Amends

This is one of those things on my mind the last few days,

Those of you who have attended AA or any 12 step programme will know that one of the steps involves making a list / remembering all the things you did that damaged others when actively addicted.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Then you need to discuss these ‘with another human being’ (so Lola the dog doesn’t count) and make a list of those you have wronged

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

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

and ‘make amends’ (step 9) as long as doing so doesn’t cause more hurt / damage.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

So far so good. I’m not particularly proud, and I already feel that in general, sober alcoholics are amongst the least judgmental people I have ever met. Admitting all the stupid, embarrassing shameful things I have done will not be that hard, they are all stored up in my brain pretty near the surface, and I know there are worse things I could have done.

One of my first experiences with this was when my ex-husband called me a few weeks after our marriage imploded. He was attending either NA or AA and had a sponsor. He was obviously ‘working the programme’ but he demanded to see me (that day) so that he could make amends to me. The dictionary definition of amends is “compensate or make up for a wrongdoing.” This clumsy demand made me furiously angry, (and pretty contemptuous of him, his sponsor and the whole 12 steps caboodle) FFS he though he could ‘make amends’ for terrorizing me and the children, abusing me and the children, trashing our marriage vows, destroying the kids family and permanently altering my life, by demanding to see me and saying ‘sorry’. I don’t think so.

I do now see that the problem was not the 12 step programme, nor (probably) his sponsor, but him – and that ‘making amends’ is not supposed to be a quick trip round your nearest and dearest with a superficial ‘sorry’ and brushing all your dreadful behaviour under the carpet. Rather, proper commitment to the steps involves a thoughtful, considered reflection on your addiction related behaviour and a genuine heartfelt apology where possible but most importantly a commitment NOT to repeat the mistakes. As above “change the behaviour” is an essential part of the process.

So, I have not yet chosen a sponsor, I’m a little reluctant to do so if I’m honest, and one of the reasons is the “amends” part.

I KNOW I damaged people, let them down, embarrassed them and myself, and upset them as a result of my drinking. I know that the underlying character traits of stubbornness, willful pursuit of MY wishes, lack of consideration for others needs and selfishness were exacerbated by the numbing effect of alcohol and that I knee jerk responded to situations in an unhelpful and sometimes hurtful way.  I have no problem in apologizing to my mother, my brother and my children for past mistakes. I think, as I have mentioned before, that knowing that sustained sobriety has increased my patience, reduced my tendency to over dramatization, and made me more sensitive, thoughtful and less self centered, makes it easier to be confident that I won’t repeat the behaviour.

No, my problem with the whole ‘amends’ things, centers around my ex-husband, and to a lesser extent my ex Partner.

To be brutally honest, I never should have married my ex-Husband. And by doing so (and yes I know he was an adult with free will, I hardly coerced him to the alter) I damaged HIM. I didn’t /couldn’t see that he was not like me. I couldn’t see that he was not driven, didn’t really care about traditional measures of success, and that due to his chronic low self esteem a highly competent, successful, professional female partner was never going to make him feel good about himself. Ignoring his part in the disaster, I met him when he was vulnerable, I saw in him a man who wanted a family (more children because I already had son 1), who came from a stable family background and who could redeem my past mistakes (unmarried mother) and give me what I wanted. (see how selfish I was) I loved him certainly, but not as I should have done (as I know I am capable of), not enough to put his needs above my own wishes. I knew that at the time, but in my arrogance I believed I could ‘fix’ it. I believed it would be ‘good enough’, essentially I settled for him, and by doing so I short changed him as well as myself. By being married to me, I emasculated him and left him feeling even more useless than he already felt. I didn’t intend to, I wasn’t consciously trying to, but through sheer capability and innate drive I demonstrated to him every day that he was not as good or capable or competent as me.

I do not believe this excuses in any way his horrible, abusive, vindictive and aggressive behaviour, it doesn’t let him off the hook for his drug taking, it doesn’t provide justification for the sheer horror of his actions when high / paranoid. All those actions belong to him and were caused largely by his inability to see that he lost all sense of decency and acceptable behaviour when using and was unable / unwilling to put in the effort required to get and stay clean. When weighing up my errors and contribution to the failure of our marriage I still believe they are massively outweighed by his. I kept my side of the bargain, I genuinely tried hard to ‘make’ it work. But I recognize that I was not blameless, and in my recognition I feel some compassion for him. This is a much more comfortable place to be than the anger and resentment that has characterised the 8 yeas since our separation.  In finding compassion I try to ‘live’ amends to him, by treating him with respect, accommodating his wishes with respect to our children and keeping him informed of any significant updates. For example I forwarded him some pictures of son1 this morning that had arrived from my friends in Vietnam.

So whats the problem? I would have no problem talking this over with my therapist. I trust her to listen and respond without judgement, to be able to place my thoughts about him into the pattern of my life and allow me to accept my part in the whole thing without making me take more blame than I am due. I’m not so sure about a potential sponsor. In the end a sponsor is just another alcoholic, sober longer than me, without training or expertise in the complex issues that surround self worth, shame, marital breakdown and relationships. To ‘make a fearless moral inventory” and admit this to another person, fine – but is it arrogant / missing the point to be a bit picky WHO I choose to admit these things to? Or is it actually sound judgement, deciding only to talk to someone who has earned the right to hear them?

I wonder if a sponsor is essential ? If I have a therapist, is it really necessary to go through all this stuff with another person? Or is that arrogance and self will talking?

Not sure, but I do l know I will take my time, and not decide to ask someone to sponsor me until I feel ready, and I know more about that person.

amends2


6 comments

  1. I have never had a sponsor. I feel like I am living my amends. Anything I felt the need to confess I discussed with my therapist.
    Most of my hurt was to myself.
    I also believe the hurt I caused anyone es,e was unintentional. I was so deeply depressed and full of self pity and loathing. I couldn’t see myself at all.

    My soul is light. I am an honest and good person, or at least I try hard to be. That is it for my step 9 and 10.

    I’m a big believer in following the spirit of the steps as a path to self awareness and compassion and a way to live a good life. But the strict definition of the steps is just not for me, personally.

    I know there are some aa ers out there who disagree. And every year when I collect a coin they tell me I need a sponsor. Maybe some day. But right now I am ok.

    Hugs
    Anne

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Anne, that makes me feel a bit better. I agree that most of the hurt I caused was to myself, and I’m taking care of that in my therapy. Maybe I will do my steps, in so far as I need to, here on my blog … then the 400+ followers can see my efforts ! 😊 xx🌷

      Like


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