Making Amends Was Everything I Least Expected
(page 2)For my next financial amends, I decided to just go ahead and send a check. It was to a girl I’d lived with when I first moved to New York after college, a girl who’d moved out of our crappy, railroad-style place without notice one Thanksgiving weekend when I was out of town. It was a shitty thing to do, of course. But it didn’t make it right for me to charge up the phone bill in her name as high as I could, and then not respond when she asked me to reimburse her. So I tracked down her address and mailed a check and a card, apologizing for the phone bill as well as for being—well, the kind of roommate who would inspire someone to move out over Thanksgiving weekend without notice.
She sent the check back, along with a note that said, essentially, that she was doing very well, that she had a husband, five kids and a thriving career as a chiropractor, and that if I felt so bad about my behavior, then I should donate the money to a good cause since she didn’t need my charity.
Glenn was a guy who’d lock my cats away when I was out and call the landlord when I had friends from AA over, saying that he was “scared for his life” because there were “homeless alcoholics” around.
Like I said, not what I expected. But even that one allowed me to live with a little more freedom.
Some amends haven’t involved contacting people at all. Glenn, a gay guy I’d lived with the second time I’d moved to New York, when I was about seven years sober, had started off cool as could be but slowly revealed himself to be crazy—a guy who’d lock my cats away when I was out and call the landlord when I had friends from AA over, saying that he was “scared for his life” because there were “homeless alcoholics” around. (To say I’ve had bad luck with New York roommates would be an understatement.)
Though I ended up moving out and getting away from him entirely, I found myself still resenting him months later. I had done plenty wrong in our relationship, but trying to make amends to him was something I couldn’t imagine—not when he’d done things to me that I couldn’t imagine getting over. I decided to make a “living amends” by trying to be kind and gracious in my life—the opposite of how I’d been toward him at the end. But that didn’t stop me from resenting him. So, at my sponsor’s suggestion, I committed to praying for him for 90 days—specifically for him to get everything he wanted and for me to have empathy for the fact that he’d been doing the best he could. I did it for those three months, never feeling any differently about him but staying committed to the process because my sponsor kept asking me about it. I thought it was silly: I never felt any differently about Glenn.
Until the day, months after I’d stopped praying for him, that I met a guy who asked me if I knew anyone great to set him up with and I found myself answering, without thinking, “Yes! I know this amazing guy named Glenn.”
Glenn! As in: the guy I hated. Had hated, apparently.
Those days and weeks and months of asking an entity I didn’t even understand to give Glenn what he wanted had apparently granted me the empathy to see that he only hurt like that because of the pain he was in himself. And this had relieved me of my resentment, without me even realizing. It was surreal. (And no, I didn’t set the two guys up—I had no interest in ever talking to Glenn again—but the space he’d been taking up my head was cleared.)
I still do things I need to make amends for. Sometimes I make them right away and sometimes not for a long time. But I’ve found that time works in surprising ways when it comes to these things. Consider, for instance, what happened with Peter—the guy who wouldn’t call me back when I first started making my amends. Years had passed—so many years that he’d forgotten I’d ever said or done anything hurtful to him—when I ran into him one evening outside the gym. He told me that he’d just gotten an offer to sell a book of poetry, then asked if I’d be willing to look over the contract the publisher was asking him to sign.
I said I’d be happy to, and we met up a few days later, when I looked over his contract and gave him the best advice I could. Then I told him how sorry I was about the hurtful thing I’d done so many years before. I still remember how shocked his bright blue eyes looked when they jumped from the contract pages to meet mine. Then they filled with tears. Turns out, this thing I’d done that was “just” gossipy and mean-spirited had actually been something I needed to make right. And the guy who didn’t like to “revisit the past,” who’d told a friend I didn’t have to apologize for anything, ended up accepting my apology lovingly, giving me one more opportunity to chip away at the guilt and shame I didn’t want to walk around with anymore. He just hadn’t been able to do it on my time schedule.
Lauren has never surfaced. But that’s not to say that she won’t.
Fix columnist Anna David is the author of Party Girl, Bought, Reality Matters and Falling For Me. She served as The Fix's Executive Editor for over two years. Her first column for us told you Why You Don't Really Hate AA.