What is resentment?
Resentment comes from unresolved anger, which is especially detrimental to addicts—it can be fatal. Resentment grows out of a belief that you have been wronged. Maybe you’re still holding on to an old insult, or you’re mad that you made compromises for someone that caused you pain or misfortune. You may feel cheated because someone else got something you wanted, such as love, attention, or financial or social success. Maybe your relationship with someone caused you to lose something important to you. Whatever the reason, you may store up this resentment and anger against others, which only leaves you feeling bitter. Resentment will eventually crowd out your other feelings, such as joy, compassion, and happiness, leaving you without serenity and peace.
Feeling miserable like this long enough can make you feel righteous and justified in seeking revenge. This may mean getting drunk just to get back at someone who hurt you. But this philosophy doesn’t work. It’s like punching yourself in the stomach to get back at someone else.
Ultimately, resentment hurts you more than anybody else.
When you hold on to resentment, you are adopting a “poison me to hurt you” philosophy. But it doesn’t work. Holding on to resentment will only hurt you and make you miserable. It won’t affect the people whom you resent.
How can resentment threaten your recovery?
The unresolved anger that leads to resentment is a major cause of relapse and eventual return to chemical use. This is because resentment will block you from the spirituality necessary to continue building your ongoing recovery. Feelings of anger, hatred, and revenge will only consume your thoughts, trapping you in a life of rage and hurt. The only way out is to let go of hate, anger, and resentment, replacing those things with spirituality, peace, and compassion. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary to your well-being and your ongoing recovery.
Many people in early recovery have blamed a relapse or return to use on the mistreatment of a lover or spouse. But no one can cause your return to active addiction—you do this to yourself by using resentment to justify your use of alcohol and other drugs.
You can’t always control what others do to you—but you can control how you respond.
Make sure you let your Higher Power guide your choices. Allow yourself the opportunity to feel peace, compassion, and freedom.
How does resentment grow?
John is slowly building resentment toward his wife, Linda. He wonders, “Does she really love me? How important am I to her? Does she care about me at all?” These doubts slowly eat away at the relationship, while John feels hurt, offended, and wronged. Instead of communicating these feelings, John pushes them down inside. He’s too proud to tell Linda how hurt and insecure he feels. John thinks that if Linda really cared about him, she would intuitively understand what he’s going through. She would show him more affection, empathy, and understanding.
It’s easy for John to grow resentful because he feels like a victim that has been wronged. He feels justified in binge drinking. He thinks that all he can do is wait for Linda to make things “right” between them.
The truth is that you can wait forever for people to apologize or make amends. But often others don’t even know how you feel; they may not realize or understand the problem. That’s why the burden is upon you to take actions to heal your resentment.
How can you let go of resentment?
If you want to preserve your recovery, let go of resentment as soon as it starts to build. Close your eyes, visualize the person you resent, and picture that person bathed in compassion. If you can’t do this, try some objective reasoning. The person you resent may be as sick as you were when you were actively addicted. Their actions may be a symptom of their own illness, their own separation from spirituality. Try to have compassion for this person, just as you expect compassion from others while you work to make amends for past wrongs. Try to forgive the person you resent. By forgiving others, you can forgive yourself for wrongs you did when you were actively addicted.
Recovery Action steps
- Make a list of people toward whom you feel resentful. Write down the action or lack of action that you resent.
- Think about how this resentment is harming you. Is it inhibiting your relationships and trust in others? Is it causing you to communicate from a place of rage? Is it keeping you from taking risks or pursuing goals in your personal life? Is it affecting your relationships with others?
- Write down ways that you could let go of this resentment. You could choose to forgive these people, or you could choose simply to meditate and pray to let go of the feelings of anger and revenge because they serve no purpose. The past is in the past—can you let it stay there and move on to a free, peaceful future?
Talk about your answers with your sponsor or recovery group.
How can you practice forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, to free you from the past. You don’t have to forgive anyone. It’s only right when it’s something you want to do. Being friends again is not always the goal of forgiveness—it’s possible to forgive without becoming friends. Sometimes the best you can do is to let go of hatred and rage so you can move forward with your life.
Once you have made the choice to forgive, take action. Sometimes you can change your actions before you change the way you think. AA calls this “acting as if.” This means you can choose to act as if you have already forgiven the person, before that sentiment becomes real for you in your heart.
To begin to forgive, you have to start somewhere. If you have resentment toward your spouse or partner, think about how you would treat him or her if you didn’t have resentment. Would you do romantic or kind things—cook dinner, surprise him or her with a clean house, prepare an unexpected picnic—if you didn’t have unresolved anger?
Picture the person toward whom you feel resentful. Now picture that person receiving a blessing in his or her life. When you no longer feel upset, angry, or jealous that that person is receiving a blessing, then you have moved toward forgiveness. When you feel truly happy for that person, then your forgiveness is complete.
It will be harder for you to let go of resentment if it is toward someone who abused you. Individuals who have experienced abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional) can often feel betrayed and abandoned. This can result in long-term resentment, rage, and fear.
How can you deal with resentment from abuse?
Because abuse can cause severe psychological, emotional, and sexual damage, anyone suffering from abuse should seek professional help. Self-help groups can be very helpful for survivors because they can let the survivors know that they are not alone, that there are others who share these experiences and feelings.