Social Question

6rant6's avatar

Do you have first person experience with friends of Bill W making amends?

Asked by 6rant6 (13619 points ) September 15th, 2012

I know one of the steps that recovering addicts are encouraged to do is make amends. I realized today that in all the recovering addicts I’ve known over the years, I’ve never known anyone who had a first person account of someone making amends. Sure, there are TV shows and urban legends. But I’d like to hear from someone who actually has experience in this realm.

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22 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I had a friend from my past call and say she was sorry and would like to make amends for the times she acted inappropriately and missed appointments and such. I had forgotten all about it.

filmfann's avatar

A former friend of mine called his ex-wife and his ex-girlfriend (both of whom I am still friends with), and apologized for his behavior from 25 to 30 years earlier. Both told me he was now in AA, and seemed genuinely sorry for being such an abusive drunk.
He still hasn’t called me, so I think he is only concerned with how women think about him.

Coloma's avatar

Egoic pride is a bitch for a lot of people and sadly, no, I do not know of anyone that has truly made amends for their past bad behaviors while using and abusing whatever substances. I think in theory it is a very wonderful concept, but in reality very, very, few messed up people ever get there, sadly.

zenvelo's avatar

When you say first person experience, are you meaning the person making or receiving? I can give you both.

6rant6's avatar

@zenvelo Both are equally valid. For that matter, if someone were to be present to see it but otherwise uninvolved , I’d like to read about it.

zenvelo's avatar

I made amends to people that I could find at the appropriate time. There are some people on my “if I ever find them list”, but it has been a long time since I’ve crossed anyone off.

Each amends has been personal. It’s not just an I am sorry, it’s a recognition of harm I caused to people because of my drinking. Most were women I had dated, and my family of origin. Some was to close friends. Most if it was an admission that my drinking had hurt them, and that if I could ever do anything to help them to let me know how I could be of service to them.

The reactions I received were:
1.Okay, glad you’re sober
2. So you stopped drinking, leave me alone.
3. Don’t think I will date you again.

The one amend I received was from an old drinking buddy that didn’t know I’d gotten sober. He started in, and I told him the best amend he could make me was to stay sober. He still is.

gailcalled's avatar

When my youngest step-son completed rehab successfully and started to go to NA programs, he told some members of the tamily that he was going to make amends with me.

Sadly, he never did.

Jeruba's avatar

I have heard people who are practicing a 12-step program talk about this step and say it’s not just about apologizing but about doing something, somehow, that they believe either actually or symbolically compensates in some way for their past wrongs—understanding that in some cases there is really nothing they can do.

In others, of course, specific acts of reparation may be possible, such as replacing or paying for things that they destroyed or stole.

One man said that during his long drinking and drug-using years, no one had suffered over his addiction more than his mother. (I can easily believe that.) By the time he sobered up, she was not only in institutional care but too far along in senile dementia to know him, never mind remembering his past behavior. Nevertheless, every week he drives two hours to where she lives and takes her out for several hours to a park or the seashore or someplace where she can just enjoy a pleasant view away from the institution. She doesn’t know where she is or remember him from one visit to the next, and he doesn’t even attempt to explain his purpose, but in his mind he is fulfilling as best he can a personal commitment to make his amends to her.

rooeytoo's avatar

Making amends is covered both in step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
and also step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

The exception in step 9 precludes a verbal amend because often the transgression may not be known and to bring it to the light of day could cause unnecessary hurt. So the sorrow stays in your heart.

To answer your question, I know many who have made amends. Drunks who find their way into AA and stick with the program often become model citizens regardless of how “messed up” they were in the beginning. Since AA is anonymous, your family doctor, friendly neighbor, handy plumber could all be practicing sobriety.

And as was pointed out though, making amends is not always simply walking up to someone and saying “I’m sorry.” In some cases that would be taking the easy way out. Words are cheap but actions are more costly and meaningful.

bookish1's avatar

A high school friend-of-a-friend came up to me years later and apologized for being a dick to me when he was a teenage alcoholic/drug addict… (He had stolen money from me, but wouldn’t even concede this in as many words). No offer to make amends, just an incomplete apology. That’s the only time I’ve personally seen this.

gailcalled's avatar

I would have been thrilled to have had my step-son walk up to me and say, “I’m sorry.” Knowing that he was aware was helpful for me,

However, eventually he did become a model citizen, son and uncle extraordinaire…kind, helpful and willing to go the extra mile.

As @rooeytoo pointed out, that is what really matters.

6rant6's avatar

@Jeruba The story you heard related – that’s the kind of wonderful tale that I’ve heard from people who did not actually witness the event. It’s the dissonance between those heartwarming reports and the reality that I’ve never known anyone who saw it first hand that got me to post the question.

@bookish1 ‘s story is more representative of what people have shared out of personal experience. Me – I got nothing.

Jeruba's avatar

Ah—I see, @6rant6. You’ve noticed a credibility gap and wondered if people here could provide first-hand testimony to close it.

I understand your skepticism. I just have to say that I would expect real amends to be, on the whole, a private matter between the person taking the step and the injured party. I would find a person’s motives questionable if he made a big point of broadcasting what he was doing. The example I heard was given in a spirit of teaching and not self-promotion.

rooeytoo's avatar

@6rant6 – Your attitude sounds to me as if you could use some al-anon. Too often the people around the alcoholic have their own set of problems. But they don’t choose to drown them in a bottle. Instead of being resentful for what you didn’t get from a sick person, go to a meeting and find out what you can do to make you happier and healthier.

ACOA is also an excellent place to go. Full of angry people trying to figure out what the hell is wrong!

6rant6's avatar

@rooeytoo Wow. Project much? I am not looking to find angry people – that must be your thing. I don’t have any need for any living soul to make amends to me. Maybe that’s your thing? My question was about whether people had actually these experiences which we see portrayed in fiction so often.

@Jeruba Yes, exactly, I am skeptical. I have the same problem with third hand reports of multi-level marketing successes, visits from ghosts or other mystical creatures, and crack-addicts who are also good parents.

In particular I knew a person who had a knack for taking stories he’d seen or events he’d witnessed, and interjecting himself as the protagonist in the stories, and imbuing them with all sorts of wonderful importance. So I’ve learned that when personal experience cannot corroborate “feel good” endings, there’s probably a good reason.

That’s not to say that I couldn’t be convinced I’m wrong. If I was certain, I would not have submitted the question.

@gailcalled, the story of your step-son is one I’ve heard first hand – from people who were there to see it happen. Clearly, people can straighten up and fly right, given the will and opportunity. I’m not saying that’s not enough; many roads lead to Rome. My curiosity really is about the “making amends” step. Your story seems to confirm my skepticism.

rooeytoo's avatar

@6rant6 – sorry I must have hit a sore spot. But I still think anyone who is around a drunk would benefit from going to a meeting themselves. It is hard to be around a drunk and stay untouched. You still sound angry.

6rant6's avatar

@rooeytoo As I said, project much? I’m not around drunks. Are you?

6rant6's avatar

I found someone in RL who had one of these experiences. She had a friend, an addict, who stole $100 from her – presumably to get drugs – and disappeared.

Years later, she received a note in the mail acknowledging the theft, cash to cover it and apology.

The most interesting thing about it was that the note contained no way to contact the amender. My friend had written off the thief when she disappeared, but on getting the note, she felt reconnected and concerned for her friends but had no way to reach her.

I suppose the thief might have left off her contact info in order to shield my friend from the sense that contact was somehow obligatory or expected. It could also be that she was going through the motions of amending but didn’t want to give the victim a chance to unload on her. No way to know. Much to ponder.

@rooeytoo Just to ease your mind, the question occurred to me due to a piece submitted to a writers’ group. The novel has a character in it who is a recovering addict; I was reflecting to myself that that history didn’t appear in the behavior of the character. “What,” I wondered, “would a real addict do that someone could see?” The typical grandiose gestures that recovering addicts perform in the movies came to mind, but then I realized that although I’d known people in recovery, I’d never actually witnessed – or heard about from participants – any genuine amend making. So I’m trying to ascertain if that’s missing piece is a result of my admittedly sheltered life, or if that’s the way it really is.

zenvelo's avatar

@6rant6 While it isn’t written down anywhere, a lot of people regard the making of amends as very private both for the protection of the innocent person and also as a matter of humility. Sharing amongst each other on how an amends went is either offered as advice on what went well or on what went poorly.

For instance, a woman I know was a waitress when she got sober. She used to steal wine from the restaurant. When she got sober she figured it would be a surprise to the owners when she confessed; turns out they pretty much knew already. She shared that to show that when we recover we can’t assume we did no harm to someone, we need to take ownership of what we’ve done.

There is also a strong belief in recovery that when you do something for someone you do it without being found out, if you’re found out it doesn’t count.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have seen 12 step programs save a lot of lives. I think they are a gift to those who attend and practice. But addicts/drunks are like any other segment of society, some are real and honorable and some are not. So making a judgement based simply on your own experience is not quite representative.

@zenvelo has spoken words of truth in both responses, and more eloquently and less confrontational than I.

6rant6's avatar

@zenvelo I understand from several sources that there are nuances to the procedure of amending. I had not heard, “There is also a strong belief in recovery that when you do something for someone you do it without being found out.” Perhaps that’s not mainstream? Obviously it’s not something that you practiced, nor something that your friend practice when he came to you. It seems to me that the offer to make amends is the singularly most important thing for the victim to hear, provided they believe what they ask for could happen. I could be wrong.

But back to your point. So sometimes the beneficiary of the amend-making doesn’t know they’ve been benefited. You rekon that’s a majority of the time? I don’t. Certainly if __the offer__ to make amends comes with the apology, the beneficiary knows.

So there should be nearly as many stories to be told by the people to whom amends have been made as there are stories told by people who say they’ve made them. Certainly, 12-steps doesn’t impede the injured party from talking about it. I’d think it would be a boon to them, actually to be able to say, “Oh yeah, my ex- wrote me and said he was sorry.”

I don’t think it’s a fine point, but it seems like people are having trouble getting a hold of it, so I’ll repeat it. I am interested in the fact that so many have gone on to step 10, abd have related their stories of amend-making to so many others. Yet so few have stories to share of being amended to or seeing someone else amended to. It’s a discrepancy. I’m curious. That’s all.

I’m not saying 12-step programs haven’t provided great benefits to those who have gone through them. I see that many more people have benefitted from the change those people have undergone. So really, if you want to tell me how wonderful 12-step programs are, you can, but it has nothing to do with what I am seeking, and since I already believe in it, you can’t change my mind.

rooeytoo's avatar

Why did you ask the question if “since I already believe in it, you can’t change my mind?”

Do you just feel like a little bit of arguing?

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