anonymous Asks ...
I am not in AA but I was an alcohol addict for about 15 years. During that time I did many things that I feel ashamed of. I I’d rather not live through all the humiliations again. I’d rather seal that time off and try to forget most of it. This is one reason I do not go to AA. The idea of going back to find everyone I ever treated badly to say sorry is not something I would want to do. I am 6 months and 6 days sober. It is not easy yet. What I want to know is is does going back and saying sorry to people from the past offer me any significant advantage today? I pretty much feel that doing that would be so stressful I’d have to be drunk to get through it.
Anna Deeds Says ...
Thank you for your question. Congratulations on 6 months of sobriety!
There is an important reason why Alcoholics Anonymous included making amends as a part of the 12 Steps. Guilt and shame have a purpose in our lives. We feel guilt as an early warning signal to tell us we are doing something wrong. Shame is when we internalize guilt and believe we are bad people because we did something bad. It's the mind's way of telling us we need to change. They are not feelings that are meant to be held onto. Both guilt and shame can be very damaging to a person's self esteem when you hold onto them. Guilt and shame are meant to make us do something and then we can let go of these feelings. When we ignore this and don't do something, we hold onto these feelings instead of letting them go. When we feel bad for doing something, saying your sorry or doing something to make up for what you did will help relieve feelings of guilt and shame. So, guilt and shame are relieved by taking action and righting wrongs. This is why we make amends.
It's understandable that you have a fear of making amends. It is a difficult thing to do but it doesn't have to be done right away. The 12 Steps are written in a certain order and are meant to be completed in that order. It can take years of working the Steps to get to Steps Eight and Nine which are about making amends. The Ninth Step also says we "make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book) This means that we don't always make amends directly to the person. We may make amends by doing something good for the community like volunteer work or helping someone anonymously. There are ways to make amends indirectly.
My suggestion is that you find a sponsor. Your sponsor is like your guide through the Steps. They will help you decide when you are ready to make amends and which amends should be directly made or indirectly made. Remember, there is no hurry to complete the Steps. Recovery is an ongoing process. It takes time to heal from all the damage of addiction.
I hope this answers your question and good luck with your recovery!