Twelve Step Recovery Process: Helping Parents Make Amends in Recovery
In the Twelve Step recovery process you must recognize how your behavior has harmed others and seek to repair the damage caused to children, family members and friends during your active addiction. Step Eight and Step Nine of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) call this “making amends” which is offering a sincere apology for your treatment of others. In early recovery, parents have had a spiritual awakening and may feel pressured to make up for lost time and experiences with their children. While you may want to jump in head first and speed the process along, it is important to first think about your children. The amends children need from their parent(s) in addiction recovery depends on where they are in their lives and the age of the children.
How to Make Amends to Younger Children
Small children must be shown definitive, consistent action. Long winded speeches about addiction, rehabilitation, recovery, a Higher Power and practicing the Twelve Steps will only confuse them. When parents make amends to young children, it is best to go light on the words and strong on the actions. You need to prove to your children you’re addressing the addiction, because at the end of the day they just want their parents back. Parents in recovery can verbalize their intentions to never hurt your children again. But you must follow their lead; give your child the time and space to gain trust and feel comfortable.
How to Make Amends to Older Children
Like young children, older kids also do not need a long speech or explanation. You can simply tell them you had a problem, you’re working to get healthier and that moving forward you will be more present in their life. Since older children have stronger memories of their parents in addiction, the key is to be patient. Oftentimes, they’ll remember the hurtful things we did and said during blackouts that you cannot recall. When you make amends with older children, it could take months or even years before they’re willing to forgive and move forward with a relationship, and you must respect their timeframe.
The key to making amends with our children, no matter their age, is consistency in our words and actions. If you want to be forgiven, you must be patient. Allow your children the dignity to express their own emotions. While you may be confident in your recovery, your family members may not fully trust that it is permanent or sincere, that takes time and stable action. As a parent in recovery, you must show your love, commitment and patience and hope, in time, it will be returned.