Wednesday, June 6, 2012

'Living' Amends

     I was taught to distinguish between a 'contractual' amends and a 'living' amends. Contractual amends are the easy ones. You confront, admit your wrong, ask what you can do to make it right, and then wipe your hands and check it off your 8th Step amends list. Confronting one of your old bosses is easy. Walking into a department store you stole from is easy. Being accountable to an old friend or colleague is easy. Why? Because you get to walk away afterwards, cross it off, and probably never see these people again. Or if you do see them, the slate is clear. But not so with our families. The slate is NEVER clear.

     A living amends goes on until the day that I die. Those closest to me have no interest in hearing a quick "sorry" and then off I go. First of all, we don't say "sorry" when we make amends. Our spouses and relatives have heard "sorry" more than they can stand, only to see us repeat the same destructive and heartbreaking behaviors, words and actions again and again and again. So no, "sorry" isn't gonna cut it.

     But neither will a one-time amends. The people who have stuck with us through our addiction probably don't have much interest in hearing some rehearsed soliloquy. Our parents, spouses, siblings and close friends have had their hearts ripped open, their trust spat on, their patience, time, energy and love stolen. They are exhausted. These folks don't need to hear some self-serving monologue, where the addict or alcoholic gets to clear their conscience and then off they go to enjoy their new found inner peace. Nope. The people closest to us want us to change into a different person each and every day. They want us to act right and give back every single day. They want us to be the son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister that they should have had. They want us to be a better person. They want us to just quietly do the right thing and not talk about it.

     A friend up North told a story one time, where she called her parents after she had been sober for a year. She called out of excitement for her accomplishment, fully expecting them to shower her with congratulations. "Mom, dad... I've been sober for a whole year! I got my 1-year sobriety chip at the AA meeting today!" Her parents said nothing. "So?" they finally replied. "So what? How about you stay sober for the rest of your life without announcing it?" Exactly. What great and wise parents. How about we stay sober without expecting a trophy or a pat on the back for it? How about we skip the pride just because we stopped hurting people? So when I make a 'living' amends to my family or my wife, I don't say much. Instead, I take action. I simply BE the husband, son, and brother they have always deserved but didn't get for 28 years.

     Amends to our families are the hardest ones. Why? Because they are never done. Plus, we're talking about people with their own flaws, people who know how to push our buttons, people who may never do any work on themselves, people who may be pretty f'ing annoying. But these amends are by far the most important ones. We're lucky to still have these people in our lives. God knows we certainly don't deserve them. So don't forget them. Ever.

God, please give me the willingness, love and tolerance to always honor my living amends...

5 comments:

  1. My parents did not live to see me recover from alcohol. For them I can do nothing. But what I can do is make those amends to the living. I make my living amends to my inlaws, who are old, fragile, and extremely difficult people. I give them of my time, patience, respect, and assistance, what I wish I could have given to them.

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    1. God bless you, my friend. My father was in late-stage dementia by the time I returned from treatment, and I was unable to give him and say to him what he deserved. What you've done with your in-laws is beautiful. We make our living amends to those who are living, as only this we can do.

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  2. "Amends to our families are the hardest ones. Why? Because they are never done. Plus, we're talking about people with their own flaws, people who know how to push our buttons, people who may never do any work on themselves, people who may be pretty f'ing annoying. But these amends are by far the most important ones. We're lucky to still have these people in our lives. God knows we certainly don't deserve them. So don't forget them. Ever."

    Thanks for this- exactly what I needed to hear.I am feeling discouraged about the lack of recognition for my recovery and being clean for 2 years, my codependent nature seeks approval, and my inner addict wants to be bitter, so that I can feel entitled to act out.

    Thanks for sharing, I am encouraged.

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  3. What a pile of horse shit. Living Amends... really? The people that have been hurt deserve for the addict to say what they did, yes every single thing they did to hurt those they profess they love and care about and make each one right. This whole Living Amends allows the addict to forgo the pain they've caused, wipe the slate clean as if they've been there for all those years sober. It takes a great amount of effort to forgive the addict, it takes a mountain of self reflection to think... does the addict even deserve a 508th chance... is this the final time they stay sober? Do they even know what devastation they've caused? Take that idea of Living Amends and chalk it up to taking the real easy road. The goal is to stay sober, be honest, be NORMAL like the rest of us. You get no trophies for being normal, nor should you get a free ride for all the nuclear bombs you set off for the rest of us. Face up to it, pay the price, and only then will you possibly have the opportunity to get something back in return.

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    1. What you're describing is the precise opposite of a living amends. See this is the problem when you read the title and then unload on your keyboard without actually reading the post, let alone any other part of this blog. I am the last guy to endorse trophy-giving for addicts simply because we stopped hurting people. I know trolling is fun and all, but maybe read beyond the title before foaming at the mouth ;-) Lol.

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