Making Amends | 12 Step Recovery

We all say sorry on many occasions every week, and that important word can roll easily off our tongues. It’s when we realise how terribly wrong we were that saying “sorry” becomes truly painful. Most of the pain comes from facing up to your past mistakes, which is particularly difficult for people in recovery.

Fashion designer and infamous media figure John Galliano found this out for himself. Earlier this year, Galliano apologised to members of the Jewish community in a London synagogue for anti-semitic comments he made in a Paris cafe while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The apology came from a very nervous Galliano who stated frankly: “I am an alcoholic. I am an addict.”

Many in the media dismissed it as a media stunt, others chose to focus on his comeback in the world of fashion.

Galliano’s apology is important for many reasons, fighting anti-semitism being a crucial one. But what the media missed was what drove Galliano to address his issues publicly: his journey of recovery.

Step by Step

While the 12-step process is about facing up to one’s addiction, three of these steps, namely 8,9 and 10, deal specifically with setting the record straight.

“Making amends is important for recovery because it is taking responsibility for our recovery through positive action” says Castle Craig therapist Chris Burn.

Chris Burn also emphasised that just reading and processing the steps is not enough. People in recovery have to walk that extra mile and make those amends. Apologising to the Jewish community was how Galliano did that. However, it was not his first apology.

Prejudice – not a product of addiction

In a court hearing in Paris in 2011, Galliano, who had just started engaging in addiction treatment, blamed his outbursts solely on his addiction.

However, there is no link between drugs and anti-semitism, nor did alcohol magically transform Galliano into an anti-semite.

“Alcohol may remove our inhibitions,” says Chris Burn, “but if it reveals our true attitudes as unacceptable or abhorrent, then we should do something directly about them and not blame addiction.”

Which is why the apology he made this year was different. He took responsibility for his actions more than he had before. In his statement at the launch of a Jewish educational project, he said: “I am an alcoholic ” but that is by no means an excuse.”

He went on to say: “I used to blame everyone for what happened, but now I bear no resentment… I have finally come to terms with what happened and what was my part in it.”

This statement alone is not a clear sign that Galliano is on a safe path to recovery. As the media were quick to point out, he did indeed have a lot to gain from such a public apology. And as we all know, every genuine apology must be followed up with good behaviour and the appropriate actions.

Only time will tell if this was the first step on a fruitful road to recovery rather than a clever piece of PR. But at a first glance, his actions suggest that he is willing to work for his change.

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