Amends in Eights

handsTwelve years ago, I went to visit my family for a little reunion. I was three years sober, and right before the trip I realized that when I met them two years prior, I hadn’t even thought of making amends to them. Which may have been a good thing, because at the start of my recovery I knew very little of what making amends was.

OK, I did know a bit, and I did them to those who I thought I’ve really hurt. Yet with my family, we’ve been having a good relationship around the time I’ve quit drinking and from then on as well, so I’ve figured I didn’t need to talk to them about these things. Until someone in a meeting talked about making amends, and that was just several days before my trip, and it hit me between the eyes. I realized that whether I thought I needed to do that or not, that was irrelevant. Admitting my wrongs was part of the program I was trying to live. It was a part that if I didn’t do it then, it would come back later and serve me a mighty kick in the butt.

I’ve spent time with my family and at the end of my visit I made my amends to my Mom, Dad, and my brother. It felt good to talk about these things, but the more I was releasing the pent up confusions, fears, shame, and worry that I carried in me in my addiction, with me hiding it, I was realizing that my family members were getting upset. There was so much they haven’t known that the more that I’ve shared with them made them amazed and depressed. I was leaving them after that visit with a feeling that I’ve messed it up while I was trying to do more good than harm. As I’ve learned later, there is no right way to do amends. I’ve heard people sharing at meetings that they were not even heard and they had doors slammed in their faces. Some people on the receiving end are not ready to hear those things. I had a feeling my parents were just happy to have me back without knowing what has happened to me, just being content with me doing better. Conversations I’ve had with them through the years after confirmed that thought.

Two months ago, I went to see my parents again, although this time the reunion was not to reconnect. My mother was dying. She was diagnosed with cancer two years prior. The treatment failed to help her. My trip was to say goodbye to her. Two days after I have arrived and have spent time with her and my Dad and brother, her conditioned has worsened and she has lost consciousness which she hasn’t regained. I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with her for two days before her passing to speak the things to her that were my amends, the ones that by then I didn’t realize I needed to make.

Necessity to make amends is not one of those things that I’m fully aware. Yet, they are the things that never cease to come up. Making amends is a perpetual process that has to happen, because resentments never fail to plague me. I’ve had conversations with my Mom that didn’t go as they were planned, ending with negatives more than positives. Some of that we hadn’t talk much about afterwards. There were things happening even when I was a kid, and that we didn’t go over either. And I still remembered of those. I wasn’t sure if it even mattered to bring those to the fore. It was a long time ago, right? Yet I had a conversation with my partner who argued that I needed to say what I had to say, because that was the last chance I could do that with my mother. That’s when I’ve reminded myself that those resentments may come back and serve me a mighty kick in the butt, and I would never have an opportunity to resolve those, therefore I’d be doomed to carry the guilt forever.

Speaking to a person who is unconscious is just that – speaking. I didn’t know my mother could hear me (my partner begs to differ), and I did it anyway. I sat by her bed, held her by the hand, and I spoke of things that bothered me about our relationship with her. I spoke about how I felt I was born, raised. I said my thanks. I said my worry. I admitted my wrongs. I’ve expressed my remorse. I spoke of things I could’ve done better and what I could improve in the new phase of my life without her. I spoke of things she could do when she moved to the other side, and that is watch out for my father and brother. It happened to be a monologue of proportions I never knew I carried in me. And although she hasn’t answered to any of it, by the time I said those things, I knew I had to do say them, and that I had to do that for a while.

Interesting thing is, some of those frustrations and guilts that I’ve given a voice to those two evenings, I wouldn’t be able to speak them to my mother’s comprehending face. I wouldn’t discuss it with her. I didn’t even know how I would start that both-side conversation with her. In a sense, I’ve done those amends on my terms without her looking me in the eye and answering me. Even now that I’m thinking of it, preferring that I’d rather talk to her about it face to face, with her being very much alive and full of vigor, rather than lying on the bed, her eyes closed, life draining out of her, I know that I’m satisfied with the way it did happen… because otherwise I wouldn’t do it for a long time, out of inability to speak my mind without hurting her, even if in her eyes I wouldn’t.

It’s been sixty days since she is not in my life anymore, and it feels so strange not being able to hear her voice. Yet thinking of her, how she was alive, that is satisfying. Because that is the only way I can connect with her, the way she was – healthy, smiling, talking about things she loved. Her touch. Clothes she wore. I feel that I deserve not carrying dark clouds over my head recalling those scenes from memory. Is it because I’ve admitted myself to be imperfect in front of her and silence was the comforting answer? I choose to think so.

the image was copied from and blurred and faded and twisted by me. thank you. a wonderful poem you’ve got there.

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