Being sorry doesn’t help
“Being sorry doesn’t help” – Winnefred Tack.
When we were but months into our current recovery journey, we were perplexed by the actions of those around us. Where was the party? When would the celebration of our successes begin? Of our whereabouts, where was the trust? Why did the looks turn to concern when we behaved as in the past? Was there a hidden meaning to the short, loose embrace?
And though years have passed since our first steps towards sobriety, the reactions of those in our inner circle remain cautious at best and skeptical at worst. Even today, the question is, “When will my world accept the new me?” The answer may be “never” -and we have accepted that.
Our early commitment to reclamation brought us to the following words printed on page 82 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, "Don't see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowin'?"
Newton's Third Law, Action & Reaction, states that for every action (force) in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If object A exerts a force on object B, object B also exerts an equal and opposite force on object A. In other words, forces result from interactions.
We understand today that we caused damage through the chaos that was our life choice. In each relationship, we perpetrated a specific pain level through what we did and did not do. We injured the spirit of our loved ones, equal to the destruction and devastation we created.
We have come to believe that restoration may never be possible. For we have changed and the people around us change. What we do hang on to is an opportunity to build new relationships built around honor, integrity, service, and love.
Our quest for newness by no means discounts our responsibility to make amends for our past actions. If we owe the money, we pay the money. If we caused the wound, we treat the wound. If we were dishonest, we honestly seek forgiveness through our words and actions. They may forgive but might never forget. We own that. Their perspective is their reality. We respect that. We act and let the words follow.
Working 12-step recovery daily has us constantly checking and rechecking our motives and motions. We are not perfect. But we are better members of society than we were. We are focused on building a new road while simultaneously maintaining the path that has brought us to where we are today. We focus on the present while tending to the past.
The post title (being sorry doesn’t help) is a phrase used by my grandmother throughout my youth. Her sentiment, I believe, was that she was hurt by my actions equal to the level of hurt that I imposed and that an equal amount of restitution was necessary to remedy the pain initiated.
We see now that simply saying sorry means nothing. The answer is in the acting sorry.
As for forgiveness and acceptance of the new us? That is not ours to dictate. We can say that over time, having worked the heart change, the hugs are a little longer and a little tighter.
Every day becomes the celebration we sought. Trust returns slowly. Concern turns to compassion, and a new relationship is forming, free from the chaos and trauma of a tornado. Equal parts of love are exchanged and built upon.
May today be a day of laying new pavement.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a sober.coffee podcast #25 "Look Ma..." Will We Ever Really Know The Damage We Did ?... the episode dropped on 9/22/2021 Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.