To understand what living amends are is to understand the concept behind amends in a 12 step program.
Part of healing the past is owning the wrongs we have made towards people and places while living in our addiction. An amends is not an apology or “I’m sorry” for a wrongdoing. The most widely accepted way to offer an amends is to simply state, “I did (fill in the blank), what can I do to make that right for you?” It is not a time to make excuses for our behavior instead, it’s an open door for the wronged person to express themselves. They get the opportunity to express how my actions affected them. My addiction did not just harm me. It harmed everyone around me.
I have made many amends for my past while living as an alcoholic. Amends allow me to also right the wrongs I may continue to make. It is freedom from behaviors that do not live up to the new life in sobriety I am choosing to live.
I used to steal money from my mother to drink. I am not proud of that, but it is the reality of how I used to behave. I also made countless promises to her that I did not keep. It ranged from promising to fix something around the house to going to a family gathering. Basically, I just did not keep my word.
My living amends to my mother is to be fully present in my life so I can be fully present in hers. I no longer steal from her, thank God. I also now do as I say.
About ten years ago, I told her I was going to re-do her bedroom for her. We bought curtains, curtain rods and planned an entire renovation. But, I was too wrapped up in my own alcoholic life that I never did it.
A few months back, she was traveling for an extended period of time. Well, the time came to continue my living amends to her and redo her entire master suite, including her bathroom. She came home to what she described as “a completely different house”.
The amends I made to her was admitting my wrongs and shortcomings due to my addiction. My living amends is being the son she deserves–someone who will do for her as she has always done for me.
That is just one small example of what are living amends. Part of my living amends is also being the friend my friends deserve and the employee my employers hired in good faith. Living amends touches deep parts of our lives and souls if we allow them.