“Sometimes we hurt the people we love the most, and that’s more than words to a song.” -Melody Beattie (Codependent No More Workbook)
Side note: For some reason I’ve been in a Melody Beattie mood lately. I truly love this woman’s insight.
Step 9 of 12 step recovery suggests that we make amends. Specifically, the step says,
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
In step 8, we make a list of the people we have harmed from whatever issue we are facing, whether it be alcoholism, codependency, etc. In step 9, we take action to make amends. It’s clear that making amends to anyone that we have harmed or done wrong in the past is for the “amender” and not the “amendee.” It allows us to begin again with a clean slate. It enables us to release the guilt and shame from past behaviors. It allows us to be free to live in the future.
That all sounds really beautiful. But for me, I stayed stuck on step 9 for a long time. I had made the list of people to make amends to. Then I learned about the different ways to make amends. There’s a living amends where we change our negative behavior into positive behavior in response to the harm we’ve done. We can write a letter, or if we feel safe and our intentions are pure, we can sit down with the person and make direct amends to the person we have harmed…face to face.
After I made my amends list, I decided as of right now, the only person I wanted to make a direct amends to was my mom. I won’t go into detail about what I was making amends for, but after months and months of being stagnant about making the amends, I labeled myself as a coward. But in reality, I was just waiting until the time was right.
About a week ago over coffee and brunch one afternoon, I made the direct amends to my mom. Surprisingly, for the most part, her response was very affirming. But even if it wasn’t, that would not be about me. I was making the amends so that I could be free.
And it was very freeing…
I began to think about another person on my amends list. My Dad. Especially with Father’s Day approaching, I have been thinking about him a lot. My dad died about 9 years ago, so I’m obviously unable to make a direct amends to him. But I chose to write a letter. And I felt like sharing it here:
I miss you. A lot. You would probably find it interesting to know that I am currently working several 12 step programs to recover from various emotional issues. I sometimes think of my own recovery as an extension of the recovery from alcoholism that you never got a chance to experience. A part of my recovery program requires me to make amends to those that I have harmed. You are on my list. As well as mom. I already made amends to mom (which you know how difficult that must have been for me!) and I want to make amends to you. I have no doubt that you loved me. But I’m not sure if you knew how much I loved you, specifically when I became an adult. I was so busy running away from my childhood, that I distanced myself from you. I blamed you for a lot of my own unhappiness. As a child and as an adult, I didn’t fully comprehend that you had a disease. Until now.
I felt being close to you in adulthood would be too painful. I felt your sickness (both alcoholism and what you went through before you died) was too much of a bother. After all, I had a life to live. There were times when I would come by the house and all you wanted from me was a pop or a glass of iced tea, and I would ignore you or say no. Sometimes you may have even wanted to talk, but I didn’t want to talk to you. I don’t even know why I did those things. Perhaps I was angry at you for being an alcoholic. Perhaps I was angry at you then for becoming sick from years of drinking. But regardless, I am very sorry for my behavior and any harm that I may have caused.
I think about you and dream about you a lot. I feel your presence more frequently, especially now that I am living in the house that you worked so hard to provide for us.
I hope you have seen my grandma (your mom) and I hope that your spirit is free…
I love you, always…
Happy Father’s Day