Part of the Twelve Steps in addiction recovery requires absolute honesty and personal responsibility for the ways that one’s addictions and behaviors have harmed others before becoming sober (Steps 4, 8, and 9). These moral lapses come in the form of lying, manipulating, stealing, blaming, or just plain acting like a jerk to kids, friends, and family! In becoming aware of all moral compromises made in connection to using, and then making the appropriate amends, sobriety is strengthened. The cobwebs of remorse, shame and guilt, that so often lead to relapse, are removed. We learn to forgive ourselves, too, and can experience true freedom from the past.
But you don’t have to be recovering from addictions to get something from the 12 steps. It is, after all, a spiritual program in and of itself.
Making Amends – and The Work of Byron Katie
In a process called The Work, Byron Katie teaches to make an Amends List (like in steps 8 and 9) following these steps:
- Make a list of all the people, dead or alive, that you harmed.
- Starting with an easiest one, write a letter describing three ways you have hurt him/her.
- Make a sincere apology for the past harm. Be sure to watch your language for signs of defensiveness, blame, or excuses. Remove the words — “if”, “but”, “should” or “because.” Do not make any excuses for what you did.
- Make a sincere request for forgiveness and let him/her know you are willing to make it right. Expect nothing from the person whom you are asking forgiveness from. It’s your life you are cleaning up.
- Now tell him/her three things they gave you that you are grateful for and thank them.
- Read the letter you wrote and as if you have written it to yourself. i.e., replace the other’s name with your name. Try reading it out loud for maximum benefit.Turning this letter around to you provides the opportunity for deeper self-understanding… which ultimately leads to self forgiveness. Be gentle with yourself as you discover your own innocence.
- If you think it will serve and not cause more harm, mail the letter to the person you wrote it to, or share it face to face. It’s up to them whether they decide to read it; don’t expect them to read it, to be grateful, or to be forgiving. This is your life you are clearing up, not theirs.
The turnaround helps you see how your actions have hurt you. Remember – you were doing the best you could at that time.
Forgive yourself. It’s your life. If you don’t turn it around, who will? You’re the one!
Now hug yourself and tell yourself that you love you!