When we were kids and had a fight with one of our friends, our parents would tell us to take responsibility and apologize. That concept is used throughout our lives, but what happens when the reason for the apology is too painful to even think about? How can we make amends with someone who may have trouble acknowledging the issue in the first place or who is simply not ready for the apology?

Many people who struggle with substance abuse will run into this issue. For one reason or another, the people we may have wronged may not be willing or ready to fully process what we did to them, let alone accept an apology. Just because we may feel ready to apologize doesn’t mean that our loved ones are ready to hear it. We should have patience and understand why it may be difficult for our friends and family.

The Twelve Steps Can Help

12-Step programs facilitated by organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can give us a structure we can use to reconnect with loved ones. Programs like these use the Twelve Steps to outline a process for getting sober, but this process can also be used to make amends and find peace with ourselves and others.

These steps give us specific things we can do that can help us move past the shame and guilt of our past. For example, they ask us to admit our wrongdoings, surrender ourselves to a Higher Power, and try our best to make amends. Regardless of how willing others are to accept our sincerity, determination to maintain our sobriety, and attempts to make amends, we can feel a sense of peace and closure as we work through the Twelve Steps.

Key Steps for Rebuilding Relationships

Each of the Twelve Steps is important for reaching and maintaining sobriety. Some of them are especially helpful to remember when we are trying to reach out to those we have wronged. Those steps are numbers eight and nine on the list, and they are as follows:

8. Make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

We may feel compelled to reach out to everyone we may have hurt and get discouraged if we do not get the response we would like from them in the timeframe we were expecting. We should be open to everyone’s reactions and timelines of healing.

Remember, we got sober when we chose to commit to recovery; we may not have been ready beforehand, even if we had friends or family members anxious for us to change. We can be patient with others and know that our ability to have peace with ourselves is not contingent on other people.

Mending the Relationship With Ourselves

It can be difficult to reconnect with loved ones when we haven’t reconnected with ourselves. It’s normal to feel like we had lost ourselves along the way when we were struggling with substance abuse. We can take the time to get to know ourselves again, which can give us the confidence to reconnect with ourselves in all aspects of our lives.

We can take time to meditate with ourselves in the morning; we can practice our breathing and focus on how that makes us feel. We can create routines to make life feel stable. We can make our beds every morning and create a schedule for when we wake up, eat, and spend time outside.

These may seem like mundane activities, but they can make a world of difference to our mental health. We can make an effort to spend time with ourselves while learning what our body wants and needs.

Understanding Patience

It can be very painful for our loved ones to watch as we struggle with substance abuse. If we can give our loved ones a heartfelt and honest apology, we can only hope for the best from there. However, just as no one can recover for us, we can’t expect others to forgive us on our timeline.

Our loved ones may come around eventually, but we can have peace regardless. We need to have confidence in our own sincerity and commit to demonstrating, day after day, that we have changed. In the meantime, we can nurture the relationships with friends we have made in treatment and with others who have peace with us now.

During and after treatment, we may feel alone, but these feelings are normal and will pass. We should not dwell on negative emotions too much. Instead, we should leave space mentally to recognize and validate our positive thoughts. We acknowledged that our lives were unmanageable with alcohol or drug use, and we sought treatment. That is half the battle; things can only go up from there.

Growing Our Relationships

The human connection is complex and grows with complexity as life continues. The healing process can look different for every individual and take different amounts of time. Ultimately, we all long for connection with others, and no matter what mistakes we made in the past, we are worthy of and able to form healthy relationships.

We can show people how much they mean to us by making plans with them and following through, being open and vulnerable with how we are feeling, and continuing to seek help. Reaching sobriety helped us find the bridge to reconnect with others, and continued efforts will help us cross that bridge and rebuild our relationships.

Once we have gone through treatment, we may feel the need to reach out to those we have wronged and make amends. We should understand that not everyone will be open to our apologies at first or even at all. We should be okay with whatever outcomes happen, and we can follow the Twelve Steps to guide us in reconciling with others. We should take the time to get to know ourselves as well and reconnect with who we are in our sobriety. To restore our relationship with ourselves, we can learn to listen to our bodies when they need rest and re-energize. When we feel stressed or overwhelmed, we can meditate, listen to music, read a book, or nap. Making peace with ourselves is a solid foundation for relationships with others. To learn more, call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.