Part of recovery is apologizing, or making amends. I have always assumed this but, actually, for the first time ever, I just Googled Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Steps and found that Making Amends is Step Nine. It’s about saying sorry to those I have hurt by things I’ve said or done. (Or so I thought, until Missy so graciously corrected me in her comment below. I’m new at this recovery thing and haven’t properly learned or gone through the 12 steps. However, I am sober. So, there’s that. Now, back to the point of this post …)
I’ve said sorry. A lot. And, I have been forgiven.
Surely, there are still some apologies I need to make. Perhaps I have yet to realize what they are. And, I know sometimes the best apology I can offer is the promise that I will never drink again.
Saying “I’m sorry” is something I learned at a very young age, long before I’d tasted my very first sip of alcohol. Well, maybe not – my mother used to give us sips of blackberry brandy when we had an upset stomach and sometimes when we couldn’t fall asleep. “I’m sorry” used to slip out of my mouth as subconsciously as taking a breath of air, and I had a habit of uttering the words when things weren’t my fault. I’d say “I’m sorry” when I knew someone wasn’t going to like something I said or did (despite the fact I knew I had made the right decision), or when they would be disappointed in how something worked out even when I had nothing to do with it. I adopted the “I’m sorry” and routinely apologized for my personal shortcomings even when the only problem was that I hadn’t measured up to my own perfectionist standards.
Happily, those days are over. I’m emotionally stronger, but not heartless. If you lose a loved one, I will express my condolences and will say “I’m sorry.” I’ll say it a lot. And, I’ll hug you and cry with you.
However, there are certain times when I will no longer say “I’m sorry.” For example:
- I will not apologize for how uncomfortable you feel when I tell you I don’t drink, that I am an alcoholic in recovery and I am deeply committed to my sobriety. If that makes you squirm a little (or a lot), I will simply welcome you to the world outside your comfort zone. Come on in and make yourself at home – it’s where I live these days.
- I will not apologize for calling out your misperceptions of me. If you undervalue me and my professionalism, expertise, and work ethic, I will correct you. Example (this happened last month): If you and I are standing in the pre-blizzard checkout line at the local grocery store and you suggest I take out my camera, photograph the scene, and “write a cute little article” for the weekly community newspaper, I will not internalize your wrong impression of my career just to go home and down a bottle of wine as I pathetically stew over how after so very many conversations about my work over the years you could have gotten me so very wrong. I will respectfully question you and politely defend myself as a solo public relations practitioner with local, regional, and national clients and not a community newspaper reporter.
- I will not apologize for hosting a dry party in my home. Especially when it’s a girls’ night out for moms and their eight-year-old daughters. Another true story: Last fall, my daughter and I invited over her cheerleading squad and their moms for a Friday night dessert party and to make a giant paper run through for a special football game. One mom (out of 15) said she’d bring wine. I replied, “Actually, I’m not going to be serving alcohol at this party. One, I don’t think it’s appropriate with the kids present and, two, I am an alcoholic in recovery and I prefer not to have it in the house.” It was the first time I had “come out” to someone I barely knew. She looked at me like I had 10 heads and said nothing. The night of the party, she walked in with two bottles of Chardonnay, and asked me to open whichever one I liked best and pour her a glass. I’m not often speechless, but my jaw just hung open. Dumbfounded and not wanting to cause a scene, I obliged her. She drank two glasses, pouring the second for herself, and left both bottles behind at the end of the night. The next day, I belted out my best evil laugh as I dumped the contents of both bottles down the drain.
- I will not apologize for killing your buzz when I raise a glass of something else to your virtual happy hour toast on Facebook. If you ask your friends to join in your “It’s 5:00 p.m. on Friday and I made it through another week of Hell” celebration and post what they’re drinking, I’m not sitting out just because I don’t have wine in my glass. Hey, it’s iced tea o’clock – cheers!
- I will not apologize for refusing to split the tab evenly when everyone else has had two margaritas and I’ve hydrated with free tap water. One of the benefits of sobriety is the significant cost savings, and my days of buying rounds are ancient history.
The one apology I continue to make at least daily is to me, for taking so long to get my act together and spending so many years treating me so badly. And, as selfish as that may sound, I am not sorry.
An amends should never consist of “i’m sorry”. You admitted you have said them so any times in the past. That’s not what an amends is about anyways! Probably shouldn’t put things in your blog you know nothing about. Just saying.
Thanks so much for your comment, Missy. I am admittedly not a 12-stepper and have a lot to learn. In the spirit of not apologizing, I will simply thank you for the tough love and wish you all the best.
Emily, i am so proud of you.
Missy, if you can’t say anything nice please don’t say anything at all to my dear friend who is sharing her struggle.
I actually really like the things she has to say on her blog as a whole. Just as someone who is actively working the 12 steps it bothers me when people assume what they are for. I’m merely standing up for my program. I like the blog honestly.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Missy. I’m so happy you clarified your original comment. You absolutely should defend your program. I would do the same thing if the roles were reversed. Respectfully using our knowledge and expertise to pay it forward and help others battling this ugly disease is an important charge.
Love this non-apology list! I’m newly in recovery and doing it without AA as well. Thanks for putting your experiences into words. I’ve enjoyed catching up on your past entries and look forward to more!
Steph, thank you so much for reading and commenting! Congratulations to you on starting your sobriety journey – so difficult but so very worth it! I hope you’ll say hello from time to time. XO
I love this post. I guess I will have to agree to disagree with Missy. I am a very active participant in AA for many years, and Saying “I’m sorry” was sometimes a part of my amends. It was wonderful to really mean it. For many years it was just a way to get out of trouble or get off the bad side of someone I needed something from.
I work the 12 Steps and have learned to live by the principles of the 12 steps. It is wonderful to say I’m sorry and really mean it. When I take my daily inventory one of the things I look at is if I have harmed anyone with my actions or words. If I realize I have and I am sorry — I say “I’m sorry”. I am not perfect…my old behaviors still pop up at times. I’m sorry is still sometimes required.
I have loved the shift from constantly saying I am sorry (even for things I didn’t need to be sorry for but I always felt guilty about EVERYTHING, as if somehow it was my fault) to now only saying it when I mean it. And, I love embracing that perfect imperfection. XOXO