybe I wasn’t that bad) or I was proactive and apologizing for it. Say you’re sorry, promise to do better, head to the wine aisle in the grocery store. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
But then…after I got sober, sorry wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what was enough but I knew that just saying “I’m sorry” wasn’t going to cut it. I mean, “I’m sorry” had become the equivalent to “Don’t look at me that way just leave me alone I’m trying to do better but I can’t so you might as well stay disappointed in me”, so saying it again was just, well…insulting.
I went to AA for a while, worked the steps and read the Big Book. Steps 8 and 9 said to make a list of all that I had harmed and to then make amends to them unless doing so would harm them. So I did. Some I did in person and to some I wrote letters or emails when speaking to them “face to face” wasn’t possible. Some letters I mailed, some I didn’t. It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and everyone to whom I made amends was forgiving and loving.
But something was still nagging at me. Like a tiny little hole in my gut that refused to heal. Something was missing. Something no one had mentioned in my step work and something I hadn’t even thought about until I was in my third year of recovery.
Somehow I was going to have to make amends to myself.
Somehow I was going to have to apologize (and really mean it) for all those years of abuse and mistreatment. Not just physically but emotionally as well. To begin to heal that tiny little hole that threatened to fester and grow into something even uglier than the addiction.
Somehow I was going to have to forgive myself.
Shit was about to get real.
For now it’s still a work in progress (progress…not perfection). I am behaving so much better than I ever have to myself. I try to speak to myself with a kinder voice and when I don’t, I gently admonish myself and replace the ugly words with softer ones. I try to treat myself as I treat my most precious gift – my children. If I think of it that way, picture myself as a little girl, I find that I soften toward myself and I’m able to forgive easier.
Damn…I wish I thought of that first.