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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, May 2, 2016

Making Amends Heals Relationships

By Allen Nohre, Terros Health

Making amends for one’s alcohol and drug behavior is an extremely satisfying part of recovery from addiction. Amends can heal relationships, but they are not always easy to make. Addiction behavior can cause harm to others. The outcome of this behavior can sometimes result in shattered relationships, law breaking, and physical abuse.
Amends are more than just apologies. The Eighth Step of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous calls for making a list of all persons who have been harmed during the addiction and making amends with them. An apology is telling a person you are sorry you spent the $1,000 they gave you on drugs, while making amends is actually paying the money back.
The Ninth Step describes taking action to make amends with those people who were impacted during the addiction, except for when doing so would cause more hurt. Making an amend that heals requires honesty, caring and thoughtfulness. The making amends process can benefit from the guidance of a sponsor or counselor.
Sobriety and a commitment to recovery is the first step. Terros Health has specialized in outpatient and residential treatment programs to help get recovery started.

To learn more about amends, I interviewed three people, Marla, Ross and Tim, whose amends greatly contributed to their recovery. Their touching stories help us better understand amends, the courage it takes to make them, and the joy of renewed relationships and freedom once the amends have been made.

We are a Family Again

 In early December, Marla’s apartment was decorated for Christmas and ready for a weekend with her children. It was the very first time Marla and her six children, ages two to thirteen, had been together as a family. “It was the best weekend of my life,” Marla said. It was because of Marla’s courageous decision to stop using drugs that made this reunion possible.

After Marla and her husband divorced six years ago, he received custody of their two children. “For the next six years, I used drugs excessively and fractured my relationship with my family. Sadly, drugs were more important than my family. I had a boyfriend who was my drug partner and the father of my next four children. Eventually, I was homeless, pregnant, and frightened, walking the streets with my little children. Fortunately, the Department of Child Safety learned about our dire situation and took care of my four children. 

Marla was then referred to Terros Health’s Families FIRST program for substance use treatment and recovery. She was sober for a short period of time, but then went back to using. Finally, after realizing she needed residential treatment to make a serious attempt to get off of drugs, Marla entered Phoenix Rescue Mission on July 22, 2013. 

“I knew in my heart I was going to change,” Marla said. “That’s my sobriety date, as well as the day I called my mother and said I was going to change. Of course my parents had heard that before, but this time I knew in my heart it was true.” 

Six months later, she re-enrolled in Families FIRST and continued her recovery work with the help of clinician April Brown. Marla couldn’t find enough words of praise for April. “April is a professional with experience helping parents like me,” Marla said. “She showed me how to advocate for myself and for my children. She never gave up on me and that helped me to not give up on myself. Without the support I received at Terros Health and, especially from April, I might have slipped.”
Marla began to make amends and re-establish a relationship with her parents. According to Marla, “When I was my deep into my addiction, I continually hurt my parents and refused their attempts to help me. I accused them of pushing me away. Of course, that wasn’t true; I was rejecting them. I hadn’t spoken to them in two years when I entered rehab. In the midst of my addiction, they had finally given up on me. All trust between us was broken.”

She wrote to them every week during her residential treatment. After rehab, enough trust had been established for Marla to move in with her parents while her children remained with their DCS foster parents. She continued with outpatient treatment three days a week at Terros Health and attended Narcotics Anonymous.

Now, after nearly three years of sobriety, and proving she is capable of being a good mother, her four youngest children live with her full-time. During the day, Marla’s mother takes care of the children while Marla works as a Head Chiropractic Assistant. “Because of the trust we’ve built between us and our commitment to the kids, it is working well,” Marla said. “At times it is hectic with four young kids, but it seems normal and manageable.”
Marla makes it clear that making amends and building trust with her parents is an ongoing process. 

“We’ve made wonderful progress and we are a great family, but sometimes there is concern,” she said. “For example, last night, my Dad asked me if I had seen my former boyfriend, who is the father of my four youngest children. My parents have some understandable fear that I will get back with him and do drugs again. There’s no way I will do that. I have a full-time job, I’m a full-time mom, and I’ve changed from being an addict to a recovering addict.”
Marla has also made amends with her former husband, the father of her two oldest children. She’s had honest, heart-to-heart conversations with him and told him, “When I was using drugs, I accused you of trying to take the two kids from me. Now I know that wasn’t true. You were doing what you could to protect our children from my erratic drug-affected behavior.”
At one point, Marla was struggling to make child support payments and was $12,000 behind. “Out of the blue, my former husband went to court and had my child support payments nullified. He said, ‘Let’s wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.’ I was shocked and thankful.”
“I am so grateful to my Mom and Dad, my loving and understanding children, my former husband, April Brown, and to many others who have supported me in my recovery,” Marla said. “They have responded to my amends and now our relationships are healing and becoming healthy. I have also made amends with myself. I am finally able to lovingly re-connect with the true me.”

Marla is a Head Chiropractic Assistant at a health clinic.


An Amend Gives Ross Freedom

Ross is an active member of Alcoholic Anonymous and has been sober for 42 years. However, in his 16th year of sobriety and recovery, he hit a crisis. He had been following the Twelve Steps of AA, including Step Eight, making a list of persons he had harmed when he was drinking, and Step Nine, making direct amends to those people, but there was a big amend he had not made. Sixteen years earlier, while he was drinking heavily, he had destroyed a place of business. 
“I was hired to start a fire that destroyed a construction company building,” Ross said. “Through the years, I couldn’t find a way to start the amends for what I had done. I just prayed about it”
Sixteen years later, Ross was leading an AA meeting, when he met a new member. He asked the new member to lunch and found out he was from Ross’s hometown. In fact, the new member lived on the same street where the construction company was located. 

In a moment of openness, Ross said to him, “I have a very uncomfortable feeling when that street is mentioned because I started a fire there back in 1963.” As he said that, Ross saw the shocked look on his lunch partner’s face. His lunch partner grimaced and said, “That building was my father’s construction company and I have always said I would kill the S.O.B who did it if I ever met him.” Ross said he was so shook-up and frightened that he could hardly speak. “It was probably because we were brothers in AA that the two of us managed to continue a civil, but awkward conversation,” Ross said.

That evening, Ross read and re-read Steps Eight and Nine, spoke with his sponsor, and asked for a discussion of Steps Eight and Nine at the AA meeting the next morning. Listening to the discussion, Ross came to the conclusion that he needed to try making amends with the owner. Also, now the owner’s son was now carrying a secret that was Ross’s responsibility. He said, “I felt God was instructing me on how to make this amend.”

After the son consulted with his sponsor, he gave Ross his dad’s phone number. Ross was fully aware that the result of this phone call could be prison for him, because there was no statute of limitation on arson.

Ross remembers that when he reached for the phone he began to cry. He said, “My cry was a deep, guttural sob and I told God this going to any length to make amends is so, so hard.” When he got control of himself, Ross dialed the number and a man answered.

The moment of truth had arrived for Ross. Despite his apprehension, he said, “Sir, my name is Ross and I just met your son in AA. He knows why I am calling and he gave me your number. Sir, I know that in 1963 you had a fire at your construction company. I am calling to tell you that I was the one who started it. I never, until now, had a way of approaching you. I want to make amends for what I did, even if that means going to prison.”

There was a long silence on the phone, as the business owner was trying to understand what he had just heard and Ross was anxiously wondering what the man was going to say. Ross said, “When he began to speak I could hear and feel the emotion in his voice and then I was stunned by what he said.”

The voice on the other end of the line said, “Ross, calling me after all of these years takes guts. I’m sure you paid dearly for your actions, and I have no ill feelings toward you. I believe it is very important that you’ve met my son and he will need your kind of courage to stay sober. You are an example for him. Ross, you can sleep in good conscience. Please continue to follow your God’s instructions and enjoy your sobriety.”

After Ross recovered from hearing this unbelievably good news, he called his new AA friend, the owner’s son, and thanked him for helping him with this very difficult amend.
Thinking back on this incredible experience, Ross reflected, “For 16 years I had lived in fear. If a cop pulled me over for a broken taillight, I panicked and this fear was holding me back from being free. 

My fear left me, and my burden was lifted. This whole experience, including the coincidence of meeting the owner’s son, had everything to do with guidance from my Higher Power. It was a miracle in my life. During my 42 years in AA, I have seen other miracles like these.”

Ross is a Peer Health and Wellness Coach at Terros Health. 


Some Amends Require Cash and Some Take Time

Tim began his recovery from a chaotic and destructive life of methamphetamine addiction more than five years ago. 

“My life was crashing down on me,” Tim said. “I had stolen a car, and had a court order for more than $20,000 of restitution — money I didn’t have. I was looking at about three years of prison. I tried outpatient treatment but kept using. I admitted myself to residential treatment, but I was high on the day I walked in, and I left in two days. My life got more chaotic and I became more desperate. 

Every day I would resolve not to use meth, and every evening I would get back from construction work and use again.

“My probation officer again told me I needed residential treatment. I finally admitted myself to the Terros Health Maverick House residential treatment program. That day was the beginning of my new life as I committed myself to using the Twelve Steps of recovery.

“To keep my recovery going, I attend several groups every week and talk to my sponsor frequently. I have a passion to bring the message that recovery is absolutely possible. I lead a group at the Salvation Army and one at Tent City, and I help others by being their sponsor.” 

Tim was enjoying his new life without the misery and chaos of methamphetamines. But, the court order of $20,000 restitution was still hanging over his head. Then an amazing thing happened — Tim inherited $20,000. He was now facing a critical ethical decision. Tim was familiar with Steps Eight and Nine, the process of making amends for any harm he had done, but he wanted to use the money to buy a Harley motorcycle. With the guidance of his sponsor, he decided the right thing to do was to make amends by paying the restitution. 

“I was relieved,” Tim said. “The restitution was paid off and the heavy burden was off of me. I knew I did the right thing. In fact, it was what I had to do for myself.”

Amends don’t always bring immediate reconciliation. With nearly a year of sobriety, Tim went to his son, who was in his mid-20s, to make amends for being such a lousy father during all those years of using methamphetamine. His son’s initial response was reserved. He listened to his dad and said, 

“You’ve told me you are sorry so many times, and I am skeptical.” Then he added, “Dad, we’re good.” Rebuilding the relationship took a while as Tim continued to grow in his recovery. Now they have a good relationship and Tim loves visiting his son and grandchildren.
Tim also had another amend to make — he had not seen or talked to his dad since he was 17-years-old. His dad had been a heavy drinker and Tim didn’t know if he was dead or alive. One day, out of the blue, Tim’s half-brother called and shocked Tim by saying, “Dad is here.” Tim could hear his dad in the background say something like why would I want to talk to that S.O.B., but they got on the phone and his dad asked if he wanted to meet for breakfast.

“On a Saturday morning I was driving to the restaurant, crying and telling my sponsor on my cell phone, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ When I did my Fourth Step, my father was my number one resentment. My sponsor said, ‘Take this opportunity to make amends.’ I parked my car and saw a man waiting outside. My father had been a big burly man. The man in front of the restaurant was much older and smaller than I had remembered. When he saw me, we both started crying. We talked about many things and I learned my dad had stopped drinking 27 years ago. 

The tried and true principles of recovery are the center of Tim’s life. Interestingly, his dad is sober but has never gone to recovery groups. However, Tim was thrilled and deeply touched when his father came to Tim’s recovery group on the anniversary of his fourth year of sobriety. His father saw Tim get his four-year chip, and his father came the next year and saw Tim get his five-year chip. 
Tim concluded our conversation by saying, “I now have a normal life like I’ve always wanted. My dad is proud of me and I am happy to have him, my son, and my grandchildren back in my life. And I’m doing ordinary things, like paying my bills. My normal life is so amazing and satisfying.”

Tim is a Facilities Technician at Terros Health

Thanks to Marla, Ross and Tim for sharing their amends experiences.


About the Author
Allen Nohre is a writer for Terros Health. Terros Health provides culturally responsive, integrated and evidence-based physical health, addiction and mental health, mobile psychiatric crisis services, and community prevention and education. With facilities in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, Terros Health touched the lives of more than 50,000 Arizonans in 2015. 


For more information and assistance call 602-685-6000 or visit www.terros.org