Addiction is such a powerful disease. It not only ravages your mind and body, it ravages your relationships and any semblance of a meaningful life. For me, it had those notable, and all too common, affects and I ended up in around $30,000 of debt. All money I had borrowed, stolen, manipulated out of people, and obtained deceitfully. So when I landed in recovery, I was a shell of a person with some pretty serious consequences.
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The realization of my situation, not only in terms of waking up to life without anesthesia, but in terms of cleaning up my mess, was astounding. I could not believe that my addiction had taken me so far. That's the thing about addiction: it takes hold before you realize, and it takes you to depths that you never envisaged. I promised myself I would never do some of the things I had. Addiction is such a cunning disease: it is progressive, steeped in denial and rationalization and it keeps of moving the goalposts of morality.
Some people never make it into recovery. I am one of the lucky ones. For that I am grateful. Life today is beyond anything I had thought possible; I am living a life of my dreams.
First, a powerful disease requires a powerful solution. In order to recover, you must smash your denial, shine a light on your rationalizations, face the consequences of your addiction, and clean house. For me, that included my debt. The process for cleaning house involved acknowledging the almighty mess that I had made, the people that I had harmed and the damage that I had caused, and making amends.
There is a distinct difference between making an amends and apologizing. Apologizing is simply saying I am sorry for my behavior. Making an amends is about restoring justice and goodwill. It is saying I am sorry and how can I put things right? See the difference?
There are three types of making amends: direct, indirect and living. Direct amends is straightforward and involves a direct, in person, interaction with the person or organization; and looks like making specific, actionable, steps toward putting things right. Indirect amends involves amending irreparable damage, i.e. disorderly behavior, vandalism, theft; this can be done by volunteering at a charity that cleans up criminal damage and graffiti, or making a donation to a related charitable organization. Living amends is to live a responsible life, and one of accountability, for one's actions.
This is how I approached the process of financial amends:
I opened my mail and listed each debt. In active addiction, I didn't open any of my mail; it piled up and was just another heap of mess to avoid. This was my starting point.
I called each creditor and confirmed the actual amount of money I owed.
I designed a budget of my income and outgoings.
I took a realistic view on my disposable income and defined an amount that I was able to repay. I then checked this amount with someone financially liquid and agreed upon a repayment figure.
I called each creditor and explained my situation. I apologized and I asked for their help in agreeing a reasonable repayment plan to make things right.
I made a commitment to myself and to others that I would see through the payments.
Some of my debts my family had written off. However, I felt that the right thing to do was to repay them. I sincerely apologized and worked out a repayment plan.
The Benefits of Making Amends
It has taken me over four years to make all of those repayments. Initially it was tough and I felt the pinch. When I arrived in recovery, I wasn't able to work for the first couple of months due to my physical health. But when I did, I had to start at the bottom rung of the ladder and didn't earn much. It was a humbling and frustrating experience. I wasn't able to go to many fellowship meals or buy myself treats. But I knew in my heart that it was a worthwhile exercise and it strengthened my character.
I would encourage anyone embarking on making amends payments to be conservative in your estimation of what you can commit to repaying. It is really important that you see through making regular payments; the aim of making amends is not only to repay what we took, but to change our behavior and live a life of integrity, reliability, and responsibility. The purpose of amends is restoration of our relationship with the world, and our place in it.
Today, I know that I have done the right thing and I can sleep at night.
Writer, blogger, nutrition and recovery advocate, Olivia Pennelle (Liv), is in long-term recovery. Liv passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Her popular site Liv's Recovery Kitchen is a resource for nutrition and recovery. In her probing interviews, she gives a unique insight into the lives of prominent figures in recovery. Liv is qualified nutrition coach, has lost nearly 50 pounds and shares her delicious recipes. She also gives a very raw account of her own journey in recovery and weight loss. For Liv, the kitchen represents the heart of the home: to eat, share, and love.