Making Amends

Just a few months ago, no one person was as important as drinking. I would rather have an affair with alcohol than foster a relationship with others. I used alcohol to fill a void in my life.

Things are different now in recovery.

I have made no secret that working a 12-step program has taught me so much.

But some days, I still struggle. I found myself hung up on one step in particular. I was confident the meaning of "making amends" simply meant saying "I'm sorry." And how difficult could that be, I questioned, now that I was living a new, sober life? What kind of step was that? Shouldn't it be more profound?

This week, I met up with DB, someone from my past. DB and I are friendly with each other, so our coffee date was nothing particularly special. But as the morning progressed, I could tell what was coming up next.

I began to make amends.

I saw the hurt in his eyes. The agony of the past stabbed both of us deep.

Me? I was consumed by guilt and shame.

This isn't how I imagined it would go. I felt vulnerable and began to worry I made the wrong decision. Feelings I didn't know existed came to the surface as I continued to talk. I apologized. I cried. But most importantly, I asked what I could do to repair the damage I done.

I told DB how sorry I was for the cruel things I ever uttered, for the horrible decisions I made, and for destroying our relationship. But rather than becoming arrogant or angry, he admitted he was just as much at fault. The conversation was honest and painful and beautiful.

That is what it means to make amends.

Yet I walked away miserable. I always believed I would walk away from an amends renewed with an overwhelming sense of joy; that some great burden would be lifted. But I was saddened by reopened wounds. This wasn't how I imagined things would go.

I had to make a conscious decision not to wallow in self-pity. The saying goes, "a problem shared is a problem halved." So I shared my ninth-step experience with others in the program. As I sobbed through my story, no judgment was passed. The women in the room gave words of encouragement. They hugged me. They loved on me so hard.

Wishing things ended differently - that's part of being human. Wishing I made different choices than the ones I made - that's regret. And the program teaches me not to regret the past.

Now, I must allow myself to heal. I can't hold on to old pain. I can't punish myself for my mistakes. I can only hope I make better decisions today to lead me down a happier, healthier path.

To read more about my journey in recovery, click here.