I will never forget the day that I finally got a big book sponsor. I was living in a sober house and caught up in the obsession that goes along with addiction. I was around 8 months clean and my life was not at all where I thought it should be. I had always envisioned the day I finally stopped drinking and using drugs, that my life would magically become drastically better. That wasn’t exactly my experience. I remember asking this woman if she would be my sponsor at a meeting that I had been attending on a pretty regular basis. At some point during the meeting she shared her experience on whatever part of the book they were reading. I don’t recall what the topic was or exactly what she said. I do remember turning to my friend and making a comment that she seemed feisty and I liked her. I can only attribute my decision to ask her to sponsor me to the higher power I was still trying to figure out.
I remember as I was going up to introduce myself to her, it was hard for me to look at her in the eyes. I was filled with shame and I was spiritually broken. I felt worse inside at that moment than I felt on my worst day of active addiction. But, I did it! I asked her to take me through the twelve steps and she said yes! To be honest I had NO idea what exactly I was getting myself into, but I was willing and that was the only requirement at the moment. I didn’t know a lot about the big book or the twelve steps. All I really knew is what I had heard from other people. The one thing I was certain about, even from that day I got a sponsor was that no matter what, I would NEVER make amends to my mother. You would feel the same way if you had been through what I had been through.
Luckily, there are twelve steps and they are in a certain order for a reason. That reason is because when you do them as they are laid out, they really work! From that Wednesday on, my new sponsor and I sat down every week and we read together. Well she read, she talked, and I mostly listened. I didn’t have a whole lot to contribute towards recovery, as mine wasn’t exactly going great. Time went by and we were actually working the steps. Many amazing things happened including that obsession leaving me for the first time in as far back as I could remember. Eventually after many Wednesday nights together, it was time to start making amends.
At this point in my recovery, I was over a year sober, and I wasn’t angry anymore. I wasn’t positive that I was ready to fly across the country to make an amends to my mom, but the anger was gone. My mom was an alcoholic and growing up was very difficult. There was a great deal of chaos, violence, neglect and fear in my household. I always felt that if my childhood was different, I would have been different. Essentially, I blamed my mother for my heroin addiction. Luckily, my fourth step showed me my part in the resentments I had with her. Sometimes, the only part I had was holding on to resentment for 15 years. Being able to see that really helped my anger to dissipate along with a lot of prayer. Realizing her actions did not make me an alcoholic helped me to let go of many of the resentments I had against her.
I had really hoped to make a face-to-face amends with my mother. I hadn’t seen her in many years and we did not exactly have a great relationship. I waited for the right time and kept praying for that time to reveal itself. I remember one day it finally felt like the right time to make that amends. Unfortunately my mother lived across the country so it wasn’t as easy as scheduling a cup of coffee with her. I felt like I needed to make the amends sooner than later and decided to write her a letter. I wrote a letter that pointed out the parts I had in our resentments. It was a little bit different than a face-to-face amends, but I was able to honestly express the gratitude I had for her and reminisce on the good times, as there were many of those too. I shared some of my favorite memories with her and just wrote an honest, openhearted vulnerable letter to the woman I blamed for everything bad that ever happened to me.
It wasn’t a week later before I received a letter from my mother. She wrote me a 12 page, double sided, handwritten letter. In her letter, she listed all the things she believed she had done to hurt me and expressed her sincerest apologies. She talked about her favorite memories that we shared. She talked about how grateful she was that I had found a better way to live, as at this point she had been sober for many years. She gave me her phone number, and also reconnected me with my brothers who I had also lost touch with. She wrote a beautiful touching letter that I cherish to this day.
My mother and I spent the next 6-8 months exchanging letters and phone calls. She would occasionally package up some crafts she made for me and send them in the mail. She knit me scarves, she made my husband a hat, and she made me lots of jewelry. In the last package she sent me was a beautiful amethyst ring that she had purchased for herself as a reward for being sober. It was a beautiful ring and she wanted me to have it. It was very touching and I hold that ring very near to my heart. She wrote me one last beautiful letter with many kind words. The last time we talked, she was giving me her secret pasta salad recipe that I always loved as a kid. It was just the very next day that my sister called me with the news. My mother had passed away due to her alcoholism.
I was heartbroken and had a difficult time grieving for this relationship that I had just begun to explore. I didn’t want to tell anyone the news at first because that would make it real. Losing a parent is a painful experience, but because of AA I was able to grieve and be there for others at the same time. I was able to fly down to her house and help my brothers and grandmother with their grieving process. We all had good and bad memories of my mother that we were able to exchange. This was one of the biggest amends I made in recovery and one of the first big losses I encountered as well.
The gift that the amends to my mother gave me is one I still carry with me. My relationship with my mother was a toxic one that was filled with anger, resentment, fear and shame. It felt like a badge of honor to be the victim because I had spent so many years feeling like one. It was so easy to blame my mother for everything bad. The amends not only took away the negative feelings, but they were replaced with positive ones. My relationship with her became filled with love, respect and joy. The amazing part was my mother didn’t change one bit. Another gift from the amends is the ability to share my experience with other women.
Looking back, I trusted God in those moments of fear, pain and heartache. That trust that I had in God came from the twelve steps. I used to always think that if something “really bad” ever happened to me while I was sober it would be a free pass to pick up. This experience really showed me that the twelve steps had made a huge difference in my life. Not only did picking up never cross my mind, but being there to help others did. It became evident that I had encountered an internal rearrangement and I have yet to look back. The level of peace making amends has added to my life if unbelievable. They have allowed me to be a part of the healthiest relationships I have ever known.