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Making Amends Can Be Life Changing in Recovery

You'll notice that in the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), there are many opportunities to make amends with yourself, with others, and even with your higher power. There are frequently many emotions from addiction that get carried into recovery that need to be healed, explored, and released.

In fact, the idea of releasing or letting go helps create a more universal definition of forgiveness. Although forgiveness is often thought of to be a religious experience, it can be described simply as letting go of the idea that the past could have been any different.

With this sort of definition, you can see that forgiveness can be an experience of letting go and releasing. However, in order to get to a place where you can let go, you might have to make amends, talk things through, or simply accept the past as it was. The 12-step model, particularly steps four, five, and eight support the ability make amends and forgive - or let go of your idea of how the past should have been.

Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Step 8: Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

It's interesting to note that forgiveness is not something the 12-steps asks for early on. You might notice that forgiveness and the restoration of relationships is a later step - step 8.  First, the program asks that you take a good look at yourself and uncover what needs changing there first. It's hard to talk with someone else about the past if you haven't first taken responsibility for your role in it. Once you're clear about your own wrongdoings and you're willing to own up to them, then it could be time to make amends with family members and friends.

Making amends with others can eventually lead to healing from a family wound, trauma, or significant life event that might have initially contributed to an addiction. Sometimes, it's not one particular event, it's simply the dysfunctional environment in which you were raised. It might have been the codependency, alcoholism, or emotional abuse in your family history. Making amends and accepting your life as it was is a necessary part of recovery.

Once you've made amends and you've recognized that it's going to take some time to heal, focusing on the present and the ways that the family is healing can support rebuilding family relationships.

Self-exploration, forgiveness, and making amends are not easy to do. It requires courage, patience, and understanding. It might be useful to have support as you move through this process. It might be helpful to work with a therapist or psychologist. It might be supportive to have someone to discuss topics with. Sometimes, for instance, we might think we need to forgive ourselves when in fact we need to be forgiven. Having professional support in this process might ease the discomfort that might come with forgiveness and making amends.

If you're willing this process can be entirely freeing and can become the foundation for creating a new life.


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.