Though each component of the 12 Step Program is meant to be straightforward and simple, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some explanation. A good one to focus on is the ninth step—most commonly shortened as the “making amends” step. A longer version reads like this: “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Again, that might seem simple at first, but have you ever stopped to consider what it truly means to make amends? The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might imagine. Though some associate amends with apology, there is much more to it than just saying you’re sorry.

Understand that you should say you’re sorry, when appropriate—but as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. Fulfilling the ninth step means going beyond words and actually showing that you are sorry, with your actions.

There are different ways you can do this. For example, maybe you’ve hurt people in your life by either stealing money or guilting them into loaning you money, simply to fund your drug or alcohol habit. Saying you’re sorry for this is good, but actually repaying the money is more meaningful.

Another example: Say your reckless behavior has caused property damage of some kind. Expressing remorse is a good step to take, but it’s not as substantial as actually repairing the damage, or simply buying a replacement for the damaged item.

In some cases, showing your sorrow in this way may not be possible—that is, you may simply not have the money needed to make things right. That doesn’t mean you cannot think of some ways to show, not just say, that you are sorry. You can always be active in building back the trust that you’ve lost—something that is not only helpful to those who you have wronged, but is also vital for your own continued healing.

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