Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, November 28, 2008

Responsibility & Making Amends in Recovery



Responsibility is the cornerstone of recovery. We may feel guilty about the ways we’ve acted and about those we’ve hurt. This is part of recovery; it is part of having a conscience. But we must not label ourselves as bad people, for this can restart the addictive process. In recovery, we learn to change our perspective on ourselves. Our illness can’t be cured, but it can be treated if we are willing to work on it. Members of a support group who have “been there” can help in the healing process as we walk through the minefield of our shame.

In recovery, we learn to monitor our actions, and when we act in negative ways we do not become shameful and defensive; instead, we admit our mistakes and make amend for them. Making amends does not just mean saying we’re sorry. It means recognizing and thinking through our behavior: Because of how I acted, there is an inequality in our relationship. Now I need to find out from you what is needed for the relationship to become equal again.

For a person who, during his addiction, continually blew up at his partner or spouse, making amends would not mean saying, “I’m sorry for blowing up at you.” It would include admitting to his spouse what he has done, recounting a specific incident, and then saying, “I know this caused you great pain and frustration. What do you need from me to make up for this?” If her request is within his realistic limits, he would act to make restitution to her. By making amends, he commits himself to a change in his behavior.

By claiming responsibility for our actions, we may win back some of the relationships we lost through our addiction. We are all human and we all act foolishly from time to time, but shame is a distortion of reality that makes it impossible for us to make amends. In recovery, we learn how to see ourselves realistically, as human beings.

from: The Addictive Personality, by Craig Nakken, MSW, CCDDP, LCSW, LMFT

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