Making Amends

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:

  1. Make a list of all the people, dead or alive, that you harmed.
  2. Starting with an easiest one, write a letter describing three ways you have hurt him/her.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Now tell him/her three things they gave you that you are grateful for and thank them.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Please Don’t Give Up Drinking. Start Living Instead!

I don’t like it when I hear people talking about “giving up” drinking.

I don’t like it because it doesn’t really work.

It’s not about sacrifice. The very term “giving up” alcohol implies sacrifice. Nobody “gives up” drinking, the same way nobody gives up at a traffic light when it turns red. You just stop. Stop Drinking. Stop. It’s not even an action is it? It’s cessation of action. It’s switching focus. Replacing the old action of drinking with other new actions.

Giving up does more than simply imply that we have stopped a course of action. It infers that there is no more action to come. And that is where we are going about recovery in a horribly wrong way. From a massively flawed premise. “I’ve given up drinking so my life is over” versus “I’ve stopped drinking so therefore I’m deliberately starting to live”.

And It is an important distinction. Because if we feel like we’ve given up something wonderful, the next feeling is that our life will not be as good as everyone else’s – those lucky ones who get to still participate in something we have denied ourselves, we will develop feelings of resentment and entitlement. “Now that I’ve decided to stop messing my life up with drinking, the world should give me a break. Be nice to me.” That we are suffering and should be rewarded for our gallantry.

It won’t happen. It can’t happen. Because it isn’t true. This realization can be very disappointing. And that disappointment just brings a bigger sense of lack and emptiness. Until giving up on giving up seems the only available option. A very easily excused and readily justified option too. And so back to drinking we go. Relapse in full swing, ready to begin that vicious cycle again. And again.

Unless we die. There’s your stop. Or is dying too strong a word? Would we prefer “giving up” living?

HappynSoberRecovery is not a sacrifice. It is empowering. An exciting and wonderful journey. The most amazing thing a person can do for themselves.

And I never expected it. Never knew it could feel like this. Certainly nobody told me it could be this way.

Alcoholics waste years on drinking. On being anesthetized by our drug of choice.

We’ve missed so much of life. All of us. Recovery does not have to be about missing out on even more by spending our new sober life either commiserating with other people who also think they are missing out, or by spending it shut away from the world out of fear. Fear that our self-discipline is not strong enough to fight the need to drink. More mistaken thinking. Nothing about being recovered needs to be about lack.

My heart breaks for people who have felt the need to “battle” with sobriety. Whether they have lost the battle and gone back to drinking like the 80% we are so often told do. Or whether they continue to battle-like the elusive 5% who stay in recovery but still feel vulnerable to relapse, or bereft without alcohol. Never feeling fully free and really, truly alive – when it is so very easy to do so!

I do believe being recovered is beautiful. And permanent. I do believe we can all have it. Easily. Joyfully. Comfortably. I believe in a world where recovered people are happy. I think we all deserve it. And I think it starts with something as simple as the words we use. Giving up nothing. Choosing more.

Choosing a life of passion. Of reaching beyond everything we’ve ever assumed was possible. A miraculous life filled with inspiration. With love, fulfilment. To me that’s what recovery is. And who wouldn’t want live in a place like that?

Home… Finally.

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