“Amends” refers to Step Nine in the 12-step program invented by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Each “step” is an action taken in order to become free of addiction. In Step Eight, members of a 12-step group make a list of all the people they have harmed and decide to make direct amends to them. In Step Nine, members make amends to all each person they identified, except if doing so would injure them or others.
According to the “Big Book” used in 12-step recovery groups, making amends means to set right past wrongs or to repair damage due to mistakes you made in the past. Drug addicts and alcoholics often have histories of harming other people through lying, stealing, embarrassing them, physical and verbal assaults, getting in trouble with the law and forcing others to cover up for them. Whenever possible, members must take practical action to repair what needs to be fixed. For example, if you stole money from a friend to pay for drugs, it is not enough to simply apologize. Instead, you need to pay back the money.
The “Big Book” says that members making amends “must not shrink from anything, even risking their reputations or going to jail.” Step Nine can take a few days or many years to finish. Members often say working through Step Nine can be extremely beneficial and even life-changing, as they experience a new freedom from guilt, self-pity, uselessness and fear of interacting with other people they avoided for years.