Get Guidance on Approaching the Amends Process Properly

If you are working an Alcoholics Anonymous program, following AA’s Big Book, then first let’s say congratulations! Your commitment to staying sober is an important part of recovery. Many start moving forward through the 12 steps with few efforts. But they encounter their first hesitancy when it comes to Steps 8 and 9. These steps involve identifying any person to whom they owe amends. Next, they start the difficult process of making direct amends.

To assist any person with Steps 8 and 9, we have created our AA Amends Script downloadable PDF here that you can refer to while involved in this process.

Changes Healing Center knows that demonstrating changed behavior can be challenging. The process of looking inward and discovering the relationships damaged by addiction and then giving that apology is very humbling. Still, identifying and setting out to make things right are key steps in helping you stay sober.

Read on to learn how to make amends by following our free guide to making amends in Steps 8 and 9. And please remember, if you or a loved one need additional support to achieve or maintain sobriety, please make the confidential call to Changes today!

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The Impact of Making Amends on Your Recovery

Some ask their sponsor if they must make amends to those they have wronged. They wonder if it would be best to leave the past in the past. Here’s why making direct amends makes a world of difference:

Making amends is one of the key principles in the AA plan. It helps AA meeting makers and all members take accountability for their actions and begin to fix those broken promises and damaged relationships.

When you acknowledge your role in causing wrongs to others and express regret from the heart, you may gain the chance to regain trust and, if you’re lucky, earn their forgiveness. Besides that, when you sincerely apologize, you clear your conscience, thus reinforcing your commitment to becoming a better person in sobriety.

Alcoholics Anonymous Step 8: Listing All the Amends

AA Meeting Step 8 - Listing All the Amends

Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

Your drinking problem is now in your past, but some people don’t forgive and forget quite that quickly. Step 8 is the time to list those wronged by your past actions. But here’s the hard part – it’s also time to consider how to reach out to such people to speak about your behaviors while addicted to alcohol and discuss the harm you caused.

Some prefer making amends by letter, while others set a course to meet in person. The AA Big Book does not prescribe a particular way to make amends – it just tells you it’s the right thing to do. Connect with your AA sponsor for any specific question on Step 8.

An Example of Step 8: John Eventually Listed Those He Harmed While Abusing Alcohol and Drugs

Imagine John, in recovery with AA. He reflects on his past to make way for a brighter future. John’s list of one of the friends he has harmed – and his intentions to make things better – might look like this:

Mark, who loaned John $500 to avoid a car repo while he was an active alcoholic. John spent the money on substances and allowed the repo man to take the car. Worse, he never paid Mark back the money.

He put Mark in a tight financial spot and destroyed his friendship. Now John is willing to admit he was wrong, offer apologies, and repay Mark.

AA Step 9: Making Direct Amends (the Apology and Restitution)

Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Step 9 directs you to sincerely apologize and restitution for the harm caused to the person. Your words should be specific and spoken with intention not remorseful mumbling. Be clear and not complicated.

Finally, don’t make excuses or explain away the poor behaviors. Wait for the person to respond; understand that they may not be ready to accept your words or trust your intentions. That’s their right.

An Example of Step 9: John Makes Apologizes for His Treatment of Mark

John set up a time to meet with Mark. He explained that the talk would be important. John told Mark he understood the financial sacrifice Mark and his family made to help him and expressed regret for breaking his trust.

He took full responsibility for the situation and expressed that he is committed to continued recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. He repaid Mark the $500.

The Only Times You Should Not Risk Making Amends

Apology Note

Change behavior aside, the second half of the sentence in Step 9 mentions an exception. Ideally, yes – you want to make amends.

However, you should avoid writing a note of apology or seeing someone in person to apologize if there is a risk that you may cause additional harm. Here are some examples:

Making Amends Could Cause Harm or Disrupt the Person’s Life

Don’t make amends if your letter or words could reopen still-tender wounds. You should also avoid contact if you could cause the other person physical or psychological harm.

An example of this could be if you engaged in a physical fight with a former partner. Although you have moved past the erratic behavior, they fear being near you.

You Might Have Legal Concerns if You Make Amends

You should also avoid the matter if amends could mean legal concerns or violating a court order.

In this example, a lawful no-contact order would bar you from making amends. However, you might make restitution anonymously, such as donating to a charity in the person’s honor. That helps you work the recovery process while avoiding legal issues.

Avoid Making Amends if You May Harm an Unwitting Third Party

Step 9 mentions “other,” or third parties. If it will harm someone else involved, you might skip making amends.

For instance, Lisa cheated on her long-time partner Sarah. She wants to acknowledge her poor judgment, answer any questions Sarah may still have, and make things right. However, Sarah’s children are young. She has heard that they were still learning to deal with the breakup.

For more information, seek guidance from the AA Big Book or talk with your sponsor about these exceptions.

The AA Amends Script: A Guide and Worksheet

AA Amends Script

Now that we have covered the mechanics of AA Steps 8 and 9, let’s put it together into a script. You can feel free to print out the helpful PDF at the end of this section or use it to help craft an idea of your own. Either way, be sure to practice what you say as you try to fix each wrong.

Introduction and Thank Them for the Fellowship

“Hello [Name], thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I appreciate your willingness to listen and to hear me out.”

Acknowledgment of the Poor Treatment

“I am working through the 12 Steps of AA. As part of my recovery process, I am making amends to those I have hurt. I want to acknowledge that my actions, when I was in active addiction, caused you pain. Specifically, [describe the actions and their impact].”

Expression of Regret

“I deeply regret the pain and trouble I caused you. It was never my intention to hurt you, and I am truly sorry for my behavior.”

Taking Responsibility for Actions You Took During the Addiction

“I take full responsibility for my actions. I also understand that my alcohol addiction was a significant factor in the wrongs I caused. I am committed to my recovery and working hard to change my life for the better.”

Plan for Making Amends

“I would like to make things right, if possible. [Suggest specific actions you can take to repair the damage, such as repaying monies owed, fixing something broken, or simply listening and understanding their perspective].”

Listening and Understanding

“I understand that my apology may not be enough to heal the hurt I caused, and I am here to listen to anything you need to say about it. Your feelings and suggestions are important to me.”

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Conclude the Meet-Up by Making Your Final Point

“Thank you for listening and for giving me the opportunity to make amends. I hope that my changed behavior will rebuild your trust in the future. I hope to show through my actions that I am committed to change.”

Note that you can download this in a printable PDF format here or above.

You can also follow this format when writing a letter to meet the requirements of this recovery process step. Letter writing might be helpful if you’re afraid they won’t meet in person or won’t hear what you have to say.

Need Help More Help for Alcohol Recovery? Changes is Here to Support Lasting Sobriety

AA Meeting - Support For Lasting Sobriety

Recovering from alcohol and substance abuse is not always linear. Even if you successfully complete an alcohol treatment program, attend meetings regularly, and follow every step of the process to make amends with your family and friends, you might still need some support to stay sober.

You might find that while making amends is one of the key principles, the hardest forgiveness you will seek is from yourself. Demonstrating your humility after addiction is an act of cleansing. Only through the practice of making relationships right can you answer your own idea of forgiving yourself.

Changes Healing Center is here if you need additional support besides your sponsor. We offer intensive outpatient programs that are good step-down options, especially if you feel you might relapse, as well as detox and residential programs.

Feel free to connect with us at any time you need additional support for detox or alcohol treatment – Changes is here to help!