Making a thorough amends using the 12 Step recovery methodologies doesn’t always mean that once it’s complete you’ll get everything back you lost during your addiction-laden years. Sometimes the only thing that happens is that you did your best to clear your side of the street and clean up the wreckage from your past.
I’ve worked with many people in the steps over the years and quite often one of the first things they say when beginning the sponsorship process with them is how they want their wife back, or their kids back, or their job back, or their friend back, or someone else back.
The point of the steps is not necessarily to get any of those things back. It’s to become a better person, with a better set of life values, one who has been freed of their obsession to engage in their former addiction. Trying to get something that was taken away or lost during all the years of addiction should never be the goal of anyone’s recovery. Because the problem that happens when a person bases their entire recovery with that one goal in mind is that if it doesn’t end up happening, their recovery crumbles and they tend to return then to their addiction solely out of despair. That’s not to say though that those things that are lost or taken away during addiction years don’t ever return, because sometimes they do through a lot of hard work. It’s just not a guarantee when doing the 12-step work, as sometimes the pain caused upon another is so great and so deep that those hurt don’t wish to reconnect whatsoever, even if the person in recovery has completely turned a new leaf and is nothing like their former addicted self.
The harsh reality is that sometimes a wife never returns to her recovering husband and sometimes a husband never returns to her recovering wife. Sometimes a son or daughter never reconnects with their recovering parent and sometimes a parent never reconnects with their recovering son or daughter. Sometimes a sister never fully reestablishes connection to their recovering brother and sometimes a brother never fully reestablishes connection to their recovering sister. And sometimes best friends and former employers and many others as well, never reconnect their ties to a recovering addict they once were close to.
I recently experienced this with someone who once was in love with me, a guy by the name of Tom Wells. Some 25 years ago now, he and I were inseparable and hung out pretty much all the time. I had just come into a new life of sobriety and had also just come out of the closet. I was a total mess, selfish still at the core, and hadn’t worked a lick of recovery at that point. Tom was always there for me back then, but I hardly was for him. I broke his heart and turned down all his affections and advances, even though deep down I felt the same as he, all because I was so afraid of true love and intimacy. Although he accepted my amends many years later, after I had worked on myself and my recovery, he made sure I knew that he wasn’t open to reestablishing our connection and that the door needed to remain closed because it was just too painful for him.
Sadly, the same happened with a guy by the name of Dexter Ramey. While I felt the same for him during our time together, the fear I had of true love and intimacy always kept me in addiction behaviors instead of drawing closer to him. My rejection of him hurt him immensely and even though I did my best to rectify that over the years, he too wishes to not be in contact with me at the present.
This is the price of addiction, that sometimes even with a healthy recovery and full remission, the things we loved the most that we lost somewhere along the way, never do return.
Currently, I’m facing something similar with my sister Laura. She was on the receiving end of multiple addictions that controlled me for several decades and although she has witnessed a total transformation in me and accepted the living amends I’ve made with her over the years, even commenting on how much I’ve changed for the better, there is still great pain within her that seems to come up whenever I make a mistake. I’m not sure if her wounds from me will ever fully heal. I’m not sure if she’ll ever be able to fully let go of all my past toxic behaviors that affected her so deeply. All I know is that when I screw up from time to time, as I’m not perfect, she often reminds me of my addictive past and all the pain I caused her.
Nonetheless, sometimes the pain truly has gone too deep in those we hurt during our active addictions. Sometimes they don’t return to our lives at all or sometimes they return partially but never fully. Amends making isn’t about getting them back though. It’s about becoming a better human being and not causing those you loved any more pain by doing your initial amends, then living it, and leaving the rest with God.
If whatever you lost or was taken away from your life due to addiction, does eventually come back after your recovery work and amends, be grateful, thank God, and keep working on your recovery. But if it doesn’t, keep working on recovery anyway and know you’re doing your best to make this world a better place for them, for yourself, and for everyone else as well…as that is the true key to a recovering life from addiction.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson