Who doesn’t enjoy feeling a little self-righteous anger? It can be exhilarating, feeding the ego in a closed-circuit loop of anger and pride, reaffirming the fact that we are correct and everyone else is wrong. Our mind becoming meditative, focusing solely on that event, word, or action that is fueling our anger, pushing all other thoughts aside as our attention narrows. Before we know it, it has consumed our waking and sleeping life, it is all we can think of, and even when not in the conscious mind, it colors all our thoughts and words, tingeing them ever so slightly off center.
This is what resentment does to us. What starts out as a gleeful imagining of undoing the perceived wrongs that have been thrust upon us, eventually turns on us, resulting in a sickness of the mind and spirit that is not always easily washed off. For many people without a drug or alcohol problem, this is not of immediate concern. Their harboring of resentments usually won’t result in their continued destruction and ultimate death. For us alcoholics and addicts, we are not given the luxury of embracing resentment. We abused this power while in active addiction, allowing it to fuel the rampant substance abuse that nearly took our lives, and now that we are sober, we are left to contend with these resentments, hoping to uproot them from our lives and remove the sickness that has plagued our psyche for far too long.
This is not always an easy task because many of these resentments have carved out a comfy place in our consciousness over the years. What’s more is that many people are not even totally aware of what resentment is or how greatly it can affect a person’s ability to maintain long-term sobriety. The AA literature states, “Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else” and this statement could not be truer. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at what resentment is, how it can affect someone’s sobriety, and how we can be rid of these awful specters of the past.
What is a Resentment?
The dictionary definition of resentment is “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” This, however, is only a piece of the picture explaining what resentment really is. The word resentment can be broken down into two parts, re and sentiment, which is actually sentiment. Re means again and sentiment means a feeling or emotion, so a resentment is actually a re-feeling of emotions. This is a more accurate definition of what resentments are, and it explains how people can hold onto one for 20 years, forgetting what the initial argument was about, but remember vividly that they hate that person. While the initial action acts in part to create the resentment, it is through our re-feeling of the event that the resentment really takes shape.
Using the definition of re-feel to explain a resentment, helps to uncover why they are so dangerous for an alcoholic or addict. A resentment creates a mental space in which the addict or alcoholic can recreate a feeling and then stew in that feeling for as long as they want. Since most alcoholics or addicts are a prey to their emotions already, this re-feeling of often hurtful events can become overwhelming, leading someone to take a drink or drug in order to alleviate them. Learning to rid yourself of resentments is one of the keys in relapse prevention.
How Resentments Can Kill Your Sobriety
The two most common ways that resentments can destroy a person’s sobriety are not dealing with resentments from before the person got sober or not dealing with resentments that are acquired in sobriety. The former is probably the most dangerous for an alcoholic or addict and it usually stems from the person not working the steps. The 4th step in 12-step programs is an inventory. This inventory brings to the surface all of the resentments that have been attained throughout that person’s life. In doing this, the person begins to learn that they had a hand in almost all of the resentments that they harbor. This is often a huge revelation and anger that has been long standing can melt away in an afternoon. This is not always the case though, and there are those resentments that are so deep-rooted that just talking about them with your sponsor once, won’t get rid of them. That is okay, and in fact, it is even okay to harbor these resentments for some time after, but the thing is that at some point you must be willing to face them and attempt to overcome them, or they have the potential to bring you back to the drink or drug.
The other iteration of resentment that has the potential to bring you back to a drink or a drug is not dealing with the resentments that are acquired during sobriety. These may come about because of something that happened in your home group or another meeting. You may have a falling out with someone who was once close to you. No matter how these resentments come about, they will eventually need to be dealt with in order for your sobriety to remain intact. One of the main things that occurs with resentments of this nature is that the person can stop going to certain meetings in order to avoid certain people. While this is not inherently bad, what often occurs from this is a transference of resentment from the group or person, to the 12-step program as a whole. Once this occurs the person may begin to distance themselves from that program and in time this could lead back a drink or drug.
How to Overcome Resentments
Regardless of how, where, or when the resentment came into being, the answer for being rid of it is usually the same. First, there must be an understanding that you are the only one suffering from harboring these feelings. The resentment doesn’t wake the person you hate in the middle of the night and it certainly doesn’t cloud their thoughts like it does yours. Once this understanding is achieved being rid of a resentment is as simple as coming to understand your part in the resentment, and then attempting to forgive. There may be times when you literally had nothing to do with the event that led to the resentment, and in these cases your part consists of continuing to hold on to it and keep yourself sick when letting go would mean freedom. This is not always easy, in fact, it is usually very difficult, but in the end letting go of resentment means being cleansed of the spiritual and emotional malice you have inflicted upon yourself, allowing for true healing and happiness to occur.
Seeking Treatment and Being Rid of Resentment Today
If you are suffering from resentments that you just can’t shake and they are keeping you in a life of drug addiction or alcoholism, call the professionals at Broadway Treatment Center today, at 714-443-8218. There is nothing to feel ashamed about. You are not alone in your struggle and you will not be alone in your recovery either. Call them today and make a start.