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Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:11 pm
by Kande
My mother is an alcoholic who has been in and out of AA (and sobriety) for many years. She first got sober when I was in my 40s. After rehab, but during her first year she called me without a heads up on what she wanted to talk about. She never mentioned "amends" per se. But she did formally apologize for a handful of things. She also wanted to know if I always knew that she loved me. (Carefully worded so I could say yes, without pointing out that I never FELT loved - but I did know it.)

A few months later she set up a time to meet with my father. She cancelled the meeting at the last minute and later send him an email saying she was sorry that things had gotten so bad between them, but they were just kids after all. He felt totally hurt and insulted.

She fell off the wagon about two years later, and has mostly failed to stay sober since then, but says she's been in AA again for the past two years. Of course there was a lot of the usual lying, stealing, abusing, drunk crap while she was drinking. If she's really working the steps again, should I expect another attempt at amends?

Here's my issue - the things she apologized for were NOT the things that scarred me. She didn't ask for any input, and I was caught off guard. I also wanted to respect that the call was about her process, not mine. But the experience left me with reopened wounds, as well as the feeling that she felt "cleansed" while I just felt ignored. And I then had to "keep the secrets" of how much she hurt my dad, and how much she lied and abused family members when she fell off the wagon. For myself, I doubt if my mom and I can have a real relationship until she learns/wants to listen. I'm not going to waste my emotional energy telling her stuff she's unwilling to hear, especially since it would cause her pain, at least until she creatively revised it into something she could explain away.

So my question is - in the amends process, doesnt the alcoholic need to somehow find out if they have addressed the things that actually hurt the recipient, or is it really just about what THEY think was hurtful? I get that it needs to be about her healing, and that my healing is my own responsibility. But it does seem like it leaves a huge blind spot.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:43 pm
by Blue Moon
An amends is to put things right. An apology may be part of it, but often not the whole.

I cannot mend the way I treated you last week, but I can amend the way I treat you today and in future. I perhaps cannot mend the financial hardship you suffered as the direct result of my stealing all those years ago, but I can make amends by repaying the debt as much as I reasonably can.

Some debts can never be repaid, be they financial or emotional. But we can choose to stop incurring more hardship. You need to decide for yourself to what extent she can be reasonably expected to undo whatever was done before, or to simply stop redoing it.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:38 pm
by Layne
When I start an amends, it is not to make me feel better. It is not to make you feel better. It is about taking a first step towards healing "us", not me, not you. It is about mending a broken relationship. It is not a one and done, whew glad that is over, I feel better now moment. It is a process. True healing takes time and effort.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:24 am
by positrac
I will say that I am an alcoholic and I am selfish as hell! Why? I dunno! Now looking back at my start I am selfish because my parents who raised me for 11 years taught me to be selfish because they both were selfish. Yes they kept a roof over my head, clothed, clean and fed. But loved was not in the cards like I mentally expected. So I left home and lived another 6.5 years in a boy's home and I had to put my selfish ways to work for survival. I grow up and enter the world ready to work, drink and be a man.

Once I got sober I made amends on the stuff I felt guilty over and I am not sure if it ever answered things like why was I such a putz! But what I needed to do was work on the guilt in order to see the light on my actions and how to not do them again, and or try not to repeat my past.

The hardest thing to swallow is I can't change: People, Places and or Things no matter how I want to at times it ain't gonna happen! So how do I get over the pains of my childhood? I stuffed them for years until one day I exploded and cried and couldn't control myself because I was broken. My parents are gone and I rarely think of my mum, because in the end she was still holding firm on her actions as a stubborn Scottish women. My da well I had a fight which then turned into love and I knew once I said good bye I'd never see him again and damn it he died the next week! I didn't even have time to expect it and I think in a small way my da was waiting for me to say our peace so he could get on the other side. It brought me peace and I think of him a lot after 3 years and my mum rarely. So our personal amends are what we make them and some faith that all of this crap can be processed. I know this was about me, although in my mind I am expressing my experiences with pain of rejection from my parents. Anger is a real pain in the tukhus it only festers and lives rent free in our head. The real question is what is your expectation and then find a way to manage to find peace on your terms as once they are gone then it is all over with no do overs.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:44 pm
by Kande
Thanks for all for your thoughtful replies, they gave me some good insights. Realistically I don't think my mom can or will undo anything. As long as she continues to hop on and off the wagon, I expect her to continue her behavior, and its my responsibility to protect myself. I guess what I would like, when she's sober, is just an acknowledgement of ALL her actions. But wanting that is my issue. She gets to decide what issues she deals with, or not.

I've been assuming the amends process would be a natural time for her to be open to input, but maybe its tough enough to do without me complicating things. Assuming she ever offers me another.

Its hard for me to imagine a person can truly be successful at recovery without listening to what others have to say. But I can't make her listen, and I'm not sure she wants to recover.

So I guess I should be checking out Al-Anon again!

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 7:07 pm
by Brock
I hope your mother does not continue the off and on the wagon habit she has in the past, hopefully she will have reached the bottom necessary for her to give herself completely to the program. Step nine where amends is made, is at a point in the program that a person should be on solid ground, because making amends over and over each time we sober up is not wise, people get tired of hearing it and don’t take it seriously. The literature suggests that it’s a process that takes time, especially where family members are concerned, very much a ‘living amends,’ they then come to see we are serious about it. Here is a section from the big book speaking of reconstruction -
Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We
must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are
sorry won’t fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with
the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it,
being very careful not to criticize them…

And three parts from step nine in the 12 & 12 -
...we usually want to sit down with some member of the family and readily admit the damage we have done by our drinking. Almost always we want to go further and admit other defects that have made us hard to live with.

At this first sitting, it is necessary only that we make a general admission of our defects. It may be unwise at this stage to rehash certain harrowing episodes. Good judgment will suggest that we ought to take our time. While we may be quite willing to reveal the very worst, we must be sure to remember that we cannot buy our own peace of mind at the expense of others.

As soon as we begin to feel confident in our new way of life and have begun, by our behavior and example, to convince those about us that we are indeed changing for the better, it is usually safe to talk in complete frankness with those who have been seriously affected, even those who may be only a little or not at all aware of what we have done to them.

Telling us here of your feelings about the way your mother approached doing this, will help others to be more thoughtful in their own approach, maybe asking for input on things they may have ‘forgotten.’ Best of luck to both yourself and your mother.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:07 pm
by Chelle
I am the daughter of a mother who never recovered from alcoholism, and also the mother of a daughter who has. I can not possibly apologize for all of the things that I have done that have harmed her, but did my best of which I could remember. We have grown closer in my sobriety, and as a result have had many long talks. They were never "forced talks" but she has shared things that have scarred her that i was oblivious to.I have apologized as they have come up. I have vowed to never make her feel that way ever again. If she had come at me with a laundry list of things I had done to her, it would have been very hurtful.

I hope that your mom can get long term sobriety, but it is possible that she can not. I had to love mine in spite of all the harm, and that involved distance to protect myself at times. She died in her addiction. I sought help in a therapist to work through the wreckage of her past. I forgive her. She was sick. She did not intentionally cause me harm. Alanon can help you to detatch and is a wonderful resource.

I wish you peace and hope you can forgive her. Not for her, but for you. Loving us is difficult. Please don't lose faith.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:39 am
by Blue Moon
Kande wrote:Thanks for all for your thoughtful replies, they gave me some good insights. Realistically I don't think my mom can or will undo anything. As long as she continues to hop on and off the wagon, I expect her to continue her behavior, and its my responsibility to protect myself.

If she keeps drinking, it means she still keeps running away from something, which means she never really made amends. She's incapable of doing so until she's ready to face reality.... really face it, warts'n'all, without running back to a bottle .

But .... clearly she felt something about how you were treated as a child, some remorse, because IMO amends is one of the tougher things we try to do. We risk rejection, which can be very difficult as we spent so long being motivated by outside forces. When all of our self-worth comes from external factors (booze, relationships, work etc.), risking losing those factors is not an easy thing to do. This is why amends is at Step 9, rather than earlier ... we need to be in a position where we can risk rejection without relapse.

So her effort means something, even if it was half-baked, poorly done, and amounted to nothing. I suggest not to completely discredit the effort, even if it's not up to your notion of what amends should be. It was done too soon and/or without good directions in how to proceed.

I still suggest you look at your own expectations of what amends really means to you, and whether it's reasonable and realistic. This is where Alanon may be of benefit, whether she's drunk or not, whether she's making amends or not. Get yourself into a place where it truly doesn't matter to you if she makes amends or not, and you'll not need anything from her to determine whether you can feel safe with the outcome.

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:32 am
by odat12
I'm newly sober but went to Al-Anon for a long time. I made amends with my father a few years back (through my Al-Anon program) by changing the things I can - changing my attitude towards him. We didn't talk for years and he yearned for forgiveness. We're not close now but we do talk and see each other more than ever before. His alcoholism turned into schizophrenia. I have amends to make with him through AA but I know I'm not ready for that, in the meantime I will do my best to make a better relationship between us - one interaction at a time. An amends can be a simple change of our attitude towards the person. And I'm talking your amends to her. Our expectations of others cause resentments. And these resentments allow us to treat people in certain ways. A relationship is two people. The hurt makes us believe we had no part in it, but we did. It's our job to find out what that part was. For me, I talked ill of my father because I was so angry. I gossiped and judged him - hurting his reputation. I felt justified in doing so because my sanity was blocked by self-pity. But I did have a part. It may not seem as dire as the stories I have about him but that's not the point. He was sick, and so was I. My job is to take care of me and focus on my program - whether that's AA or Al-Anon. When I focus on someone else, life becomes hell.

There's a prayer on the Just For Today card that reads this:

"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is dying that we are born to eternal life"

Your mom's step nine is HERS and we cannot judge what we've never been through. Amends is difficult. It may ease your pain a bit to learn a few things about it for yourself. Al-Anon takes a gentle approach. They changed my life as much as AA is now. Good luck!

Re: Inadequate amends?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:24 am
by positrac

That was worded well because self pity is one of the root causes that I held on to because I had an expectation that didn't go my way. Gossiping the issues did make me just as guilty in some aspects as my parents lack of concern and or ability to act concerned.

I guess in the perfect world we'd all be responsible drinkers and just come from attentive parents with total understanding. I am not sure if I'd like that come to think of it...... Great prayer posted.