Substance abuse is a behavior that can hurt not only you but the people you love in your life. If you are on the road to recovery today when looking back at the decisions you made and the things you said while under the influence of addiction, you may have hurt those closest to you. As part of the healing process, you’ll need to acknowledge your mistakes and apologize for your actions. Follow our five-step process below to say you’re sorry to those impacted by your addiction, and prove to them that you are taking accountability for your actions.
- Start with Two Simple Words: I’m Sorry. They may feel like the hardest words to say, but they are the ones that those whom your addiction has impacted want and need to hear. Start with these words and deliver them with genuine sincerity. Perhaps more importantly, if you don’t yet feel remorse, don’t say the words. The regret will come, and when it does, ask for forgiveness.
- Express Empathy. This step involves imagining how you would feel if you had been hurt the way that you hurt others, and acknowledging how it feels. For example, if you damaged someone’s property while under the influence, recognize that you created a financial hardship and express that you understand why they would feel hurt, distrustful, and angry at you for what happened.
- Make a Commitment. Apologies are backward-looking statements, so pair yours with a forward-looking one. Tell your loved ones why and how you plan to do better and not continue injecting pain in their lives. For example, if while using, you failed to make time for your family, and you were not present enough in their lives, commit to coming home from work on time, spending weekends with them, helping with household responsibilities, and attending your kids’ activities.
- Prove You Have Changed with Actions. All of us know that actions speak louder than words. The people you have hurt want to hear you say you’re sorry, but even more so, they want to see healthy, positive change. Reflect on the commitments that you made to your loved ones in step three above and then be accountable and consistent on your delivery of those promises. Saying you’re sorry once isn’t enough. You will only regain peoples’ trust if they experience genuine differences in your behavior.
- Give it Time. Even if your loved ones accept your apology, it may take time for them to trust you again. They will want to see consistent change and slowly test your trust with minor expectations before they fully embrace you in their lives again. For example, your friends may accept your apology, but it may be some time before they will be comfortable allowing you to babysit for your godchild again. Accept the time they need to trust the new you and be as supportive of them as they are of you.
Unfortunately, there are no magic words that will undo the past and its hurtful memories. However, saying I’m sorry is the best way for all parties to begin the healing process and start over so that you can let go of the past and look ahead to a brighter future—together.