The Amends Process in the 12 Steps

Making AmendsThere is great disagreement in the recovery community about the best path to follow when we have wronged another.

In an effort to avoid the discomfort of direct amends, there will be those who claim that “living amends” is more important than acknowledging the specific nature of our wrongs. Living amends are certainly important because there can be no lasting change without them, but they cannot take the place of telling the exact nature of the truth, if that is possible. All too often, “living amends” become a way of hiding from the truth of our wrong.

Even more significant is that when living amends are the only form of amends used, it is very likely that old wrongs will eventually be repeated. If we are unwilling to explicitly acknowledge our wrongs, it is not likely that we will ever really examine how it was that we came to harm others to begin with.

If we do not understand precisely how our wrongs came to be, then it will be difficult – if not impossible – to develop a clear plan for change that says more than: “I am sorry and I hope I never do that again.”

We wholeheartedly believe that saying “I’m Sorry” ≠ amends. There is so much more than lip service that needs to be implemented. There needs to be a plan for not repeating the hurt next time. In recovery circles that process is developed utilizing the 6th and 7th steps.

We all make mistakes. Whether our partner commits the wrong or we do, there is only a lesson to learn from our mistakes if we are willing to examine the defects of character that gave rise to the wrong. The 6th and 7th steps of the 12-Steps are designed to specifically acknowledge and rehabilitate those defects.

Many in the recovering community become disenchanted with the process of recovery and loose hope when they continue to make the same mistakes. First and foremost it is important that we remember that our goal is progress and not perfection. Next, it is crucial that if we are to make any progress we must begin to understand the truth about our wrongful behavior. It is not enough to say, “I am sorry and I am going to live differently” if we are making no attempt to learn from our mistakes and implement the changes needed to not do it again.

That is why Steps 6 and 7 precede the amends process of the 8th and 9th steps in the 12 Step process. If we do not develop an understanding of the function of our behavior and then process that insight through the 6th and 7th Steps, we will begin to feel hopeless. We have seen this truth in our clients over and over again. Many may enjoy long term sobriety but so often they have forgotten steps 6 and 7 – and they remain unsatisfied.

Please share with our readers how you have undertaken or recommended that others complete the often forgotten 6th and 7th Steps. Also, what is the benefit that you have seen from purposeful work on the replacement of one’s defects of character with healthy and sober coping strategies?

This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem


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