What Is A Living Amends?

If you’re familiar with substance use recovery and 12-step programs, the idea of “living amends” might ring a bell. When you cannot directly make up for something to the person you hurt, a living amends is a decision to change your ongoing behavior in a way that is informed by the wrongdoing. Your ‘living amends’ is living in a way that that acknowledges the previous mistake by consistently living in a way that doesn’t repeat it or compensates for it. The origin of living amends in modern use relates to addiction recovery and substance abuse treatment.

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But, as difficult as it is, completing this step can provide an immense sense of relief and newfound hope for the future. At the heart of this step is the need for forgiveness and restoration—forgiving yourself, forgiving others, and making amends. Generally speaking, people work through the Steps of living amends Alcohol Anonymous with an addiction treatment counselor and/or sponsor. You can also turn to AA’s Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (the 12 & 12) for guidance specific to Step 8. These changes in behavior help toward the goal of reestablishing relationships or making them stronger.

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What about the late nights that we kept our parents up worrying? What about the relationships we ruined, the emotional wreckage we created? Sometimes direct amends are not possible, and this is where living amends come into play.

  • No matter how much we feel the need to make things right, forcing another to meet with us or hear from us is not part of the Steps.
  • For, it is with this momentous step that you alone are able to bring peace and closure to shattered relationships.
  • Making amends does not undoing the wrongdoing, just as forgiveness doesn’t undo the wrongdoing.
  • We talked about the complicated processes of self-forgiveness and self-compassion.
  • Communicating about the way you harmed others can evoke strong emotions.
  • Turns out, I was a bossy control freak who was terrified of everything.

It’s important to note that making amends is for the person we hurt. Yes, we partake in the process to “clean up our side of the street,” but we do not make amends to clear our conscience or undo our feelings of guilt. If someone does not want to hear from us, we respect that and do our best to move forward with our recoveries. We can also make amends by living very purposefully within the bounds of our principles. Those affected by addiction often say or do anything that gets them what they want. Because of the times you lied and manipulated them, your friends and family probably won’t believe a word you say.

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Without forgiveness, we harbor resentments and our amends may not be genuine. In the past we may have minimized our effect on others. Now we no longer believe that what we do is insignificant. You may not have written a list, but if you have been relating to people, you have a list. These relationships are blocking your heart and your ability to love and to let love in.

We wrote an article about the difference between guilt and regret. We talked about the complicated processes of self-forgiveness and self-compassion. We’ve filled you in on things that can exacerbate guilt, like hindsight bias and survivors’ guilt. We’ve given you journaling exercises around coping with regret.

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Don’t expect immediate forgiveness, and also, don’t pressure yourself to fix every broken relationship immediately. If you promised your father to help him mow the lawn on Sundays, but years have passed, and you’ve never once shown up, start now. If you promised your son or daughter to be there to see them off to college, clean yourself up and show up.

Whenever possible, those in recovery are encouraged to make direct amends face-to-face with those they’d harmed while living in addiction. Making living amends primarily benefits you and not the people you’ve wronged in the past. It’s about making positive changes within yourself so that you don’t repeat old patterns of behavior that led to your broken relationships in the first place.


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