Life Gets Better When You Learn to Make Amends

Taking the Alanon Ninth Steps helps us to begin to have a better relationship with the people we love.

The Alanon Ninth Step tells us to make amends to the people we have harmed, except when doing so will harm them or someone else. When you first joined Alanon, an organization for the family and friends of alcoholics, you may have felt beaten down and discouraged because of the behavior of the alcoholic in your life. You may not have even wanted to join Alanon, but came because it was recommended by your alcoholic's alcohol rehab or alcohol treatment program. However, if you have made it to the Alanon Ninth Step, you have stayed with the program for a while, and have begun to see that you weren't the only person who was affected by the disease of alcoholism. The alcoholism in your family has affected everyone … children, siblings, parents, employers, and friends. The Ninth Step is your opportunity to try to repair some of the damage that has been done and get a fresh start with some of your relationships.

The Ninth Step helps you rebuild relationships

When you took the Alanon Eighth Step, you made a list of the people you had harmed. The first person you put on the list was yourself. Don't skip this part. Forgive yourself for the foolish, hurtful things you have said and done in the past. Forgive yourself for the people you have hurt, and the people you have avoided or driven away.  Everyone has made mistakes in their lives.  There is no reason to keep feeling guilty for the ones you have made.

The next person you should have on your list is the alcoholic. You need to feel that you have swept your side of the street clean. Yes, they may be responsible for 90% of the problems between you, but you are sure to have created a few problems, too. Tell them that you regret some of the things that you have said or done in the past. Let them know that you realize that their drinking behavior is their responsibility, not yours. You are not going to try to hurt them anymore, but you are also going to take responsibility for your own happiness. If that means avoiding them when they are drinking, then that's what you'll do. The point is to "mean what you say, but not say it mean!"

Next, look at the remainder of the people on your list and take steps to apologize for anything you have done to hurt them. In addition, commit yourself to changing the way you treat them in the future. If, for example, you are very controlling with your adult children, you will have to practice letting go. It will take them a while to notice the change in you. Relax, and realize that it takes what it takes! Amends can't be made overnight.

If you struggle with this, you may also find it helpful to read Alanon literature.  It is so helpful to understand the program and know how it can work towards giving you a better life.  One helpful book is advertised at the end of this article.

While making your Ninth Step amends, you should be aware that not everyone is going to accept your amends in a loving, positive way. In many cases, the initial amends will only serve to cool off the hostility a tiny amount. In fact, other people may be suspicious of your amends, and wonder what you're trying to get from them. They may think you are just covering up, once again, for something the alcoholic has done. If you're making amends to the alcoholic, he may feel that your change in behavior will never last. Other people may feel that nothing you say now can make up for something cruel you said or did in the past. That is OK. Your goal in the Alanon Ninth Step is not to change someone else's attitude and behavior, but to change your own.  You have no control over how they will react and you are not responsible for their reaction.

Here is word of caution to consider before making any amends. Please discuss your plans with your Alanon sponsor. It is important that none of your amends cause additional harm to someone else. For example, if you have had an affair in the past and it is over, would it cause more harm to your spouse and the other people involved if you suddenly began confessing and apologizing to everyone? If the affair is ongoing, stop it. If the affair is in the past, and has remained secret, keep the secret. If, however, the affair is already known to some people, apologize to those people for your past behavior, and assure them that you do not want to engage in this behavior again. Clear the air, but only if you will not cause additional harm.

Once you have decided how you want to make your amends, and have discussed it with your Alanon sponsor, you are ready to begin. If there are financial amends to make, set up a repayment plan. If you have treated people rudely, go visit them or write them a note. Reach out to people you have pushed away. If you have ignored your other children because all your attention has been on the child with an alcohol or drug problem, refocus your attention on the non-alcoholic children. They need your love and support, too!

What if the person you owe amends to has died, or has moved and you do not know how to reach them? What if the person refuses to talk, or rebuffs your effort to contact them? How can you make amends in these situations? First, pray about it. Sometimes people have been surprised to find out the opportunity to make amends will suddenly open up to them. In other cases, make amends by changing the way you treat people in the future. Make your future life a living amends. Treat people with respect and kindness. Apologize for thoughtless behavior as quickly as possible. Make a donation in the name of the deceased person. All these behaviors will gradually help you to feel that you are doing what you can to make up for past behavior.

To read more about Alanon:

Free Alanon Information

Loving the Addicted Teen

Taking the Alanon Eighth Step

Taking the Alanon Tenth Step

Avoid Holiday Alcohol Abuse

You Can Learn a Lot More About the Steps in This Book

Al-anon Has Changed the Lives of Countless People

How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics
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This book helps the families and friends of alcoholics and addicts learn how they can benefit by using the Al-anon program. It has changed many lives.