Thought: ‘Understand the difference between an old scar that has been forgotten and festering wound that must be healed.’

This article is inspired by an Addictions UK “Thought for the Day” which you can follow on Twitter @addictionsuk

There is a focus today on ensuring that criminals do not escape justice for offences committed long ago. The United Kingdom has no general statute of limitations. It may be right that those who have broken the law should never feel they have got away with it.

But in many cases, a prosecution for an historic offence takes victims and witnesses back to a time they have dealt with and “moved on from” and “raking it all up again” is difficult and painful. Some would argue that this process is essential to “closure”, others that old wounds should be left undisturbed unless they are still open and unhealed.

Step Eight

Made a list of all persons we have harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step Nine

Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Sometimes the harm we have done to people falls into the category of historic crime. It’s hardly unknown for a drug addict to steal to support the habit or for alcohol consumption to lead to a criminal assault.

So, in considering whether and how to make amends, we have to consider and face the possible legal consequences of that honesty should, for example, the victim now report what happened.

We should not feel able to take an objective view of our own actions nor to decide alone on the right steps to take. We need advice from a sponsor or mentor. And for the sake of both parties, there needs to be a discussion first about “duty of disclosure”; it would be a crime, for example, for a counsellor not to report a fraud supporting the trafficking of drugs.

It’s easy to see how all these legal issues are important when we consider how to own up to our mistakes and what we should do to make amends. But there are personal issues too. What we have done to partners or family or friends or others may not have been a crime but may have hurt them deeply. Whether and how to say sorry and make amends can be an enormously difficult decision.

It can be hard to bear the burden of unredeemed guilt but it can be the better course of action.

There is no easy, catch-all answer to the dilemmas. Each case, each person has to be considered separately and carefully and always with expert advice and support.

Addictions UK can offer you that help. Contact us now on line or telephone 0800 140 4044.

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