“Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic.” – Alcoholics Anonymous
I was recently participating in an addiction recovery group Zoom meeting and the topic brought up was resentment – what it is and, more importantly, how can we best approach resentments when they arise.
Listening to those present in the meeting, it became clear there can be many ways to look at resentment; in other words, ‘resentment’ can have quite a few definitions or meanings:
- Harboring anger against a person, group or institution I feel has treated me wrongly or badly;
- The emotional upset experienced when someone or some negative event comes up in discussion or is brought to mind;
- The anger I feel over a past undesirable occurrence in my life;
- The residue left from not having forgiven or accepted someone or something;
- The result of unresolved feelings I’d been victimized by someone or something;
- Holding a grudge against someone or some institution I feel has kept me from fulfilling a sincere and heartfelt desire;
- The aftereffect of feeling heartbroken, but not ‘letting it go’ and instead blaming the other person
What I felt particularly impressed by – and grateful for – was the wide range of ways to address resentment, which the people in this recovery group offered up.
Quick “sidebar”: I mean, here were 15 fellows (it was a “men’s 12 Steps meeting”) who had been abject alcoholics and addicts, overcome and overwhelmed by the obsession and compulsion to drink or use drugs, no matter the horrible, self-destructive consequences… their lives, to a man, shattered and broken apart, and in most cases, destroying or bringing to the brink of destruction all the important and previously loving relationships they’d had prior to their “hitting bottom.”
However, each man in this group had either gone to treatment (rehab) for their substance use disorder (a.k.a., chemical dependency or addiction to alcohol or drugs) or joined and successfully maintained their sobriety in a 12 Steps fellowship, or both. And what they’d learned, practiced and shared in this meeting about resentment was—in my view—truly insightful, illuminating and enriching.
Here are some of the “nuggets of gold” I heard, which constitute ways to approach resentment when you cross its path in your own life.
- Admitting and accepting you have some unhealed, unresolved anger toward someone, some group or some institution, and commit to getting rid of the resentment(s), no matter what is required.
- Reflect on what causes resentment in you and write a “searching and fearless” inventory of such, including your part in each and what you can do different going forward.
- Identify the “symptoms” of resentment you’re experiencing and focus—right then and there—on diminishing (if not resolving entirely) their impact on you, again, whatever it takes.
- Write a “letter to God” (or whatever Higher Power you have) in which you detail your resentments, who they’re aimed at, and what kind of help you’d ideally like (for example, “Please remove these resentments from my heart and help me accept this person for who they are, right now and without conditions”).
- Get together with a supportive person in your recovery network—perhaps your treatment counselor or 12 Steps sponsor—someone with whom you can share confidentially and openly your feelings of resentment, asking for their perspective and any suggestions they might have for addressing whatever resentments you’re carrying. (Note: You necessarily must bring as much open-mindedness and willingness to follow their suggestions as you can muster.)
- If necessary, consider seeking professional help, i.e., therapeutic counseling from someone who is trained and certified in anger management. Someone from your treatment center may be able to help you or refer you to possible resources.
Hopefully, by following one or a number of these suggestions, you’ll find your way to resolving any resentment(s) you’re harboring, so you can live free of their influence and begin enjoying your life in recovery that much more!