Making “Living” Amends

During our early adult years, my brother and I had a very strained relationship. I felt he had physically and emotionally abused me as a child. For my safety, I chose to become very remote from him. As time went by, what had once seemed like a necessary attitude of detachment became a punishing coldness. Working the Steps made it clear that my serenity depended on keeping my behavior “clean,” regardless of the behavior of others. I knew it was time to make amends for my own punishing, abusive behavior, yet I felt stuck. I was afraid that if I made direct amends to my brother, he would attack me verbally. I needed to be able to make the amends safely.

I brought the problem of making this amends to my sponsor. She suggested I make a “living” amends. As a start, she suggested that each time I encountered my brother on the telephone or in person, I actively initiate a friendly “Hello, how are you?” — each and every time. After several months, I noticed that I was less tense around him. We actually seemed to be somewhat friendly with each other. This was certainly progress.

Her next suggestion was that whenever I was in his presence I should try to stay in the same room he was in, at least for a brief time. I had spent years going from room to room to avoid his presence at family gatherings. Staying put was very awkward for me initially, but as time passed, it became more comfortable. Slowly I began to have more compassion for him and began to separate my brother, the human being, from the sexaholism that affected all of us.

Over time we began to interact with one another. Today, I can ask his advice on topics about which he is knowledgeable. Our relationship has grown tremendously, and I am grateful because now we must all contribute and communicate to cope with our mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease. Does this improved relationship mean I have forgotten my brother’s abusive behavior? No, but I have worked hard at my own healing in therapy and through Step work. I thank God for my recovery from the abuse and for the benefits I have received from following my sponsor’s suggestions on this amends.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 103-104.