When someone is in recovery, how do they begin to restore relationships of those hurt by their addiction? Life Recovery Step 8 says, “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Making amends is a requirement in recovery. Yet, the person offended can choose to accept or reject the amends and restore the relationship.
Remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son? When the prodigal son moved home, he had to make amends. He left home to find his freedom and hurt his family as he made this choice. He didn’t handle that kind of freedom well, though, and “he wasted all his money in wild living” (Luke 15:13, NLT).
No doubt, as the prodigal son headed back home, he rehearsed what he would say. He may have identified what sins he had committed against God and his family, then he confessed it. Finally, because of his betrayal, he saw his unworthiness, an accurate picture of himself. It was no longer about him; he no longer cared just about himself. He was ready now to see the reality of his condition.
Sometimes making amends requires someone to write a letter to each person in their family. The letter should state what they did wrong, ask for forgiveness, and see if there is anything they can do to make amends. A family member may respond by yelling, screaming, or disowning altogether. Accepting their response with humility may open the door for reconciliation. The family member may not want to, and that is their choice.
In this step, a person needs to reflect on what their family might say and prepare for their response. It means trying to see their family members’ point of view and not defend their wrong. In addition, they will need to accept the outcome, knowing it may not be what they expect and understand how their addiction has affected others. By realizing how they hurt their own family, they can begin to make better choices in their recovery, which will make for healthy and whole relationships.
In the case of the prodigal son, the story does not explain how long he was gone. It does, however, explain that it had taken him quite a while to go through his inheritance. By the time the prodigal son returned home, his father was so excited that he had a party to welcome him home: “For this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (v.24). The older brother was angry and rejected the brothers’ amends (vs. 28). The response is not always the same for everyone in the family.
Making amends with family is an essential part of recovery and cannot be avoided. Learn more about making amends and experiencing true recovery by attending a Life Recovery Group.