Step 9: Restitution and Reconciliation - John’s Story on Drug Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery Program - A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing

Step 9: Restitution and Reconciliation

KEY PRINCIPLE: Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.

As we moved on to step 9, we were ready to seek forgiveness. Like the repentant sons of Mosiah who went about “zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done” (Mosiah 27:35), we desired to make amends. Still, as we faced step 9, we knew we could not carry out our desires unless God blessed us with His Spirit. We needed courage, good judgment, sensitivity, prudence, and appropriate timing. These were not qualities that most of us possessed at that time. We realized that step 9 would once more test our willingness to humble ourselves and seek the help and grace of the Lord.

Because of our experiences in this challenging process, we offer a few suggestions. It is very important that you are not impulsive or careless as you attempt to make amends. It is equally important that you do not procrastinate making amends. Many recovering individuals have relapsed when they allowed fear to keep them from doing step 9. Pray for the Lord’s guidance and consult with a trusted adviser for help to avoid these pitfalls.

Sometimes you may be tempted to avoid meeting with a person on your list. We recommend, however, that you resist this temptation, unless, of course, a legal restriction keeps you from meeting with someone. A spirit of humility and a feeling of honesty can repair damaged relationships when you make reasonable efforts to meet in person. Let people know you are approaching them to make amends. Respect their wishes if they indicate they would rather not discuss the matter. If they give you the chance to apologize, be brief and specific about the situation you remember. Details are not necessary.

The purpose is not to explain or describe your side of things. The purpose is to admit those wrongs you have committed, offer an apology, and make restitution wherever possible. Do not argue with people or criticize them, even if their response is not favorable or accepting. Approach each person in a spirit of humility, offering reconciliation, never justification.

Apologizing for some actions can be particularly challenging. For example, you may have to address matters that could have legal repercussions, such as dishonesty or serious sexual sin. You may be tempted to overreact or to make excuses and avoid making amends. You should prayerfully seek ecclesiastical or professional counsel before taking any action in these very serious cases.

In other cases, you may have no way of making amends directly. The person may be dead, or you may not be able to discover where he or she lives. In such cases, you can still make amends indirectly. You can write the person a letter expressing your regret and desire for reconciliation, even if the letter cannot be delivered. You can give a gift to the person’s favorite charity. You can find someone who reminds you of that person and do something to help him or her. Or you may be able to do something to help a member of the family anonymously.

There may be times when approaching another person or seeking to provide restitution is painful for that person or even harmful. If you think that might be the case, discuss the situation with a trusted adviser before proceeding. This part of recovery must never lead to the further harm of others. Also, at times you may have caused harm that is beyond human ability to repair. Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of this reality:

“Sometimes . . . restitution is not possible in real terms, such as when one contributed to another’s loss of faith or virtue. Instead, a subsequent example of righteousness provides a compensatory form of restitution” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 31).

From the moment you decide to adopt these true principles as your new way of life, you begin to make amends.

After making amends for most of your past actions, you may still have one or two people you feel like you cannot face. Do not despair. Many of us dealt with the same reality. We recommend you take your feelings to the Lord in honest prayer. If you still have great fear or anger toward an individual, you probably should postpone meeting with him or her. To overcome negative feelings, you could pray for charity and to see the person as the Lord sees him or her. You could look for positive reasons why restitution and reconciliation will help. If you do these things and are patient, the Lord can and will—in His own way and in His own time—give you the ability and the miraculous opportunities to be reconciled to everyone on your list.

Upon completing step 9 to the best of your ability, you have finally done all you can to put yourself in harmony with the commandments of the Lord. You have begun to experience a new life of hope—not in yourself but in the love of God. You have gone down into the depths of humility and found the Lord waiting to embrace you. You have done all you can to heal relationships and become reconciled to others. You have at least partially entered into His rest; remaining there has become your greatest desire. You are learning to recognize and follow personal revelation better, which leads you to live in harmony with the teachings of ancient and modern prophets of God.

Even in your most difficult moments, you feel a new kind of peace. You have learned to receive the blessing Paul described when he wrote, “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).


Action Steps

Love others; refrain from judging others; be willing to accept a Church calling and to pay tithes and offerings

In the past, if you were religiously active, you may have been motivated by fear of the judgment of God or of what others would think. Perhaps you acted out of a sense of duty. Today you recognize that service is a way of coming unto Christ. It is a way of expressing love to God. It expresses a continuing need for His power and gratitude for His divine help. Consider whether your activity in the Church is still motivated by fear or duty or if it is a natural outgrowth of your reborn faith in Christ.

Find ways to serve wherever you are. Become worthy and available to serve in a Church calling or in other ways. As you serve your brothers and sisters and teach them by word and by example, you will share with them His living reality in your life. (See Matthew 25:40; John 13:34–35; John 15:15; Mosiah 2:17.)


Be willing to do what is necessary to make amends

In taking step 9, you must avoid becoming discouraged if others do not receive your apologies well or if they do not believe you have really changed. Making amends may take time and patience. Give others time to realize that this time is different. This time you are not making empty promises; you are living to receive a complete remission of your addiction and character weaknesses. Eventually, abstinence and changed behavior will speak for themselves.


Study and Understanding

The following scriptures and statements from Church leaders may help you in taking step 9. Use these scriptures and questions for meditation, study, and writing. Be honest and specific in your writing.


Influencing others for good

“The Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities;

“That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly; but rather return unto them, and acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done” (Alma 39:12–13).

  • Some of the greatest harm we have done to others is by influencing them to develop addictions themselves. Write about the people in your life whom you have influenced in this way.

  • Where can you find courage to face these people, according to Alma’s teachings in these verses?


Persuasion or compulsion

“Whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds” (Alma 42:27).

  • With many powerful reasons to take step 9, you must never get caught up in the rationalization or lie that you have no choice. The Addiction Recovery Program is a program of persuasion, not compulsion. Write about whether you feel persuaded or compelled to take step 9. What reasons for being persuaded are listed in this verse?


Preparing to meet God

“I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:31–32).

  • What else do you accomplish when you soften your heart and go to make amends?

  • How does your willingness to make amends increase when you realize that you are also preparing to meet God?


Activity in the Church

“[The sons of Mosiah] traveled throughout all the land . . . zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them” (Mosiah 27:35).

  • Because of addictions, many people quit attending church. Some used the faults of others to justify their limited involvement. Write about your own experiences with activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • How has becoming closer to the Savior through recovery helped you feel reunited with His Church?

  • How does being active in the Church help you make amends and recover more fully?


Willing restitution

“You must restore as far as possible all that which is stolen, damaged, or defiled. Willing restitution is concrete evidence to the Lord that you are committed to do all you can to repent” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 102; or Ensign, May 1995, 76).

  • Write about how taking step 9 is evidence not only to the Lord but also to yourself and others that you are committed to a life of humility and honesty.


The intents of your heart

“He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (D&C 1:32).

  • In making amends, you may face people who will not forgive you. Maybe their hearts are still hard toward you, or perhaps they do not trust your intentions. How does it help you to know that the Lord understands the true intent of your heart and that He will receive your offer to repent and make restitution, even if other people may not?


What the Savior can do for you

“Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins. Men can stop sinning and can do right in the future, and so far their acts are acceptable before the Lord and worthy of consideration. But who shall repair the wrongs they have done to themselves and to others, which it seems impossible for them to repair themselves? By the atonement of Jesus Christ the sins of the repentant shall be washed away; though they be crimson they shall be made white as wool. This is the promise given to you” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 98–99).

  • As you go out to make amends, do not be discouraged by thoughts such as, “This is impossible! There’s no way I can adequately make up for the wrong I’ve done this person!” Although that may be true, consider the power of Jesus Christ to repair those things you cannot repair. Write about the necessity of trusting that Jesus Christ will do what you cannot do.

  • In what ways can you show the Lord your trust in Him? How can you increase that trust?