Dear friends, my name is Jeff and I am a recovering sex addict. Step 9 in the Addiction Recovery Program is Restitution and Reconciliation with the key principle to “Wherever possible, make direct restitution to all persons you have harmed.” I had very mixed emotions as I started step 9. I had prepared and was wanting to make amends from my preparation in step 8, however I still had some people on my list that I was apprehensive about talking to and asking their forgiveness. I decided to split people into groups according to how reluctant I was to talk with them and decided to start with the “easier” ones first. (I anticipated that some would be “easier” but none of them were “easy”).
I can see the wisdom in not waiting to start because I felt the temptation. I rationalized that maybe I needed more time in my recovery to prove that I really had changed before starting. I also anticipated that several of the discussions would be bad experiences and might cause harm to others so I should wait. As I prayed about it, went to meetings and talked with others in the path of recovery, I heard encouraging experiences. It helped me remember what the Lord had done for me in forgiving me and helping me through each step in the process. I resolved to start with the “easier” conversations and leave the “impossible” ones for the end.
I started with Susan, and my first apology did not go as planned. She was obviously hurting with the effects of my addiction and working on her own recovery. At this point we had both agreed to put our marriage “on hold” and not make any drastic changes or decisions for 12 to 18 months. This was great advice from our counselor because we had good days, bad days, and some very bad days. Selfishly, I had put Susan first on my “easier” list because I had already told her everything in step 5, had asked her forgiveness many times along the way, thought it would help her see that I was serious about fully repenting and finishing the program, and I thought it would be easier on me to start with her to see how it went. What I didn’t see at the time was that my thinking was all about “me” and what I wanted. I wasn’t really thinking about Susan and making amends and restitution. When I talked to her, apologized and asked for her forgiveness, she said forgiveness was a process and she was working on it with the Savior. She expressed that the conversation felt like I was going through a check list to get it done rather than being genuine and real and wanting to repair our relationship. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear in order to understand the real point of step 9 – talk to people to really make amends and in the process restore a relationship or start to build a new one. She asked me to have her be the last person I talked to in completing step 9.
So I revised my approach in preparing to talk with people. I reviewed the specific things I needed to discuss with each person and prayed and thought about what kind of relationship my Savior would want me to have with them going forward and what I really wanted. My children were now first on my “easier” list. This did not mean it was easy to approach them. While I thought they would quickly say they forgave me, I worried that they would lose respect for me as their father or would be angry at the emotional distance and the emotional damage I had caused them while acting out in my addiction. After praying about each one, I talked to each them individually and had a wonderful conversation with each of them. Each reacted a little differently but they were each so forgiving and understanding. It opened up real discussions about feelings, emotions and experiences that we had shared through the years. The healing for each of us was tremendous and strengthened our relationships. This has opened up my communication lines with my children to talk like never before.
This same patterned continued as I talked to my family and my wife’s parents. With each positive experience, my realization that the Savior was helping me connect and heal through the process grew. I found added strength in my daily recovery efforts and a broader circle of love and friendship than I had ever felt before because of my self-imposed isolation. I decided to do as many in person discussions as I could. We took our family vacation in Utah and I took advantage of the opportunity to talk with most of the people that remained on my list. All but one of the conversations were positive experiences that I now cherish.
I then came to the hard ones where I needed advice and help. I prayed about each case, talked to my counselor, talked with Susan, and for a one case got advice from my bishop. I decided on an approach for each person, prayed about it and moved forward. I needed to spend more time in prayer for these people to make sure my heart was right and that I truly forgave from my heart and could ask their forgiveness without holding resentment. With some people I wrote letters or made phone calls and others I needed to talk with in person. These conversations were brief and to the point, but sincere and heartfelt after my preparation. Some discussions were harder than others but with the help of my Savior I was able to stay focused on my intent to apologize and not justify. I was able to feel peaceful confirmation after each discussion that I had done what needed to be done.
The last person on my list was Susan. While our marriage was in suspended mode, building our relationship was not. We were continuing to re-build our relationship and find ways to really connect with each other. Susan had been observing me through the process to see if I was really making amends and building relationships or just getting my checklist completed. As she saw the connections I was making, it gave her hope that the connections we were building were real and that I was really changing. This time when I apologized and asked her forgiveness, I was thinking of Susan instead of myself and was open to talking about the effects of my actions on her and how we could repair and strengthen our relationship as we continued on our recovery journey.
As far as my recovery journey, the spirit confirmed that my efforts at making restitution and reconciliation were acceptable to the Lord. I was clean and forgiven. This does not mean I am free from the consequences of my addiction with effects on relationships, the temptations I still face daily, and the emotional damage I continue to identify and work through. It does mean that I am able to have the daily companionship of the spirit as I strive for continuing progress in my recovery. I have greater connection with family and friends and there is no one that I am embarrassed or uncomfortable being around. While I remember my sins, the pain is gone and there are no topics that I fear will come up in discussions. I have learned what repentance is for me. My objective now is daily accountability.
One thought on “Forgiveness”
Jeff’s essay on step 9 deepens my appreciation for what is intended by this step. His lessons are instructive and helpful to me. I, too, have talked with the easier people on my list. His shared experiences will help motivate and guide me in my remaining step 9 apologies.