You are busting through shame – what a great way to start the New Year and a new YOU! So, you’ve dug through the muck of your past, shared it with a trusted person, and experienced a shift in how you view yourself.
You have a better understanding of your behavior, what’s behind it, and what needs to change going forward.
You’ve done a lot of great work and have probably already begun to feel at least some relief from the burden of shame that was feeding your addiction. (If you missed Part 1 of this series, we encourage you to read it!) Read part one here.
Now it’s time to keep moving forward in your recovery and in shedding shame.
In this part we’ll talk about the amends process and what this does to alleviate the shame monster even further to help you prevent relapses, rebuild damaged relationships, and be able to walk with your head held high knowing that through humility, you are living a life of integrity and serenity as a clean, sober, and fully contributing individual.
Making amends is a delicate process, requiring a lot of recovery work and spiritual evolvement to be ready to do it properly.
It is critical that you work your recovery in order – that means if you’re working the twelve steps, for instance, you want to be sure not to jump ahead to step nine before you thoroughly complete steps one through eight.
Making amends is step nine for a good reason. It takes wisdom, discernment, strength, courage, endurance, and a developed connection to a Higher Power to sincerely make amends.
It also takes self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others who have wronged you. Steps one through eight help prepare you and provide you with the spiritual gifts and awareness so necessary in this part of your recovery.
Skipping ahead to get the amends out of the way can be tempting, especially if you’re wrought with guilt or shame.
But you will most likely end up causing harm to others, to yourself or both if you attempt to do this before you’ve completed the appropriate preparation.
You could even trigger a relapse if, let’s say you try and make amends and it blows up in your face. You could seriously injure someone else if you make direct amends where another form of amends is better.
And you could further damage relationships if you attempt to make amends before you’re genuinely ready to follow through on righting your wrongs.
So what do we mean when we say take out the trash?
All that muck you dug through in doing a personal inventory, sharing it with another trusted human being, and identifying behaviors and patterns that no longer serve you is all a process of culling through everything you own, separating the useful from the not helpful, and being willing to trash what is not helping you or those around you.
Without the clarity this process brings, it is impossible to have clarity around to whom or for what you owe amends. And if you’re not clear on this, how can you expect to be able to make sincere amends and follow through on them?
Imagine if a tornado destroyed your entire neighborhood. You can’t identify where to start the rebuilding process until everything has been gone through, reclaiming what is good and salvageable, and disposing of the wreckage.
It is only then that you can have a clear foundation on which to rebuild and start anew.
It is essential first to handwrite a detailed list of all the people, organizations, and places that you think or know for a fact to whom you owe amends.
Write each person, place, or thing down on your list, the event that took place, your part in it/what you believe you did wrong, and how you think you could best make amends.
Be careful not to leave anyone, anything, or anyplace out due to fear or unwillingness to make amends. If you’re not sure, add them to the list. You can always remove them later.
Do not take any other action at this point besides writing down a list! This is a process and should be done thoughtfully, patiently, and with humility and sincerity.
The next and crucial phase of the amends process is to discuss your entire list with a trusted therapist, sponsor, or fellow recovery partner; preferably the same person with whom you shared your inventory.
Why? This person will be familiar with the intimate details of your history, including any character defects, survival tools, and patterns of destructive behavior you may have.
This will all be taken into consideration when determining to whom and for what you owe amends as well as the best way to approach each amend to ensure no harm is done to others or yourself.
You may find yourself surprised in this process, just as you may have when sharing your inventory, about how this list and the suggested amends is reflected to you.
You may be instructed to wait on making certain amends, until you have evolved more spiritually and become more willing or prepared to make amends or for other reasons.
The point is, you’re too close to this to make these significant judgment calls on your own; remember, you’re best thinking got you into this mess in the first place! By allowing a professional or another recovering addict who has gone through this before you can make all the difference now.
Think about this: how many times during your active addiction did you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” only to repeat the offending behavior or even worse?
Your credibility in this area is most likely nil with many of the people you have harmed in the past, particularly those people who don’t even know you’re in recovery and may have been witnessing some changes in you already.
But even those who have seen some changes may be hesitant to trust that this time, things will be different.
That’s why doing the prep work and being genuinely ready and willing to make a full-on amends, not just a weak apology, is so crucial.
And amends isn’t just about apologizing for what you’ve done wrong. It’s about taking responsibility for it and doing whatever is necessary to correct the mistake through behavior change, restitution, and whatever other action may be appropriate.
One of the main reasons “I’m sorry” never meant anything during active addiction is that your addiction always came before anything and anybody else.
There was never any genuine willingness to even admit that you had done something wrong from the heart.
Your addiction was running the show. Now that you are clean and sober, and you’ve done a whole lot of spiritual work to dig through the wreckage of your past, you are more equipped to honestly see the damage you have caused and be willing to admit it.
This is the first part in making amends; to verbally or in writing admit your wrongs.
The next part is apologizing with sincerity. What does this mean? It means expressing how deeply sorry you are and then STOP there.
Do not follow that with explanations, excuses, or accusations of why you did what you did, assigning blame to the disease of addiction, the other person or institution, your feelings, or some other outside reason.
While some or all of this may be true, it does not make for a sincere apology of your part of things.
The minute you begin to assign blame, your apology means nothing; you are no longer taking responsibility for what happened, you are assuming the victim role.
This process is about empowering you spiritually to bust through shame. Be brave, humble, and filled with integrity. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone can make amends.
The third and final part of the amends process is taking action to correct the bad behavior, mistake, or, in some cases, crime.
It is essential to be willing to accept the consequences for your actions, no matter what they may be.
Being willing doesn’t mean you will suffer the full consequences, but you might, and you need to be prepared and fully ready to do so.
This may mean the loss of your marriage, job, reputation, or even your freedom if you are incarcerated.
But know this – you will never be truly free of shame or addiction unless you are fully willing to take responsibility for your actions.
There are some amends that obviously need to be made, such as if you stole money or damaged property.
There are trickier amends, for instance, if you slept with your best friend’s spouse and they don’t know about it, or your spouse doesn’t know about it.
You may owe amends to someone who has already passed on, or you may have caused someone’s death by intoxicated driving.
It is essential that you do not inflict any additional pain or harm to anyone, including yourself that is unnecessary while making your amends.
This is why there are different ways to make amends. It is always advisable to make direct amends whenever possible.
You may be tempted to shrink at making direct amends due to embarrassment, fear, or even resentment (if the person also harmed you in some way).
But it is an important shame buster to do this step with courage, humility, and willingness.
If you can make direct amends without causing harm, you should do so when you and your sponsor feel you are ready.
If direct amends may cause harm, you can make indirect amends or living amends depending on the situation.
Living amends could involve donating your time or money to a charity that may represent or be related to the situation requiring amends.
In the case of infidelity, living amends may be more appropriate. This is where you make a personal vow to change your behavior going forward through remaining faithful to your partner or spouse, and even actively working to improve your relationship with them.
Many recovery experts would argue that the amends process is not about you, it’s about the people and institutions you have harmed. We respectfully disagree. It is vital for you to come out of yourself and be willing to release resentments, bad behavioral patterns, and right the wrongs of your past to make amends to others.
While others may benefit from your amends and you may have miraculous healings in your relationships with certain people, it is important to note that you do not know or have any control over how your amends will be received.
There may be some people who are not willing or able to forgive what you have done, no matter how sincere the amends. You may be met with a lot of anger and pain when you try to make your amends.
It can be a painful and challenging process. But the amends process is about cleaning up your side of the street.
Your recovery will benefit no matter what the other person’s reaction is. Why? Because you will know in your heart that you have done everything possible to admit your wrongs, take responsibility, and make things right. And your Higher Power will know that too.
You will be able to forgive yourself and move forward in a new life of serenity and service to others as the shame lifts; service is the final topic of this series!
If you are dealing with these Shame issues and need help with your recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
Just like the great before him, John Bradshaw and Daniel Pink removing the shame component is tough to let go. Shame is the ghost in the machine of the human mind. It can implant itself in the psyche before the first word is spoken, even before the first thought has formed. In his groundbreaking book, The Science of Shame and Its Treatment, psychotherapist and author Gerald Loren Fishkin, Ph.D., addresses the genesis of shame and self-talk from an empirical analysis of their core elements, its insidious ingress into conscious thought, and the havoc it inflicts on a person’s self-worth and behavior. Through his empirical analysis and understanding of toxic shame, Dr. Fishkin has identified multiple effective clinical approaches for its treatment and addressing shame-based behaviors. He clearly outlines why contemporary treatment approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, do not treat core shame wounds and most often cause individuals to terminate the therapeutic process prematurely.
Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., … was influenced by substance abuse and/or untreated mental health issues … read more here: