Resentment in Recovery: How to Handle It
Having a program of recovery and behaving as such is an integral part of participating in a 12-step fellowship. They say we must practice our principles of recovery in all of our affairs. Does this mean that we are absolutely perfect in every situation? Of course not! First and foremost, we are human. We are imperfect people attempting to work a perfect program, and sometimes we fall short. So, what do we do when we develop resentments in recovery?
Life on Life’s Terms
Sometimes, things just happen. We know we are powerless over addiction and life in general, but that doesn’t quell the negative feelings that occur as a result of injustice against us. Whether it’s the infidelity of a partner, a friend who betrays us, or the loss of employment, resentments in recovery are bound to crop up once in a while.
We may feel completely aghast at the unfair circumstances that have befallen us. If we feel completely without fault, this can foster resentment ever further.
These resentments can negatively affect your life, whether physically or spiritually. In the fallout of whatever seismic event has unfolded in our lives, we find ourselves seething. Just the thought of the situation is enough to make our blood boil.
Our minds begin to drift from the spiritual principles of recovery to the ideations of revenge—or even worse, using. We are in full resentment mode. Unwilling to give up our sobriety, what do we do now?
Resentments in Recovery Vs. Resentments in Active Addiction
Resentment, in general, is a fickle beast. In the past, before we found recovery, our method of handling resentments was completely different. We might have turned to the bottle or our drug of choice in an effort to swallow the poison of resentment and hope that it dies. Other times, we might have made it our life’s work to get back at whoever or whatever wrongs us.
We may have even turned our rage and turmoil inward, fueling our self-loathing and causing further demoralization. We were living a life of sick attempts at causing pain in retaliation.
The way we handle resentments in recovery, however, is vastly different. While it may be easy to fall back into our old mindset, it’s crucial that we avoid the trap of old behaviors at all costs, even if it seems completely unnatural and goes against all our instincts.
Implementing a program of recovery is the only healthy method of surmounting resentments in recovery. This means engaging in all aspects of the program that we know work. If we want to get through life sober, we need to handle resentments in recovery hastily and correctly.
So, how do we do it?
Navigating the Resentment
Now that we have recognized that we are developing resentment, it’s time to spring into action. Resentments in recovery cannot be allowed to fester; the longer we wait to act, the deeper the roots of resentment take hold in our lives. Here are some tips on how to deal with resentment. You may notice that they share some similarities with the 12 steps of addiction recovery.
1. Identify the Problem
Whenever we feel any sort of negative emotion, it’s important to first identify the source of its discontentment. We can’t begin to tackle the issue at hand without a complete understanding as to why we are upset in the first place. When it comes to resentments in recovery, sometimes the cause is easier to spot than others.
Resentments are insidious. They can creep up on us over time, building and growing until we finally snap. What we may have brushed off as a minor incident may have burrowed itself deep within the confines of our subconscious, taken root, and begun to grow in silence. Recognizing our resentments as early as possible is the best course of action in the removal process.
2. Reach Out
Once we have put a face to our resentment, it’s time to take a proactive approach to remove the poison from our lives. The benefit of being a member of recovery is that no matter what we are going through, we are never alone. It is during the more challenging times in our recovery that we must reach out to our support systems such as our friends in the program, our sponsor, sponsorship family, or people in the meetings.
Pain shared is pain lessened, and by reaching out about our resentments in recovery, we are allowing ourselves to remain open to suggestions on how to deal with the situation from other more experienced members. By openly talking about a resentment we may be harboring, we are taking away some the power it extends over us. We need not suffer in silence.
3. Write, Write, Write
Writing is one of the best tools we have in recovery and life when it comes to managing feelings, good, bad, or in between. The pen is mightier than the sword, and this is especially true when dealing with resentments in recovery. Rather than lashing out, we should look inwardly and reflect upon the feelings we are experiencing. This can give us a complete picture of ourselves and the situation at hand.
If we take all of the negative energy we have raging inside of our bodies and unleash it upon the blank paper in front of us, we can funnel that very energy into creation rather than destruction. Much like an artist with a canvas, we transmit our feelings onto the paper and out of ourselves. We may be able to lie to ourselves and others, but we can never hide the truth from paper — it always abides by sincerity.
4. Recognize Your Part
There are always two sides to every resentment: your side of the street and theirs. While it may be far easier to point the finger, remember, there are always three pointed back at us. We would be naive to think that we are complete without blame when it comes to fostering resentments in recovery.
So, it’s crucial to ask yourself this question: what was my part?
Sometimes this is easier said than done. We may feel completely justified in our resentment and that we are without fault nor blame. This commonly happens, but you can’t expect to overcome resentment with this attitude. Sometimes turning to our sponsor can provide us with some insight into how we were wrong. We completely usurp the power resentment holds over us when we identify our part in the situation. Only then can we enter into a solution.
5. Make Amends Wherever Possible
We do not need to be on our ninth step to make amends in recovery. When we develop resentments in recovery, it’s best to take care of the problem at hand in a timely manner. Merely shrugging it off and “saving it for your ninth step” is still allowing the poison to lurk in your life. Obviously, depending on the strength and stature of the resentment, this will impact the method in which you make amends.
Sometimes making amends directly to the individual is the best course of action. Other times, living amends may be the better alternative. At your personal discretion and the discretion of your sponsor, you can make that judgment call. Making the amends as quickly as possible is typically better. Any resentment you incur in recovery shouldn’t fester to fourth and ninth step proportions. If we address them soon enough, and obviously, of course, depending on the severity of the situation, resentments in recovery do not need to take over your life and can be handled sooner rather than later.
6. Learn the Lesson and Let it Go
Finally, after everything’s said and done, the resentment is identified, we share our feelings, we write a hundred pages on it, we see where we were wrong, and we make our amends, it’s time for the final, and most important part: we learn and let it go. This is without a doubt the most difficult part of the healing process. As people recovering from addiction, we love to cling to things.
But as they say, let go or be dragged.
If we do all the work on the resentment but refuse to engage in this last step, we were unsuccessful in removing the resentment.
Learning the lesson from the resentment is vital to keep from making the same mistake repeatedly. Nothing is a mistake if we learn from it, but if we refuse to take away anything from our experience, we are bound to repeat it. Whether it’s something simple or a life-altering experience, we must not allow it to go unnoticed. Every lesson we learn is another way we grow in life and our recovery.
In the end, how we manage our resentments in recovery will ultimately determine the quality of life we will lead. If you allow those resentments to build up over time, relapse is inevitable. Once we relapse, and find ourselves in active addiction, we lose all hope of being to do anything about the resentments in our lives.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, give The Palm Beach Institute a call today for the help you need. You are not alone. Call us at 855-534-3574 or contact us online.