How to Make Amends With the People You Wronged as an Addict

Making Amends With the People You Wronged as an Addict

How to Make Amends With the People You Wronged as an Addict

Sequence of Rehabilitation

When a person is being rehabilitated from drug or alcohol addiction, they go through a specific series of actions that must be done in sequence. Of course each program is different, but in general it is inadvisable to mix up the sequence. The first step obviously is detoxification, an exact process involving cessation of drug intake while managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It would be quite impossible to manage rehab while uncontrollable drug cravings are present.

Once detox is accomplished, the recovering addict or alcoholic moves onto the next phase. Quite a few steps in rehab involve the person as an individual, such as getting to the roots of their addiction, why they started using, what elements in their lives have exacerbated and escalated their substance abuse, and other significant influences.

“Responsibility” is Not a Dirty Word

There is a certain point where the recovering addict looks at what HE or SHE did as starkly contrasted with what OTHERS did to them.

This is an important delineation. While some believe things just happen to them and they had nothing to do with it, a wiser look tells us otherwise. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is fundamental to recovery. “Responsibility” gets a bad rap because of people who point an accusative (and often hypocritical) finger at others, telling them how wrong or bad or awful or reprehensible or degraded they are.

Authentic two-way communication, understanding, and compassion on the subjects of responsibility, ethics, and integrity are vastly more effective approaches. When done correctly, these steps result in the individual wanting to personally make amends for past wrongdoing. They get motivated to do something about it and restore broken bonds with family, friends, and associates. These are some of the basic steps taken by a recovering addict or alcoholic to make amends with the others:


Some of the first steps involve taking inventory of which friends, family members, etc. the person feels were wronged while they were abusing drugs and alcohol. They will usually start with people in their own family. They may have stolen from their parents, spouse, even their kids in order to get money for drugs. They may have been involved in a considerable amount of familial strife.

They will then communicate with these individuals either verbally or in the form of a letter. Their personal message will often be something on the order of them apologizing and wanting to make amends for past wrongdoing. In the letter or communication, it is not uncommon for the individual to “recant” which means to formally withdraw a previous statement or attitude. All should realize that the person standing there asking to make amends is not necessarily the same person as before. It is the actual person rather than the drug-influenced artificial personality.

Some people who are approached verbally or by letter will not wish to communicate and this must be respected. A lot of patience is required to get through these stages.

Right & Wrong

There is a fundamental urge we all have and that is the urge to be RIGHT. When two parties are fixated and determined to be RIGHT and make the other person WRONG, we have what could be aptly described as an impasse. It’s like an irresistible force meeting an immovable object or two bulls in a china shop. The person seeking to make amends is often at a bit of a disadvantage. The other party may want to vent for a while and this is understandable. When things settle down, ideally each person will be willing to have a rational and enlightening conversation.

Resolving Conflicts

When it just won’t resolve, one should look for a specific phenomenon. It could very well be that there is a person talking to both parties behind their backs and instigating conflict – a hidden third party. When this is suspected, each person should ask if anyone is speaking derogatorily and secretly about the other. This can be handled by a mediator if necessary. When this third party is discovered, it can be quite eye-opening and will serve to clear the air so the matter can be resolved.


The actions taken to make amends will vary widely. If one stole from another or destroyed property, restitution may be in order. For court-ordered amends, community service may be called for. Some people just want to see their friend or loved one get better and that is more than enough for them. As mentioned before, some of the person’s former contacts will not wish to communicate or take part in the process.

Another thing that some people do is to tell their old drug-using friends and dealers that they are clean and have chosen not to hang out with them anymore. They may also decide to appeal to some of their friends to get clean and offer to help them.

Community service, from picking up trash to helping at a youth center, is not relegated to court-ordered rehab and can be extremely therapeutic in and of itself. Knowing that you are of value to others and can make a difference in people’s lives – that is priceless!

End Result

The end result of making amends in this fashion is the compensation and resolution of conflict and damage – emotional, physical, or otherwise – in a way that is acceptable for all concerned.

It is a reconciliation of the past, a renewed sense of worth in the present, and a revitalized outlook toward a bright and successful future – free from the damage wrought by substance abuse.

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