We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. – Step 9
Amends. Amends are defined as to compensate or make up for a wrongdoing. For me, Step 9 seemed overwhelming and terrifying. But necessary. Something I couldn’t not do. By the time I reached this step, I had been in recovery for almost a year. I had disclosed my wrong doings to my wife, read my first step in front of a room full of men at a Castimonia meeting, and shared my step five, the core of my addiction, with a friend who had no idea what addiction was or the impact on others. Making amends didn’t seem like a choice more like a given.
After I made amends…to my wife, my kids, my mother, former co-workers, my friends…I got to see God work in the aftermath first hand. Some of those relationships ended. A few without acknowledgment. A couple of former co-workers heard my amends and dismissed them, choosing to hold on to who I was and what I had done before.
Many relationships gained a level of closure. My mother and were strained at the end of her life. I loved her but couldn’t have her negativity and unhealthiness as a part of my every day. I was able to get to a detente, a peace, with her. I explained to her how I felt I had wronged her, how my behavior had been disappointing and detrimental to her and my father. She didn’t want to hear it, wanting to excuse it and let me off easily, but I asked her to let me finish. She did, was gracious, and we had the rest of her time together without walls between us.
Some relationships have been restored. My oldest son saw the betrayal I had towards him and his brother and mother, and completely shut me out for over a year. He refused to speak to me or acknowledge me. He sought his own healing and recovery, found it, and in the process allowed me to be his Dad again. My youngest son only asked me to do one thing…don’t lie to him anymore.
And my wife…my wife has spent the last 3 plus years trying to muscle past the totality of deception and hurt I inflicted on her, forget it, bury it deep, and act as if it didn’t happen. She did so because she thought that would restore our relationship, not seeing that she needed that time to recover and heal. When the hurt and resentments became too much for her, she started seeing a counselor, finding health and allowing our two to become one again.
But what if I hadn’t chosen to make amends? What would have happened? This question occurred to me while reading Proverbs. In chapter 5, starting in verse 11, Solomon reveals a picture of a man at the end of his life, lamenting the results of his adultery and refusal to repent:
“And when you groan at your latter end, When your flesh and your body are consumed; And you say, “How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors! I was almost in utter ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation.”
I had a very good friend who passed away about a year ago. He knew me before and after recovery. We had similar jobs, boys who were close in age, and met for coffee together over the years. In the midst of my early recovery, he confessed to me that he and his wife had separated, and that he had fallen in love with another woman from work. I asked if he had been pursuing that relationship prior to leaving his wife…and he wouldn’t answer.
We spoke a number of times over the next few months. Through his divorce, cancer diagnosis, new marriage, and pain and dismay at the toll all of this was taking on his boys. His health deteriorated and his personal life continued to be a source of constant regret. Prior to his death, he told me that he never should have divorced his first wife, that he regretted the impact on his sons, his family, and his legacy. His legacy…that got my attention.
Recently I was talking with a great friend in recovery. He was stuck in his step work and reached out for help much as I have reached out to him in the past. You know how you meet guys who you can just see what God is going to do through them for others, he is one of those guys. He was asking a couple of us experienced (older I think is what he actually meant) guys on how he can get motivated to move forward. I shared with him the impact of amends. The gift of giving that to your wife, your friends, your kids, your co-workers…giving them that opportunity to release that hurt and resentment. Of how he was depriving them of that chance to let go.
What I missed at the time was also what he was missing. He was missing the front row seat to watch God work in hurt, resentment, difficulty, pain…and use it for His will. And to build a new legacy…one of transparency, humility, and submission to God.
Not a bad way forward.