Apologizing- Steps 8 &9

It is apparent the stage of apologizing is very meaningful in the journey to sobriety to those who care dearly about the one addicted. Steps eight and nine address the issue clearly. It seems this is a condition those hurt need to hear to help their own healing. It’s as if that without a sincere apology for the hurt, recovery is still considered a work in progress.

Having spent much time with both sides of addiction listening and learning each time, attending meetings or having conversations with parents, loved one or those addicted certain points come up repeatedly. Steps eight and nine dealing with the apology seem ever present. Both sides have placed certain conditions to its meaning and how to deal with it. An apology seems simple enough to say you’re sorry but seems so difficult to express or accept from those hurt. There are certain qualifiers that seem associated again from both sides.

As example, those addicted must deal with the difficult part of the apology; namely, that you will not let it happen again. Statistics show that most abusers will fail in trying to regain sobriety, so when this happens many times unfortunately, those hurt cannot believe there is true sorrow. Unless the user feels confident in himself or herself that they can succeed in staying clean many will hesitate or put aside an apology. Relapse after relapse creates doubt in those who are truly sorry but know their weakness. They know there is still work to be done.

Substance abuse has no simple solution for any forward motion including sorrow. Self-esteem and shame enter the picture as well. I’ve been to NA meetings and heard those in active recovery explain that they were not ready yet. In many instances the user has apologized multiple times with every intention of mending his or her life but lacks the strength to reach out for help and continue this difficult journey. I have also met with users who are truly sorry but cannot for some reason say the words to those hurt. Admission that you hurt someone who loves and cares for you, would be admitting the inability understand or control one’s emotions. Self-esteem and shame appear to be the main culprits that hamper many people not only those addicted but most of us. It’s a human frailty. It takes a strong person to admit the hurt they caused and an equal amount to forgive.

Our son for whatever reason decided to pick his one-year anniversary to apologize to me. Some moments stick in your head and one can recall almost everything connected to that moment. I believe because I tried earnestly to gain knowledge of substance abuse throughout his first year of sobriety, the apology was meaningful. Many of the deflectors were not present in his journey. His older brother had succumbed to drugs and alcohol. There are guides to help one succeed in recovery. This was his first time through. He had a sponsor, home group and attended meetings regularly. He was a seeker, searching for his spiritual being. These things provide aid to both sides. The user feels more confident and those hurt see a serious attempt to mend one’s life. Knowing that the one with the substance abuse is following the aids suggested for active recovery is a benefit for all those involved.

On the last Sunday of the month, he and his sponsor’s home group celebrate the year and multiple years’ clean awards. The original plan was for us to be there for his actual one-year anniversary on the fourteenth of November. I was to present his pin. I’m not sure he understood about the anniversary meeting, when we made the reservations earlier this year. The actual pin was awarded by the home group, at the end of the month. We had made reservations to be there the actual anniversary date and had returned home before the actual ceremony.

Instead, his sponsor would present his award and then he was to speak to a packed audience on his one-year journey. He had rehearsed what he wanted to say with his sponsor several times before the meeting but his anxiety only increased.

He called the following day while I was grocery shopping. After an hour and half, I found my own emotions going rampant. He explained the evening’s activity and how he was in tears after listening to his sponsor talk about how he had become like a brother and even his sponsor teared as he spoke about meeting his parents. I’m listening to what he saying and found myself in the middle of the store tearing. It was obvious a night of heightened emotions. I explained I’m glad his sponsor, was there to present as I’m not sure I could have presented it myself without a breakdown. He felt I could have but it would have been different. His sponsor, who is usually more laid back would be that way when presenting and when he decided to take the serious approach, our son was caught off guard. He felt with the apology from me would have been that this is my son and I’m very proud. I would explain to the audience of having lost a son after eighteen years of addiction and how the son in active recovery gave me a second chance to understand and help him in his journey. This whole conversation was gut wrenching and I was becoming a mess in the aisle putting the frozen food back that had started to thaw.

We recently found a letter from my other son, who succumbed to drugs and alcohol. In the letter, he explains that when he was sober and could think clearly realized how much damage he has done to the family and how sorry he was for the hurt caused. This apology was sincere, written clearly (not his usual unreadable scrawl) and also very heartbreaking. Self-esteem was never his problem. He spent most of his life in and out of detox and rehab facilities as well as jail. Looking back now and having a better understanding of addiction, I see he meant well, was full of shame, but lacked the immense determination needed to fight this disease.

These are difficult situations and no doubt will continue as we continue the journey. There are good stories. My other son, now four year in active recovery, mentioned how his emotions heightened as a father presented his son with a twenty-five-year token. He could not describe the look and hugs between the two. It is definitely a journey for all concerned and the apology as well as forgiveness’s only make it more immense.

Many will never hear those word or relish those emotions. It’s a battle for both sides. Keeping love and understanding as part of the journey may enhance the chances.




One thought on “Apologizing- Steps 8 &9

  1. I just watched a good movie on the subject of a father and son struggling with the son’s addiction and multiple relapses, even after long stretches of clean time in recovery and multiple admissions to rehab. The movie is titled, “Beautiful Boy”, and stars Steve Carell as the father. It is on Netflix right now. One thing that stood out to me right away is that the drug of choice was not an opioid and it was set in an earlier time period, obvious by the large CRT computer monitors. The urgency of harm reduction was not the same in that setting. When it comes to steps 8 and 9, I am definitely no expert, but I know that no newcomer should allow these steps to scare them away from working steps. It is important to focus only on the current step being worked on without looking forward to even the next step. Completing each step will prepare the person for the next step. It is also important to work the steps with a sponsor who has completed all 12 steps and also has a sponsor. There are principles behind the steps, such as honesty, open-mindedness, willingness and faith. A newcomer to a 12-step program can jump right in and help out by doing service, which is a great way to feel a part of the program. There are service positions that only require one day clean. Regarding steps 8 and 9, the apology does not always have to involve making amends directly to the people involved. If it will likely result in harm, it must not be done directly. Also, sometimes the person who should be apologized to is not available anymore. They may have passed away by the time the 9th step is reached. There are many great ways to make amends indirectly. So, don’t obsess over apologizing to the ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend, drug dealer, friend you introduced to drugs etc… Making those kind of amends directly will likely result in harm. It is important for a person working steps to wait until they are ready and have reached these steps by working with a sponsor.


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