Ever been the recipient of "making amends"?

I’ve actually been wondering if I’m going to get a “making amends” call one of these days. A guy I was seeing last year dumped me unexpectedly and in a hurtful way. He was sober at the time, having quit on his own, but considering his alcohol issues, it wouldn’t surprise me if he wound up in AA at some point.

This discussion is making me feel better because I thought the people being contacted were somehow required to grant absolution because otherwise we’d be responsible for fucking up the person’s sobriety.

I’m glad to know that the onus isn’t on me to make him feel better and/or have a whole conversation about it. Nice to know I can say “sorry, not interested in discussing it. Bye.”

Not in a 12 Step Program, but I once got a phone call from my rapist’s wife (jeez, it’s like I have my own personal Rape Week going on; sorry, I’ll shut up soon) telling me he wanted to talk to me. As he was a family member, and we’d been actively estranged for 15 years, that was a little awkward. Turned out he was doing The Landmark Forum, and calling up people you’ve hurt to make amends is a part of that.

It went shockingly well, actually. Not only did he own up to his behavior and the trauma it caused me and our family, but he paid for me to take the Forum as well, because he thought it would be valuable in my healing process. And it really really was.

We were able to get together later that year at our family’s Thanksgiving celebration, and we’ve completely reconciled.

So…that’s how making amends *can *work. He meant it, he proved to me that he’d really changed, and he did something to help me heal that I couldn’t do on my own.

Except that I think we can take it as a given that dredging up long-past unpleasant memories will virtually always be injurious.

If you mean making the victim whole by anonymously sending them $1000 to cover the money you stole, that’s one thing. If a person insists on an in-person (or hell, even phone or email) “I’m sorry” meeting “for closure,” especially when time has passed and they’ve probably put it so far behind them that it’s not even an annual passing thought anymore, I don’t think they’re considering their victim at all.

I have no idea if it was for a step program (although I’m almost certain it came out of a suggestion from a therapist of some kind), but I got a big fat apology letter in the mail from someone a few years back. I mean “fat” literally, it was a 9x12 manilla envelope with multiple pages plus photos and other things in it. This was a year after she had betrayed a very private confidence for no good reason, and it was really unpleasant to have to remember all that again after I’d put it behind me.

I didn’t know how to react, so I basically said “fine, whatever” but honestly it didn’t and couldn’t really change anything. Now I know I can’t trust her with personal confidences or anything else important, so we’ll never be friends again. We have nothing to talk about to each other. So we don’t speak ever, which is no actual difference from when I had explicitly cut off contact with her. You could perhaps call it more passive, but honestly after a year she wasn’t even a passing thought anymore, and that was just fine.

Honestly if anyone comes back months or years later to apologize, I don’t think they should have any expectation at all of a warm reception. An apology might have meant something had it been timely. Move on already.

Compared with “trying to behave as if the injuries that were incurred for years never took place” (which I’ve had or have several people doing), I certainly prefer a believable “I’m sorry I was such a nasty piece of shit”. Rather the people in question take advantage of some sort of chance encounter than look me up; if they truly are sorry and they happen to get a chance to say it go ahead, but for the sake of my digestion I’d rather not get, say, a phone call which turns out to be from that asshole teacher I’d rather forget about… if we’re in the room I’ve already swallowed their presence.


The people who should keep on digging & digging. Maybe someday I’ll get that call or a $2 mug with a picture of the sky glazed on it with the caption “Forgiveness”, but I won’t hold my breath.

Wow. I would have said that no rapist should contact his victim to attempt amends under any conditions whatsoever. You were extraordinarily generous, and I’m so glad that it was healing for you.

I’m glad it went well. I’m not sure I would suggest it to others, because there are so many ways it could have gone badly. But I do think it’s a really good example of a good version, an honest and sincere version, of “making amends.”

I also think he was wise to have his wife call me first. I didn’t know her or her voice, and she made first contact to ask if I would consider taking his phone call the next day, and we set up a time. I told her I would try to answer the phone, but couldn’t make any promises. She suggested that if I didn’t answer, he shouldn’t try again, I could contact him or her if/when I was ready. That put me in control of the timing of the conversation, and whether it happened at all. That felt a lot safer and more respectful than randomly answering the phone to hear his voice.

Twice in an AA-type situation. In neither case did I sense that the person truly appreciated the magnitude of their past transgressions, and I did not care to try to convince them of it. As someone above suggested, I was fine having no relations with them, and consigning the past to the past. Neither instance impressed me as a sincere effort to acknowledge and make redress for past misbehavior. Impressed me as essentially self-serving. Essentially a superficial, “I’m sorry,” which is supposed to absolve one’s past misdeeds.

Heck, if expressing superficial apologies will get them to a better place, more power to them. I’ll superficially accept their apology. But as a general rule, if someone seriously fucked me over, and I afterwards found it preferable to not have them in my life, I’m hard pressed to imagine a situation where I would want to welcome them back in. We can each live our separate lives as best we can.

I think this is a good idea in theory but in practice it tends to be ‘let me check this off my list’ and bothers the ‘amended’ person more than helps them. I suspect most AA programs are WAY more focused on helping the addict than making sure that the addict seeking redemption doesn’t hurt the other person - I get the impression that there’s a very ‘us against them’ attitude in AA groups because of bonding over the shared experiences. And it doesn’t help that a lot of people are in AA because they have to be because it took things getting to ‘Jail or clean’ or ‘clean or kicked out’ for them to realize what’s going on - for anyone like that, getting the ‘box checked off’ is going to be a huge priority.

I had a guy stop by at work one day wanting to give me a couple hundred dollars to repay a bad debt. He mentioned it was a step in his program.

I looked up his name and discovered it was a 12 year old debt, sent to collections 11 3/4 years ago.

I told him I didn’t want the money; it’d be a pia to calculate my percentage and then send the bulk of it on to the collection agency. He kept insisting that he owed me the money, I kept correcting him that he owed the collection agency the money and they owed me a tiny percentage.

The argument became tiresome and I asked him to get off my property. I never did hear from collections about the guy.

I have never had anyone make amends to me for something that didn’t just recently happen. I have had a couple of guys repay 5 or 10 dollar old loans when I ran into them.

A few times I have made some amends at high school reunions for some minor thing. I have wanted to make amends to someone now for over 20 years, he shared something with me in confidence and I discussed it with my wife who took it directly back to his wife. I have no excuses and feel terrible about it. I have not seen him since.

You’ve got a couple of misconceptions here. In my experience, there’s nothing even approaching an “us vs. them” mentality in AA. Sure, we bond over common experience. But not in opposition to people we’ve hurt or non-alcoholics generally. The amends process may be misguided, but not for this reason. Most of us are just trying to 1) not die and 2) be better people. It doesn’t always work.

Second, people who attend AA solely because they are forced to by a court order do not do the steps. It just doesn’t happen. Nobody is making amends because a court forces them to do so. Courts care about attendance–you have to show up and get a piece of paper signed. No boxes to check. Unless and until people start attending because they want to, they don’t get sponsors, don’t do the steps, don’t volunteer to make the coffee, etc, much less start to make amends. They sit in the back of the room with their caps pulled over their eyes and escape as quickly as possible.

It’s bad enough that courts mandate AA attendance–court mandated steps would be just awful for all concerned. I do know many people who came to AA because they had to and stuck around to make it work for themselves, but the voluntary part is crucial.

Sounds like a lot of ‘no sponsor’ or a ’ not so good sponsor’ and rushing it.

25 years sober in about 2 weeks and have done a lot of amends and received many also. And attempted amends that were ill timed or not well thought out.

The amount of intolerance and ‘it is only about me’ of folks in general as represented by my actual experiences and the reactions in this thread shows just how much this step needs some very careful application from the recovering persons side.

The receiver side is under no obligation to be tolerant, understanding or nice or patient.

The world is round
It is not fair
It is just round

↑ ↑ ↑ So true so much of the time and the majority of non addicts do not get this even if they try to understand.

Maybe. There was a guy at my 5 year high school reunion who made a big scene apologizing to many people, including me, for being such a dick and bully in high school. He was drunk at the time, so it most likely wasn’t AA. But a few years later I heard about 12- step programs and wondered if he had been in one (anger management, maybe?)

Not only have I had this happen, but when I refused to hear the 12-stepper in question out, his sponsor commenced nagging me to hear him out so that he could “make amends” and complete his step. Make no mistake, he owed amends. He owed considerably more than amends, frankly.* However, I had (and have) no interest in having him be a part of my life, even fleetingly, and I certainly had no interest in having an active part of his recovery, which is what both he and the sponsor strongly implied I owed him.

At the time (which was quite some time ago, mind you), having any contact with him was at the bottom of my list of things I wanted. Frankly, to this day, I don’t give a red rat’s ass if meeting with me in a coffee shop to apologize would have helped his recovery or in some way aided in his therapy. What I know is that it would not have been beneficial to my mental health at the time - and what was even less beneficial was him and the sponsor hounding me about it. Both of them were clearly very focused on what was best for the 12-stepper, and neither one of them were giving so much as a passing thought to my feelings on the matter. I eventually had to threaten (and I meant it!) to get a restraining order against the pair of them to make them stop - at which point they proceeded to piss and moan to anyone who’d listen about what a heartless bitch I was.

The thing is, for a lot of people, they view the opportunity to “make amends” and reap the following glow of righteous self-satisfaction as essentially an entitlement. They don’t actually have any real interest in making it up to their victim - or providing the victim with any value. If you’re looking to make amends and the proposed recipient of the amends has cut you entirely out of their life, respect their goddamn decision.

I eventually moved all the way across the damn country in part to get away from the situation. For a while, I still got occasional attempts at contact from him so he could make his fucking amends. They never seemed to come with either anything tangible or any sincere admission that he’d inflicted actual injury on me. The attempts finally stopped, and I have no interest in determining if he finally thought better of his behavior or if he’s in prison or dead or what have you. Literally all I care about is that the attempts have stopped.
*While drunk, after I had broken up with him because he was an unrepentant drunk, he broke into my apartment in the middle of the goddamn night and attempted to “persuade” me to get back together with him by crawling into bed with me, naked and ready to go. Upon being brained with my bedside lamp, during my daring escape to the bathroom, where I promptly locked myself in, opened the window, and commenced screaming, he stole my purse, including my keys and then used my keys to steal my fucking car, which he wrapped around a telephone pole two blocks from his parents’ place. He walked from my totaled car home, passed out again, and swore up and down he did no such thing and I’d done it to myself to make him look bad. I was a broke college student and he was the only child of a county prosecutor, so the matter was quietly dropped despite the charges I insisted on pressing.

Yes, I’ve had the same thought reading this thread. Not that it helps the person receiving the rushed and poorly thought-out amend, alas.

A lot of people repeat the steps because they really botched them the first time.

ETA: Oh man, I’m really sorry, Aangelica. That’s really horrible–all of it.

I recently had what I *think *was a sort of “make amends” thing.

Here at my law firm, there is an associate who had obviously developed a problem, we think substance abuse, but no facts were shared with the staff. He really started to look like hell - grew a Brent Burns beard, started a “man bun” hairdo, and went about puffy-eyed and out of it. In his earlier sober days, he and I used to have fun conversations about Coen Brothers movies, but as he descended, he started to avoid eye contact and would mumble when I greeted him.

A few months ago, it looked like he was trying to clean up his act so that he could keep his job. One day he actively sought me out and started a conversation about the Coen Brothers. He was polite and (slightly aggressively) outgoing. I was surprised, but I chatted with him cautiously and hoped for the best.

It all came to naught, however. He seemed to go back to his inebriant ways, and an email announcing that he’s no longer with the firm was just sent around yesterday.

Heh, what it really was was supremely typical of him. Absolute confidence in both his own general awesomeness and his total infallibility. Never a self-doubt in his life. Also never a consideration of anyone else - selfish and self-absorbed and spoiled rotten. He’d gotten what he wanted, everything his own way, his entire life. If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on Mommy and Daddy making AA a condition of his continuing to live off the family teat rather than a genuine desire to change his ways.

In hindsight, a decade and a half later, there wasn’t really any lasting harm to me. My insurance paid out enough on the car for me to buy a slightly better used car than the one he totaled, I actually got my entire purse (and its contents) returned to me by the police within 24 hours. Dealing with the freaking amends was miserable at the time, but it gave me some harsh and lasting (and much-needed) practice in the realm of self care and saying no and goddamn well making it stick, even through someone trying hard to guilt me into doing something I had no desire to do. I got considerably better about not putting up with other people’s bullshit in the name of being polite. The line between “appropriate self-care” and “exhibiting good manners” can be remarkably tricky for me to navigate - and this whole mess gave me some good practice.

It helps that I was far from the only person to whom he owed amends - even though I probably represented the single-biggest offense on his list. I was - justifiably, I think - a lot more pissed about the goddamn sponsor’s behavior than the 12-stepper.

I don’t know if either person was going through twelve steps explicitly, but I have had two people try to make apologies in this way as part of therapy, self-help, whatever.

One of them was my father, who stayed true to character in making it all about him. He projected what he thought was wrong, projected what he thought I felt about it and checked his apologies off of his to-do list. Had we been honest about anything, I’d have told him that the real problem is that he’s a manipulative asshole who presumes to know how other people feel… but clearly he wasn’t working on that.

The other was a person I really didn’t know all that well, and I honestly hadn’t been all that affected by his problem. But he at least had the decency to start by asking me about how it had affected me and then working his amends around information I provided. He was at least making an effort to learn about and address the problems he caused. Maybe a little over-thorough by adding me to his, but I respected him for the effort.