Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Making Amends

Making amends is simple. Yet many people I work with in the 12 step programs find them difficult. And I was one who had a difficult time making amends. But before long I realized that I had been making a big deal out of nothing.

After I was sober about a year I talked to my sponsor about beginning to make amends. And he guided me through the process. He told me to start with little things like making apologies to those I had harmed. And he suggested that I could get some practice, probably on a daily basis by just immediately apologizing to someone if I felt like I offended them in some way.

Maybe I interrupted them while they were speaking, which gave me an opportunity to apologize and tell them to go ahead with what they were saying. Or maybe I started an argument with them over something trivial is because my ego said I had to be right, when in reality the right or wrong of most situations don't make much difference. A lot of times it's much easier to just keep our opinions to our self, because that's exactly what they are: opinions. And while we have a right to our opinions, we don't have a right to spread them all over everyone else.

After following his direction for a while I realized that apologizing and admitting my wrong was not a big deal as I thought.

But I have to tell you that the first amends I made – a financial amends – really scared the crap out of me. I'd been working for a meat and seafood company selling high-quality products door – to – door. At the same time, I was doing some heavy drinking and periodically using drugs. One day I ran out of money because I spent the proceeds of my sales on a one – man party of drinking and shooting heroin.

So not only did I owe him about $1500 for the products he had fronted me, I also kept the van that he let me drive to sell the products out of. Eventually, the police recovered the van from in front of the dope house I was at, but I still owed him for the products that I hadn't paid for. Now it wasn't so bad that I owed this man $1500 for his products, he also was a former professional football player who weighed about 350 pounds. When I thought about making amends to him, I visualized him sitting on me and squashing me like a bug before I could hand him the envelope into which I had placed 15 $100 bills that I owed him.

Fortunately, I was faster than he was and was able to fan the $1500 out in front of him at his desk before he could strangle me or do something else terrible to my body. That was the biggest amends I had to make, and once I got through the trauma of that the rest of them were pretty easy.

I think it is characteristic of us alcoholics and addicts to magnify everything and make them bigger than they are, both good and bad things. Actually, after I repaid the man, he offered me my old job back but by then I was working in the recovery field and knew that I had to continue doing what I was doing if I was going to stay sober and clean. But I did get to sincerely apologize to him and pay him back and felt much better afterward.

So, if making amends is on your mind and seems challenging, start out with little things and work your way up to the things that you're afraid to apologize for. Most people understand that we have problems and that we did what we did not because we were bad people – but because we were addicts and alcoholics who had only one mission in life – which was to stay high.

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