What is a living amends, exactly? Your sponsor may have told you to make a living amends as part of your Ninth Step, but if you are anything like I am, you do not have a clue what he or she means by that.
A living amends is not simply staying alive, and therefor not adding to the pain and suffering already inflicted on those close to you. That could be a part of it, but that is not the whole story.
Quite literally, it is amending the way we live.
Alcoholics and addicts are masters of the false apology. Naturally, our friends and loved ones become jaded with the constant promises of change that never occur. We play the boy who cried wolf, and we suffer the same consequences.
There is a real problem with this, though: like the boy who cries wolf, there comes a day when we really do need help, and we really do want to stop (hopefully). Yet, what is there to suggest that this one time is any different from the countless times before?
The harsh reality is that some of us really do burn down our bridges, and there is no going back. The person we wrong either wants nothing to do with us, or perhaps they are no longer alive to see the change that has taken place (at least, not in their corporeal form).
That is where the living amends come into play. Like any amends, a living amends really is not for the people to whom we make the amends. Rather, it is for us.
We make the change in our lives so that we no longer have to live with the pain of our mistakes. We clean up our past and try our best to rectify the situation, but ultimately, it is so we can say to ourselves, “Today, I will do something different. What happened in the past is not who I am today.”
Sure, it promotes goodwill and mended relationships, but not always—and that is okay. Frankly, that is out of our control. It always has been, and it always will be.
Some may notice the change over time and become willing to hear us out, but we have to be okay with the reality that the day when that happens may never come. Again, a living amends is for us, it is not for them. We get to enjoy the gift of knowing that we will not make that same mistake again that ruined so many relationships in the past.
The living amends is never over. It is a continuous process that ends when we leave this world behind, but we leave it a better place by not only not adding further wreckage, but also by showing others that they, too, can make changes in how they interact with the world.
If you have had to make a living amends and want to share your experience, please tell us in the comments section!