“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” ~ Alcoholics Anonymous, 2014, p 59
You don’t have to be in recovery or even know someone in recovery to work through the Steps. These are basic principles that are true for all relationships. I recommend you take them in order, however. (People, like toddlers learning to climb, have been injured by jumping up several at a time.) Instead, take them one at a time, starting at Step 1. There’s a beautiful rhythmic momentum to them when taken in order.
Take time to find the Not so Scary Worksheets and print the Amends Chart pdf. Below is a method for preparing what to say when you meet with someone to clear up the past. Simply put, it’s a way to restore relationships that really does work. This is only one suggestion. It works for me. I hope it’s helpful to you.
PREPARATION OF THE HARMS STATEMENT
For each person in your NOW column, write a few brief sentences in your own words (or reword one of the samples) but include elements of the following.
- I’m becoming more aware of my actions lately.
- I’m coming to you to try to clear up our past, admit my wrongs and I really want to make things right with you.
- I’m asking only that you hear me as I admit the faults that I find in myself and hope that at some point you will forgive me.
- List the behaviors that caused harm (from column 4 of Step 4 Resentment Worksheet) Ex: I was often ______ , or I have _____, or I know I _____
- Apologize in simple words: I am so sorry.
Harms Statement Examples:
- Because I now realize that I’m an alcoholic and as a result of what I’m learning in AA, I see how much pain I’ve caused you by my being so angry all the time (add specifics here: by my screaming at you and the kids and by my throwing constant drama into our lives.) At some point, I hope you’ll be able to forgive me. I am so sorry.
- I’m not asking for anything from you except that you hear how sorry I am for how I have been treating you. I have taken a hard look at my actions and realize I have frequently been untruthful with you, have avoided talking to you when you wanted to resolve things and have been unforgiving of things that should be left in the past. I would like to start over, but even if that’s not possible, please know that I see how I’ve hurt our relationship and that I am very sorry.
- I am hoping you’ll be able to forgive me for the way I’ve let you down. (add specifics here: I’ve been distant, hostile, reclusive or unreliable lately.) I’ve had to admit to myself that I need help and I’m getting it. I would like to restore our relationship if that’s possible. Perhaps I’ve hurt you in ways I don’t even realize. I want to know what you think. I’m ready to listen.
*Graduate level for those ongoing relationships that you really value, add this element: I’m committing to you that I won’t do this again and am asking that you help me by telling me if I do begin to treat you that way – ever. Please.
One thing I love about Bill W’s program of recovery is the emphasis on experiencing and granting forgiveness. Spiritual living, for me, is not just a theory any longer. I don’t argue, don’t pressure, don’t try to convince, I just live with as much awareness as I can muster.
I’m trying to live my convictions and to live the principles of the recovery program as it’s written.
I know less now, but I experience more. It’s an amazing way to live!