Guest Recovery Article – Making Amends Within Our Recovery and How It Is Done.

Guest Recovery Article – Making Amends Within Our Recovery and How It Is Done.

When it’s time for an addict maintaining recovery to make amends to those loved ones they have caused pain and may have hurt from the wreckage of our addiction, where does one begin? What if you can not remember all those who may have been hurt? I ask this because if we are high, drunk, or zoned out, we may not recall everyone we may have touched within our “selfishness” and is a part of the disease of addiction.

I know I couldn’t remember everyone I may have owed money to when I was thick into my gambling addiction. Our choices made within the sickness of pills or fog and haze of alcohol, many addicts don’t recall and those left in pain may not understand this really can happen. I’m a firm believer that our past should not dictate our future.

So how to begin the process of “amends.” When we have done the hard work needed within recovery and we have completed the “inner work” of self and are ready to move on to apologize to those we offended, which includes criminally, how to get started?

This featured article is shared by the fine folks of Betty Ford – Hazelden Org, can help all of us who have come to this fork in the road within our recovery journey. Making amends is an important part of our work and has to be done right …




“Making Amends is More Than an Apology” ~ By John MacDougall, D.Min. ~ Restoring justice as much as possible.

Addiction creates moral wreckage. People who become addicted to alcohol or other drugs might lie, cheat, or steal in order to get and use their drug of choice. Often what’s left behind is a trail of shattered relationships.

In this situation, apologies won’t do. Alcoholics Anonymous calls for making amends instead. These are mentioned specifically in several of The Twelve Steps, including:

  • Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Carrying out these two steps is a delicate process that calls for guidance from a sponsor or counselor. In an interview, John MacDougall, D.Min., a Dan Anderson Renewal Center presenter, answered questions about making amends.

How do amends differ from apologies?

An amend has to do with restoring justice as much as possible. The idea is to restore in a direct way that which we have broken or damaged—or to make restoration in a symbolic way if we can’t do it directly.

Say, for example, that I borrowed 20 dollars from you and never paid you back. If I go up to you and say, “Gee, I’m sorry I borrowed your 20 dollars and spent it on drugs,” that would be an apology. Making amends is giving your money back to you.

Why does Step Nine suggest that people avoid direct amends in certain cases?

For instance, you don’t run home and say to your spouse, “Gee honey, I had a wonderful time in addiction treatment. I learned all about rigorous honesty, so I want to apologize to you for an affair I had five years ago.” That’s clearing your conscience at the expense of someone else who’s going to feel terrible. In this case, your amend can be an indirect one. Stop having affairs and bring your heart, your energy, and your attention back home where it belongs.



Are direct amends simply impossible at times?

Yes. Say, for example, that someone gets drunk, drives, and kills somebody in a traffic accident. You can’t go back and “unkill” the person who died. Instead, you can fill out an organ donor card. This is an indirect amend that can give life back to someone in the future. Remember that with crimes such as drunk driving, people might need to go to court and take a punishment. That’s part of making amends as well.

You’ve mentioned direct and indirect amends. Are there other kinds?

Sometimes people talk about “living” amends. This simply means that we live differently. Amends are about a genuine change in our behavior instead of the patchwork of an apology. We take on a whole new way of life. We stop accumulating fresh insults to our selves and others.

What are the benefits of making amends?

If we’ve continually harmed people and haven’t made any effort toward amends, then we’ve got a lot of people, places, and things to avoid. Large areas of life become closed off to us. When you’re willing to make amends, those areas open up again. You don’t have to avoid people anymore. This is true not only for people in recovery but for all of us.

The book of AA mentions the promises of recovery. They come right after the explanation of Step Nine. “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development,” it says, “we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”

That’s what happens when we bring justice back into our lives by making amends.

John MacDougall, Dan Anderson Renewal Center presenter

John MacDougall is the spiritual care coordinator at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. He was previously at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for 20 years and is the author of  Being Sober and Becoming Happy.




14 thoughts on “Guest Recovery Article – Making Amends Within Our Recovery and How It Is Done.

    • It has been very “eye-opening” for me as well what I have been learning from Vance as we write his memoir together. Yes, he has had past damage but has worked very hard to repair and make a proper “amends” at least to his biological children. Sadly some are not willing or forgiving as the ex’s had years to bash him as they grew up and shame on those moms for doing so. Not a healthy way to raise your children in that light. Of course, he has no control over that 😦

      I had few of my own memories and feelings revisited. And I shared many of those in my own memoir. As an advocate and writer, it is the best way to shatter stigma and to share hope to others! xoxo Catherine


  1. My cousin is a crackhead and for years I did my best to help her and her kids. Finally after making the mistake of allowing them to live with me thereby losing my belongings to being stolen it began to dawn on me that my cousin was manipulating me. Using me. Especially when she said cruel evil things about my brother Stephen and our mother. Basically she accused mom of doing something to Stephen during her pregnancy to make Stephen “that way.”

    I’m glad that I cut ties with her and the vile offspring. They are all sociopaths and narcissists. Even her mother who is my first cousin was in on the plan to destroy Stephen and I.
    Now because I’m licensed by the state of New York as a security officer I can’t have anything to do with drug addicts or ex-cons. I would lose my license.

    As for forgiveness until the pain and anger go away, it’s been over 6years I can never truly forgive them. It would just be lip service. I don’t hate them but as the years have passed slowly but surely they have become non existent.

    Actually Stephen and I have been cut out of my father’s side of the family. They are ashamed of Stephen because he is autistic. If they could hurt him they would.
    And just think that we all grew up together. Played and ate in each other’s houses.
    If our Dad were alive today he would disown them after giving them a thrashing they would deserve.

    Even if they were to die I wouldn’t attend the funeral which has happened with other family members. If you were cruel evil and nasty to me or my brother Stephen in this life I’m not gonna go to your funeral to make believe I love or even like you when I don’t.

    Some things in this life one can’t take back or fix.

    As Daddy used to say, You’ve made your bed now lie in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate you sharing this with me my friend. Many times when we try to help a family, love them to recovery from addiction it can not turn out well. It sounds like it ended up them staying in “self” and seeing your kindness of help more an opportunity to steal and continue to stay in addiction. Sorry you went through that. Sometimes helping in our mind and heart ends up enabling them and they took the help and chose to not use it to help themselves. Sad it happens but when the addicts are not ready, we can not make them change. All you can do is forgive and pray for them. Holding to anger and resentment will also not change or take back what happened. Shame on your cousin. We all have the choice to be and feel honest about how we feel when others hurt us or cause pain.

      You did right by cutting them out, but let go of the anger and give to GOD. I’m sure if dad was here still, he would tell you when wanting to help: “Not a good idea.” Dad’s are always in “the know.” LOL.
      Love to you and Stephen and many blessings xoxo Cat


      • It’s extremely difficult to let go of anger considering what they did and said. It will be a long time before I can think back without getting angry. I don’t see anger as a negative. It protects me from making more stupid decisions. It’s a shield as well as a learning experience. Maybe if they made amends I would consider it but not until they change.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you … It was like I was telling Vance yesterday on the phone as we work on finishing his book, his relationship with his dad is like mine. He asked if I made amends with my dad. I told I had never hurt my dad within my addiction. He CHOSE to just stop talking to me back in 2005 and way before my book came out. (Just more amo for them to be angry) and said I don’t owe him an amends as far as my recovery work. Besides, even if I did go and see him face to face, why would I want to be abused verbally and ridiculed AGAIN? So I do understand. I accepted my dad’s choice, made peace, gave it to GOD and moved on with what is important in my life today … Not that it doesen’t hurt? CAT


      • So much has been lost to me in the last few years. My self esteem, self worth, my dignity. The ability to trust. Not having anyone to rely on especially now that I’m battling all types of health problems is terrible.
        Somehow both Stephen and I got Lost and they became the heroes.

        Liked by 1 person

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