Making amends to people we have harmed is important to continued sobriety. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all” is Step 8 of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many alcoholics think that they have only harmed themselves, but that is simply not true. Even if the alcoholic has no family, they may have harmed a stranger with a rude comment, angry face or road rage. I have been amazed at how good I feel if I pass someone in a parking lot and they smile and say hello. It gives me a lift to be acknowledged by a stranger. Often we walk by people and never even raise our head.
Making amends to people we have harmed with our drinking isn’t easy. Sometimes when we apologize, we don’t get the absolution we are looking for. Some of our family or friends have been so hurt by our actions that they cannot bring themselves to accept what we are offering. Some of us have relapsed so many times, that people don’t trust us to stay sober. They expect us to go back to drinking and often we do. With some of us our bad attitudes follow us into sobriety. We may be sober, but we still have the negative and nasty way of dealing with others.
When trying to make an amends to someone, we apologize for what we have done without expecting absolution. We do not blame the behavior on our drinking. We simply say we are sorry and that we will try our best not to act that way again. We may get a favorable outcome or we may not. It isn’t about the other person, it is about the alcoholic or addict taking responsibility what he or she has done. If we get negative feedback, it is important to let the person vent. I am not saying that we allow ourselves to be abused however; the other person wants to be heard as much as we want to.
“Doing the next right thing” is often heard in the AA community. It is imperative that the recovering alcoholic and addict live by this. I suggest that it is important that all people live by this creed. To me, there is no better feeling at the end of the day, then to know I tried my best to be a decent human being. For the addict or alcoholic it can be a matter of life or death.