I have no interest in giving you an account of my adventures, only the wondrously powerful and transformingly present words and deeds of Christ in me that triggered a believing response among the outsiders. – Romans 15:18 (The Message)
I have been uncomfortable with trying to tell my story. I honestly still have pride and selfishness as character flaws that haven’t gone away. I know these exist in me and therefore add to my hesitancy to tell my story. Basically, I don’t trust my own motivations for telling my story. I don’t want to make it about me. I want it to be like the Bob Marley work of my youth: a “Redemption Song.”
I took this to my counselor and my sponsor to get some guidance on this. My sponsor as I believe I have previously stated has cautioned me about not being willing to share my story. That by not doing so, I am not allowing God to use it for His glory. So I am not sure what to do here. They gave me good advice and straightened out my warped thinking. So here goes.
First, I should tell my story if I need to tell it to get more out of me. Will it benefit me in my own recovery to tell my story in the situation I am in. Is there a purpose for me to share it to aid in where I am in working the steps. Like I did in step five when I shared it with a friend who isn’t in recovery, as an act of admission of my wrong doings. I should consider the situation and see if there is a need for me to share based upon my own recovery.
Second, I should tell my story if the other person will benefit from hearing it. Recently, I had this opportunity come up when speaking with someone new in one of our recovery meetings. I saw that he was struggling in starting to work through the steps and in maintaining any long periods of sobriety. So I prayed about it and really felt the need to share my own difficulties in entering recovery and staying here. I was able to share my experience, strength and hope with him. I was able to talk to him about the need for counseling, accountability, recovery meetings, checking in with other guys, and having a sponsor in my own recovery. I told him to take what you like and leave the rest. And he did.
Finally, my story has to be relevant. In other words, I don’t need to share it just to hear myself talk, to bring attention to myself for no purpose. There has to be a reason and a purpose to share it. In step nine while making amends, I have shared my story with a couple of people who had the right to know my story. It was relevant to me making amends with them. So I did. It was uncomfortable and difficult and definitely relevant. I didn’t share my story to make excuses for my actions and the damage I caused them. I shared my story because my story was relevant in the context of making amends.
Three guidelines to sharing my story:
- Do I need to tell it to get more out of me
- Will the other person benefit from hearing it
- Is it relevant
I can live with those. Otherwise, as my sponsor told me before, anything else is probably wasting my story, my “redemption” story.
So now I am making amends. I didn’t expect this to happen this way. I don’t know what I expected. I guess I expected the big emotional scene. The one you see on TV and the movies. I tearfully lay out my shortcomings and take responsibility for my past and how I caused such damage to each and every person I hurt. We both cry and talk about how much we love each other and that things will be different and the past is the past and we have a bright new future to look forward to together. That’s not how it has gone for me. Or for the people I have on my list.
As I mentioned before, I have three different categories. First is my wife. Her amends are different and special. Quite honestly, her amends are up to her. I came to her to lay bare my character flaws, the ways that I recognized that I had damaged her, and to listen to how she felt based upon how I had hurt her. There was no tearful scene that led to a shared view of a hopeful new day. She was honest with her hurt, the damage she felt from me, and the destruction that my acting out had caused to her personally and to our marriage. She was clear about the end of her trust in me and in other people because of me. She said she didn’t know if she could forgive me. She also said she was guarded about telling me she loved me and that she was hopeful for the future because she didn’t know if I would stay in recovery. Amends with my wife is a day to day undertaking. Not something that is immediate or instant.
Second is those that I make amends with face to face. My family including my kids, my friends, my parents. People that I have hurt that are still in my life and will most likely stay in my life. I met with my kids and talked them through what I had done, how I had not been engaged and had not been the father God called me to be or the man I should be as an example to them. I asked them how my behavior had impacted them. They told me that my absence impacted them. That even when I was here, it was obvious that I was distracted or didn’t have time for them. One of my kids told me that this version of me now was different, that it was obvious I was trying to change and that he hoped I would stay this way. I met face to face with my close friends who are not in recovery but are my accountability partners. I saw the impact of my lies and my manipulation on them and the struggle they have to remain in my life, that its only through Christ acting through them that they can be here with me in accountability. I didn’t see before the damage I had done to them.
Finally, there are those that I can’t see face to face. People that aren’t reachable in person. Former bosses that I had to send a letter or email to apologize for my previous behavior, to ask how that impacted them, and to ask forgiveness for the man I was and the selfishness and behavior that impacted them. One former boss told me that he appreciated my candor and that he was thankful that I was seeking to improve my life. Several didn’t respond. There are also those letters that I can’t and won’t send. The ones that I wrote to former affair partners. I apologized for my part in manipulating them to meet my own selfish needs. Then I shredded those letters.
I didn’t expect amends to be this way. I didn’t expect this depth of feeling. I didn’t expect to see this depth of damage in all those around me.
Turning my life over to God was something I thought I did a long time ago. It’s the combination of turning my life AND will over to God that I missed…and am struggling with now.
Almost every person I have met in recovery has mentioned to me that they dreaded the same exact thing when working the 12 steps. Step nine. “We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Yep, that Step nine. Facing the fallout is what I call it. That is how it has felt to me throughout these last several months of recovery and working through the steps with my sponsor. How on earth am I going to be able to make amends to everyone I hurt?
In step eight, I made a list of all those I had harmed and became willing to make amends. The steps are in order for a reason. Amazing how sanctification works. Webster’s dictionary defines sanctification as “the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment.” Note it says the state of growing, not of instantly becoming. I hate that part of the definition. I would prefer it to happen instantly. Growing means over a long time period. A continuous act of becoming more mature. Not what I wanted to hear.
As I continue this journey down the path of sanctification, patience and trust have been two areas of growth in my life. I have struggled with these areas before and after recovery. In my life before recovery, I didn’t trust God and therefore didn’t have patience to wait for Him to work in my life. As I work through the 12 steps and in my recovery, daily I am learning to lean into God with my life and my will. That also means stepping into His timing as well. Which for me means practicing an immense amount of patience. And that brings me to step nine.
We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. – Step Nine.
Amends. According to Miriam-Webster, amends is “to compensate for a loss or injury.” I wouldn’t have been ready for this a month ago, or two months ago or when I entered recovery. I thought I would never be ready for this. I was like many other people I know in recovery. I was afraid of this step. Afraid to face the people that I had harmed in my addiction. Those that I had disregarded in my descent into self destruction and selfishness. My wife, my kids, my mother in law, my friends and family. All those that I had lied to, damaged from my selfishness and manipulation. I did not think I would ever be at a point where I was ready to face them with rigorous honesty, seeking to make amends for the damage I had caused them.
Yet…here I am. I have a list. I have prayed over it. I have divided those on my list in three groups. Group one has only one name…my wife. Her amends is special and only for her. Group two are those I will meet with face to face, those that I believe I can talk to without causing them or my wife or children any further damage. Group three are those I can’t make direct amends with, those that seeing would further injure them or cause my wife and children damage.
So now its time to make amends.