Speaking of amends

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Today’s view.

While I was searching around for my old post about the other woman stalking us on an airplane, I somehow came across this post regarding Blue Eyes’ 8th & 9th steps and making amends. And, because Blue Eyes brought up amends in a comment on my last post (we’re not together right now, I’m at the beach house, he’s back in Portland), well, it seemed like a natural segue to talking a bit about amends.

Amends, Part Two

Whoa, reading this post and the one before it made my blood pressure go through the roof. What a horrible horrible time that was nearly three years ago. In the first sentence of the last paragraph I say…  “As far as his 8th & 9th steps, my work here is done.” Um, wow, that certainly ended up not being true at all. I was dead wrong. As Blue Eyes blundered through his 9th step, trying again and again to write a letter of amends to me, pain spilled out of me all over the fucking place. Who knew? Who knew that it would just get so much more difficult before it got better? No doubt all the spouses of sex addicts, and addicts in general, who were further along than me, and who happened to stumble on my blog, knew. They knew that there is no one day when a person has made their amends. Amends are ongoing. Amends are a way of life for an addict.

When Blue Eyes commented on my last post about how he had made amends for his clueless remark about the other woman, it got me thinking about his amends again. What does making amends mean exactly? For me, I wish he would just be kind and thoughtful and not address his angry feelings through me. But I think there are other aspects of making amends and I talk about them in that amends post:

“The thing I was impressed with during this 8th step amends list fiasco, however, is the list of positive behaviors Blue Eyes will participate in in order to make amends to himself. Among other things, he will be writing an article about sex addiction for a bar journal, and volunteering his time to a couple of local charities. He will take time he would have been acting out and put it to good use. That, I would like to see.”

Wait, what? Not sure Blue Eyes, three years later, has done these so-called amends activities for himself. Pretty sure that keeping promises made to himself is right there at the top of his list of recovery goals. Pretty sure that without keeping promises to himself, it is near impossible to keep promises to the rest of us. Just thinking out loud here…

In response to a comment by the lovely Blackacre on yesterday’s blog, I say: “It’s like we represent their addiction sometimes. They see in us all the mistakes they have made.” I think this is true for many betrayers. For someone who already struggles with wounds, with anger, with undesirable behaviors, it has got to be difficult to look at us, and not feel bad about themselves. But isn’t that the goal? To look at us and see someone who stood by them in the worst of times. Someone who tries very hard every day to love them unconditionally. For them to look at us and be grateful and to treat us with the love and respect we deserve. Isn’t that the goal?

And for the betrayers out there. I’m not trying to be mean or judgmental. I am asking for understanding and respect. I spend a great deal of time attempting to understand the behavior of my life partner. He needs to be doing the same.

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20 thoughts on “Speaking of amends

  1. Progress not Perfection. The bar just needs to always be rising way beyond just the sobriety. It is important for everyone in the family to be able to say to each other. What you said hurt me caused me suffering. Please help me help myself in an everyday life context. That’s what Kat did for me here. Conversely, I think Kat is the exception and it is really hard for a lot of us (humans in general) to say to their partner those words as they feel they have no right based on the wreckage they create and the missteps they continue to make or for other reasons. I think being open and vulnerable and speaking your suffering is a key. Not a pity party mind you, but when there is actual suffering. Doing the right thing, making amends, progressing. Practicing all the steps all the time. The Amend step was the hardest step for me. The formality of the process was great, but when speaking with Kat and my children all formalities should have been dispensed and it should just come straight from the heart….A lot of gratitude for this blog and Kat’s love. This blog to me is a love letter in kindness and of course a huge source of insight for me. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, BE. I’ll see you in a few hours and you can tell me how great I am in person. 😉 We are truly all works in progress, however, when you have trampled so thoroughly over someone’s heart, and they give you a second chance, take it. Take that opportunity to be as kind and loving and understanding and respectful as possible. Please. ❤

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  2. Speaking of making amends. I have been thinking about this one quite a bit as my husband is nearing this step. Who determines what the amends look like? I’m thinking specifically for me, or our kids. Is it whatever the SA and his sponsor or therapist think it should be? or what I feel would be amends for what was done?

    Is it only words in a letter? financial repayment in some form for all of the family dollars spent on the addiction? a sacrifice of something valued by the SA to demonstrate his real remorse in a way that causes him to lose something of value, activity he may love, a man toy he values? I have to say it bothers me more than quite a bit that when he received his inheritance from his Mother’s estate, his first purchase was a BMW man toy. I guess, since the disclosure was less than 2 years before, I would have hoped he would have thought to somehow think of me or our family first. Do I sound bitter? Maybe just a little bit.

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    • The level of self absorption it takes to be a sex addict and to do to people what these addicts do, is astonishing and it definitely doesn’t go away overnight, or maybe ever. I remember BE coming home from therapy early in recovery and going on and on about how he needed to be kinder to himself. Of course I agree that no one should be mean to themselves, but come on… for years he had been using people and self medicating and getting pleasure, hits all over the place, at the expense of other people’s feelings. No doubt he hated himself, but climb out of that hole and take a look around. Take a look at the people you have hurt while supposedly “not being kind” to yourself. I get it/don’t get it… every day. Some level of bitterness is natural. I have tried really hard to find some balance in all this. Trying not to be mean with my words, but it is difficult sometimes. For me, this isn’t even about what he did for all those years. As in your comment, this is about what he is doing today.

      As far as the actual amends step, the SA should get help from the sponsor on how to complete the step within the guidelines of 12 step. The problem I have with 12 step is often the partners are pretty much eliminated from the materials/books because it is based on alcoholics anonymous and although all addictions greatly affect the people around the addict, for us it was not obvious or known that our partners were addicts. AND, what they did within their addiction is simply not conducive to a normal intimate relationship. To me, SA is different from substance addictions and therefore the steps should be handled differently (can you tell I’m a ‘know it all’ ;)). Seriously though, we didn’t know and we’re still trying to make a life with these addicts. Their 12 step group and fellowship and friends are GREAT (I’m a big fan, now), but we are still their life partners. We should not be left out. I needed what I needed for that “amends step” and that was a letter to the long-term OW that would never be shared with her, but was for me. To show me my husband could be honest with himself, go to those evil places and explain what he was thinking and why he did it. He finally accomplished that for me and it did help me. However, making amends is forever, for life.

      When i was reading about the 4th/5th steps, in one of the documents I was reading it explained the 5th step as sharing openly your 4th step with the person you trust the most. BE chose to share the 5th step with his sponsor and another SA friend from Fellowship (because they do these things all within the context of 12 step and forget the rest of us). If I hadn’t asked all along to discuss his steps and to see some of what he was working on, I probably never would have seen any of it because the materials just do not encourage sharing with the spouse. Now, some of the guys in 12 step know that not sharing can bring on a world of hurt because the partners need to know what is going on to feel safe. Luckily BE had some of that guidance during the first run through, but not often. I was royally pissed off (anger being a secondary emotion to my pain and sadness) that during the process BE never intended to share with me. At that point, I needed EVERYTHING out on the table. And don’t get me started on the 1st step and the nightmare with the therapists about the “forgotten other woman.”

      Wow, I’m writing a novel here. Still got a lot to say even after 450 entries. This shit is real!!! xo

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  3. It occurs to me that amends are for the addict, really, and that the concept gives addicts a false sense that effort or a good deed following undesirable behavior somehow cleanses things. It doesn’t.

    Maybe that’s a necessary effort in the 12 steps, but I really don’t want to live life where my spouse thinks that they can do something hurtful and then “make amends.” Life is not one giant do-over or Mulligan. The goal has to be to cease doing anything that would necessitate amends in the first instance.

    You are also correct that they should “…look at us and see someone who stood by them in the worst of times. Someone who tries very hard every day to love them unconditionally. For them to look at us and be grateful and to treat us with the love and respect we deserve.” It is beyond my understanding why that isn’t obvious to them or why they could think that anything less would be remotely acceptable.
    xo

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    • Maybe in the process of working on the amends step, the hope should really be that as they explore what they can do and say to all those they have hurt, that they finally realize that there is absolutely nothing that can ever make amends for the pain and trauma they inflicted on those they love, and learn to go forward in their lives treating all of us with patience and grace when we need it, kindness as Kat says, and humbleness. That they have learned that just as they don’t want to be judged forever by what they have done, they won’t judge others or ridicule others for their poor choices. And I could go on and on with what I hope will be my SA’s end result when he has reached this point, knowing that genetics and environment (growing up) are not working in his favor.

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      • I don’t disagree with you as to the Steps and the importance of amends to the process of working through all 12 of them. Yes, one can say that the Steps are worked throughout the remainder of a SA’s life, but I’m not sure that the concept of amends is one I want to deal with forever. That’s just my opinion. “Restoring justice as much as possible” (as amends is often defined) is commendable, but I should not still be suffering “injustices” years down the road. If my husband triggers me or hurts my feelings I’d much rather a quick, sincere, and straightforward apology backed up by real effort to learn from the error, than any attempt to shoehorn that into the amends concept. In short, just apologize like an adult. Don’t turn it into something it’s not.

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        • For BE I do think the poor response behavior is part habit and part, as I say in the other comment, harboring anger and then displaced cynicism or downright rudeness. I often say to him that what he is seeing in me is a direct result of how he is behaving or treating me. What seems so obvious to me is never obvious to him, but he does live inside that addict brain a lot still.

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      • Strangely enough, with BE, I think his anger directed outwards is not so much about mine or anyone else’s poor choices, but is merely habitual displaced emotions. He’s angry because as a child he was ridiculed and made to feel worthless and not listened to and not given proper care or nurturing. That anger is just living there inside him and he always medicated it away. Now it slips out all over the place, and all over us. I hope he continues working on obliterating that anger because if not, things are not going to turn out the way he wants them to. xo

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    • Not having ever attended a 12 step meeting of any kind, I understand in a theoretical way that for the steps there is a specific guideline for “making amends.” I don’t give a shit about all that. I wanted what I wanted (during those steps, and as broken as I was) and eventually I got that, for me, but yeah, that’s all 12 step stuff. As far as life goes, just be kind the first time around. Not sure it should even be considered amends. You are correct. We are just asking them to act like a respectful partner. As far as what BE committed to for himself within the construct of the 8th step, I hope he revisits it. xo

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  4. I think we all need reminding of how to live well, often. I love how grounded you are, and how grounding I find your wise words, constantly. Thank you, my dear, dear friend. Don’t know how I would still be standing without you x

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  5. Pingback: The mindfuck channel | Tearing at the Fabric

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