What does it mean to make amends? Making amends, in terms of recovery, means acknowledging the hurt or damage that has been done, showing repentance, expressing genuine remorse, and then doing everything that you can to make it right.

This is a crucial step in recovery. By making an effort to mitigate the damage you have done, it can help you to gain forgiveness from others and to finally forgive yourself.

Making Amends: What To Say & How To Start

It’s difficult to know what to say when making amends. It can feel impossible to know how to start. Every event, and every person, is unique, but here are some basic examples of what you might say when first attempting to make amends. 

  • The first thing to say is always, “I’m sorry.” You may have felt it, but they need to hear it.
  • “I know that I can never make up for what I did, but I promise I’m going to try. Every day.”
  • “I can’t make it right, but please let me try.”
  • “What I did was wrong. Please let me try and make it right.”
  • “What I did was terrible. I can’t undo it, but it will not happen again.”

Making Amends: Examples

When addiction fuels behavior, the outcome is often far from ideal. Here are some examples of how to start making amends, based on behavior/event type.

  • If you stole from them

Try to replace the stolen item or make a plan to repay the debt.

  • If you let them down / didn’t come through for them.

See if you can find a way to make it up to them, and do your best to come through for them in the future.

  • If you physically harmed them.

They may not be open to seeing you. You may need to convey a message in a letter or through a third party (or not at all). Express your apologies and, if applicable, offer to pay them back for any medical costs or property damage.

  • If you’ve said something hurtful or emotionally abused them.

If you’ve psychologically wounded them or torn them down verbally, you’ll want to let them know how you really feel about them (if it’s positive). Let them know what you were going through, what made you say/feel those things, and that they were in no way a reflection of the other person. Don’t be afraid to open up to them and be sincere. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to hear it. Be open to both sides of the story (and don’t be defensive).

Making Amends: Acquaintances

You may have hurt those around you before you started your journey toward recovery. Facing and accepting this will be difficult, but incredibly important in righting any wrongs, helping them to find closure, and helping yourself to heal.

In determining how to make amends, you’ll need to evaluate the situation – and the damage – carefully. Think of how you can repay them for the financial, physical, or emotional damage you’ve done. Then, think of how you can help them (and yourself) to find closure.

  • Clear the air / give context.

If you ever hope to truly move on with them, you have to discuss the situation openly and honestly. Discuss what was done as you recall it, why it was done, and how truly sorry you are

  • Let them share their side of the story.

Listen to their side of the story in a non-defensive and empathetic way. If you said or did something to them that you don’t remember being too severe, but they recall it differently – accept this. They’re entitled to their side of the story. Even though it won’t be pleasant to hear this, or confront the situation, it will help you to move forward. Let them know that you understand the severity of the situation, that you don’t plan to repeat it, that you do plan to make it right.

  • Be sincere.

If your apology is said but not meant, it serves no purpose. Show that you are genuinely repentant for the event, how seriously you take the situation, that you care deeply about making it right, and that you genuinely plan to do so.

  • Make your plan to make amends (see examples above).

Let them know that, while you can never change what happened, you would like nothing more than the chance to make things right. Let them know that you plan to make amends for the event, and if they are receptive, be sure that you follow through.

  • Cut ties, if needed.

If they are not open to your making amends, or to rebuilding your relationship, don’t force the issue. Rest assured that you have done all you can. Seek out a support system and new, positive, relationships.

  • Don’t get stuck.

If you make amends and they keep needing more, making you feel as if you’re indebted to them for life, take a beat. Do what you can, and move on.

Making Amends: Family And Friends

If you’ve made amends with your acquaintances, you may next be wondering how to make amends with your family. Making amends with family and friends can be more difficult than with acquaintances. You care more about them, value the relationship more highly – and may have done more damage over a longer duration of time.

A key difference when striving to make amends and gain the forgiveness of family and friends is that it’s a never-ending process. You need to follow the same steps you would with an acquaintance, but then take it even further. You need to work to reestablish trust, to show you’re sincere in your desire to rebuild the relationship, and then to prove to them that they can trust and count on you each and every day.

  • Start With The Steps Above.
  • Assess the relationship.

Was this relationship positive and healthy before the events in question?  Is it one that you want to rebuild? If it was always a negative relationship, steer clear. If it was once healthy, read on.

  • Work to rebuild the relationship.

If you’re able to make amends, you aren’t finished. If this relationship, and this person, is important to you, you’ll need to continually work to rebuild the bond and the trust. Let them know that you plan to do this, and that they are important to you. Know that this will be a slow process — but if you value the relationship, it will be well worth your time.

  • Be patient with them. 

It may have taken time to damage the bond and trust you’ve shared, and it will take time to repair it. 

  • Be consistent.

They need to know that they can count on you and trust you again. If you say you’ll do something, be sure to follow through.

  • Be patient with yourself. 

You’re human. You made a mistake — and who hasn’t? You’ll make different mistakes in the future, but the point is that you’re striving to be the very best person you can be from here on out. It’s a day-by-day process, and each day is a fresh opportunity. Always remember just how far you’ve come.

  • Stay motivated.

You may have setbacks with them as you work to rebuild. If you do, it’s important to remember why the relationship, and your recovery, are important. Keep yourself on track and check-in with yourself regularly.

  • Move forward with them.

Let go of old resentments, and get to know them all over again. Show genuine interest in their life, and be a friend that they can count on, and that you can count on in return. You can’t undo the past, but you can live each day going forward with sincerity and purpose.

Bottom Line

Making amends in addiction recovery is a difficult process. However, it’s also critically important to your recovery, to your ability to potentially gain forgiveness from others, and, ultimately, to finding self-forgiveness. This step allows you to move forward, toward a healthier, happier life.

At Oregon Trail Recovery, we have a dedicated staff and a wide array of recovery programs to guide and support you in your journey. If you need help with making amends, or with any other step in the process, we’re here and available 24/7. Contact us, today.