Active addiction was rough for me. My alcohol and drug abuse, along with the choices I made, damaged me physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was also a terrible time for those around me. Between my lying, stealing, abusive behavior and general acts of craziness, I made a lot of people unhappy. And the people closest to me were hurt the most. I can’t count how many times I left my parents, relatives and close friends in a state of anger, worry and fear. They were all concerned for me, and for what might happen next. I lost a lot of friends during this time. Even some of my family refused to speak with me. At the time, I felt like it was an act of betrayal. But now I understand I brought all this on myself.
When I finally entered sober living, I began to heal. It was a slow process, but I started to look and feel better. My thinking and behavior improved. My relationships started to mend, too (or, at least, they stopped getting worse). When it comes to physical damage, stopping the substance use is often enough to start healing. But when it comes to relationships, it’s not so easy. Not only did I need to fix my behavior, but I had to go back to each person I had harmed and do my best to make things right. It was time to rebuild bridges.
Today, addiction is considered a disease, and I agree with that classification. Some people take that first drink or drug and have an abnormal reaction. It’s not some kind of moral failing—it’s just the way their brains work. They shouldn’t be blamed for something they can’t help. But the difference between addiction and cancer is that cancer doesn’t make you rob your grandmother. Twelve-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous put a heavy emphasis on the process of making amends, and there’s a reason for that. We may have been suffering from a disease we never asked to have, but the fact remains we did things that hurt other people. It’s up to us to make it right if we want things to get better.
I’m Happy, Finally
I’m very grateful that most of the people in my life understood I was sick. They were hurt and upset from the things I had done to them, of course. But they were happy to see me sober and doing well. When I approached them from a place of humility, acknowledged the wrongs I had done, and asked what I could do to make things right, they were quick to forgive me (although probably not so quick to forget some of my more insane behavior). Sometimes, I had to make “living amends,” meaning the only thing I could really do was make the right choices in life. It still feels good when the people who used to worry to death about me tell me they’re proud of what I’ve accomplished.
Not all of the amends were as easy as that. Some people weren’t even ready to see me until after I had been sober for a year. Some people didn’t want to see me at all. Some said they did, but things were never quite the same. This is where practicing acceptance comes in—not every bridge can be rebuilt, and some of those will never be quite the same. But making that effort is one of the most important parts of recovery.
The amends process is a delicate and beautiful transition into the power of recovery. And although I finished the initial lists of amends, more crop up regularly. Being a man of recovery does not mean everything is dandy and my actions are always perfect. It means that when my behavior gets out of hand, which at times it inevitably will, I have a process to follow to make it right. Today I am thankful to acknowledge my mistakes and do whatever is required to make my side of the street clean again.
About The Author: Joe Dantes is a writer for Real Deal Sober Living. He is a person in long-term recovery who is passionate about addiction recovery, health, and martial arts.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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