Last night Mary and I watched “Half Nelson,” a movie starring Ryan Gosling who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. It’s about a high school teacher that is crack head and how his life continues to unravel. Luckily a student helps him through it.
While watching the movie Mary said, “I’m sorry but when kids are involved, there’s no excuse for an addict to be high.” I told her that the disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate. She replied, “Oh come on, in front of kids? That’s fucked up.”
I paused for a moment as I considered whether or not to say it… “I used to do that,” I said. There was a heavy lull thatwashed over our dinner table. Fuck it. Go for broke I thought, “I taught dance while I was high. I used to even pop pills during class in front of my students. They just figured it was for my CF.”
This time there was a much longer lull. Mary’s eyes changed in front of me. To try and lighten the mood I said, “Well the kids never knew about it if that helps? She gave a sympathetic giggle followed by a look that said, “How can you live with yourself?” So I responded to it.
“Honestly,” I said, “For a long time when I first got clean I would think back to those times of emotional and moral absence and it was painful to my soul to live with. But as time went by and I began to work some steps, life slowly became more and more bearable.”
Mary and I began dating when I was almost 3 years clean so she never saw the monster of my disease. She got a little glimpse of it during my relapse and I think it terrified her as much as it terrifies me.
Then she said, “How come you never said you were sorry? I met you with years clean so I had not signed up to watch you relapse and tell lie after lie for months.
I said, “First of all, I told you I was an addict on our first date. Even though I was doing well at the time, you can’t say you didn’t sign up for this. If you date an addict, you know a relapse is always possible. Second, I did apologize in the beginning of recovery from relapse but you don’t even remember it because those words mean nothing coming from an addict. It has been my experience that only action towards positive change represents an apology.
Living amends are an important part of recovery. I remember when I got to step 9 after about 18 months clean and I made my amends to my family. They said, “Thank you, I know you have to do this formally for your step work but you’ve proven to us that you are sorry and are willing to help in any way possible through your actions over the past year and a half.”
I asked Mary if she feels I have been doing the same for her since my relapse and she said yes. I gave her a formal apology but honestly I used to say I’m sorry so often that they became empty words to me and those I said it to. I have to remember that Mary wasn’t around the frst time and that she is still learning about this recovery process. As we all are I suppose.
An amend is not a simple apology. It’s a vow, a promise to do everything in your power to keep from repeating the same behavior. It’s an important commitment that I do not take lightly today.