Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Each of the 12-Step Programs follows these two steps to recovery, verbatim. Only in my program of recovery(Al-Anon), was I taught when and how to appropriately amend. Also, apologizing with words is not the same as amending our behaviors and working to restore trust. To amend, means to intentionally change/stop hurtful behavior. Sometimes a relationship is damaged beyond repair. Still, we can continue to heal ourselves by changing our behaviors, (even with those with whom we no longer speak) regardless of how it is received or acknowledged on the other end. Spiritual striving calls us to improve upon ourselves for ourselves. Better action leads to better living.
In my family experience and then my marriage, there is a perverse practice of dramatic and profuse apologizing for circumstantial things like running out of wine, over cooked meat, having only one kind of salad dressing, “the messy house”, street construction, a delayed flight, getting stuck in traffic, misplacing a thing….but not for acts and behaviors which are chosen.
And then there are the apologies that begin with “I am sorry that you feel….”
And, of course, the most soothing of all: “Ok, I am sorry, now can we just move on, already?” (aka: STFU)
But apologies like: “I am sorry that I spoke in in a hurtful tone, said or did a hurtful thing. I won’t do that again. You don’t deserve that. I can do better.” These messages were never communicated, in any form, like not even on the radar. Is this because people are impeccable with their behavior? Or is it because I am unworthy? Or perhaps, because some people have not learned healthy accountability and responsibility? Recovery teaches me that amending originates from a place of humility and a genuine and deep desire to repair or heal, the damage caused by our choices. When you are not able to acknowledge or admit to the existence of damage or conflict, it would be impossible to own, heal, or even contemplate reparation efforts.
I longed for the opportunity to heal with my mother. The initiatives by my sister and ex, which sustained my alienation, guaranteed the impossibility of that. It is difficult to live with. While my mother did not break the cycle in her lifetime. I believe that if she were able to understand what I seek for my children, she would approve. I see how healing is too disruptive for a family deeply entrenched, encamped in rightness, maintaining the status quo. Easier to collectively agree that only one person is broken and without that broken part of the family, everything is fine. One of the gifts of recovery, is that I now live in peace with my choices and my behaviors. I make choices that reflect my values not my feelings. I can feel like shit and still act right (morally and spiritually right).
I will continue to report my journey, so that my boys might one day read and be reminded of how my words here, consistently match my actions and my life– in support of what I believe to be true and good about love, loyalty, kindness, connection, faith, family.
For the record, wholesome=pure of heart(maybe broken and, still pure) badass=never giving up on making things better than they have been and could be without rigorous and intentional contrary action. I make no claim to being this way already, only to my daily commitment to becoming so. I am a work in progress.
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