When We Were Wrong

There’s no shame or harm in changing your direction. In fact, it’s often absolutely necessary if we are to survive and remain sane! Isn’t that what we are praying for in the Serenity Prayer: courage to change the things I can? Whether it is a minor course correction or a major shift in my life direction, I need to step out of my comfort zone and make those changes. If I am to be happy, joyous and free, then I must be willing to change and do what I must as I trudge the road of happy destiny.

I read a few days ago again that an airplane is off course 90% of the time. Wind is constantly blowing that metal tube about, shifting it’s position. There are often cloud banks and storms the the pilot can avoid by navigating around them. The pilot or autopilot is constantly making subtle changes in order to keep the airplane safe and to bring it back on course to its destination. And though it may seem a miracle, it lands on time and where it was supposed to land.

It’s not a miracle, not really. It’s a result of the constant attention of the flight crew. Those constant course corrections nudge the plane back on course. A constant check to see where it is headed. That’s what Step 10 is all about: course correction. “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” This is our regular measure of where we are and where we are headed.

Especially early on in the program, it is so easy to stray in our thinking. Everything is new: sobriety, sharing, slogans, steps and sponsors are part of a whole new vocabulary in our lives. It seems there is so much to learn and at the same time so much to forget.  The good news for newcomers, as I was told early on, is that you can start to practice any step that has a “1” in it right from the beginning, so steps 10, 11 and 12 can be worked while you’re still on the first step.

It need not be complicated, and you probably already do it to some degree.  At some point in the evening we can go over the day and pick out what went well, and what didn’t.  If we need to, we can talk to our sponsor about it. It may well be that we had acted like a jerk to a friend or coworker and tomorrow we can apologize.  No need to take on the sins of the world here, just a simple, “I’m sorry, I acted like a jerk yesterday.” is all that is needed.  It doesn’t even matter whether the apology is accepted, because forgiveness is not the goal, clearing our conscience is! Keeping our own side of the street clean early in sobriety is a good way to practice the program principles. It helps to keep us true to this new direction we are headed.

And to be honest, even after years of sobriety, a slight variation in thinking can gradually lead to bad decisions that lead back to the bottle, the pipe and the syringe. Meeting rooms are full of people who were absolutely certain they “had” the program before and suddenly they found themselves back where they started, even after more than ten or twenty years sometimes. A spot check inventory helps to keep us in touch with ourselves, our program and our Higher Power. Like any other terminal condition, I must take my medicine which is the practice and the living of all of the 12 steps of our program, every day. I can’t let up; there is no “free” day here.  It’s one day at a time, one day, everyday.

♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment and offer suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.



Making Amends

It’s a toss-up as to which is the more dreaded step in our list of twelve: step four, where we were asked to look at ourselves and our past, or step nine where we are asked to make amends to other people. It’s one thing to admit what we have done to ourselves and our sponsor, who, by that time, we know has a sympathetic ear.  It’s quite another to go and talk to someone we have wronged, admit our faults, say we’re sorry and are willing do our best not let it happen again in the future.

I think it’s important to know what we are talking about when speaking of making amends.  It is the act of making compensation for an injury, loss or insult; it is improving one’s behaviour in order to rectify that fault.  In other words, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again and this is what I wish to do to make up for it.  Making amends goes beyond an apology. It is a promise to make the changes necessary so that it will never happen again. It is a promise to compensate in some way for the wrong I have committed.

This step is probably most dreaded because we tend to believe that we have no control over the outcome.  What if they shut me out?  What if they refuse to forgive me? What if they don’t think it’s enough? What if repaying monies owed or replacing goods isn’t acceptable. It would be dreadful indeed if this step was focused on receiving forgiveness from others. It is not.

One of the remarkable aspects of this step is that when I approach another person to make amends, I am not asking for their forgiveness. I do not beg for their pity, mercy or understanding of me and my disease.  I hope I may be forgiven, but if not, my amends is still successful because I have admitted my fault, asked for forgiveness and offered compensation all for my own recovery. Forgiveness is, in fact, beside the point of this step.

I recently heard someone share his story at a meeting.  His sponsor suggested that as an amends to his parents that he cook dinner for them once a week.  His mother protested, saying that just having him come over for dinner was enough for her.  His sponsor insisted and he acquiesced.  And so every week for a year he planned a menu, bought the necessary groceries, rode the bus over to his parent’s home on Thursday afternoon and cooked for his parents.

On the surface, he was making up for all of the lies, the let-downs, and the disloyalty he had shown his folks over the years of active addiction. Beneath that, he gave back to his parent a son they thought they had lost.  They learned how to relate to each other on many different levels.  He showed them that their lessons on punctuality, responsibility and respect had not been completely lost.  He himself learn what it means to be a son to his parents and the rewards of his relationship with them. As an added bonus, he learned the very useful skill of cooking; with each dinner he gained new self-confidence and challenged himself by preparing more complicated recipes. What a wise sponsor that man has.

It is important to go about this step with a sponsor.  Perhaps one may work through what appear to be the easier amends first before handling the more difficult ones.  A sponsor is a guide through this process.  Role playing before the actual event may alleviate some of the ‘pre-amends’ anxiety. A sponsor will also help in determining which amends, if any, shouldn’t be made. Simply saying: “I might feel bad,” isn’t enough to let one off the hook in this step.  I take responsibility; I did the deed. I admit to it, I offer compensation and I change my ways.

While we may not like the idea of this step before we begin, it is worth noting that it is rare when an offer of amends is rejected.  Sometimes what has been weighing heavily on our minds can’t even be recalled by the other person. For most people, it is enough to know that we are sorry and are working our recovery.  Receiving forgiveness for our wrongs? That is the icing of the cake.  Step nine provides further concrete to our foundation on which to build our lives in recovery.  I am just scratching the surface in this blog. Fortunately there is a wealth of knowledge about this step in the literature on the shelves of meeting rooms and in the experience of other recovering addicts and alcoholics.

♥  ♥  ♥

Please like and share this blog, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River. I would appreciate it if you would sign up and follow as well.  My intention is to post Mondays and Thursdays.   Please comment and offer suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.