Tools For Resentments
“Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”- Alcoholics Anonymous
Nearly all human beings experience resentment. The fact our fellows will harm us in some way, and we become resentful is such a common part of the human experience, why is it so deadly to addicts and alcoholics? How can being angry or bitter with people, places, institutions, etc. become a fatal endeavor? The answers lie in the same characteristics that differentiate us from others who are non-addicted.
What Leads To A Resentment?
The short answer is expectations. An expectation is a resentment with training wheels. We expect people, places and things to behave in a certain way, when they fail to meet our expectations we become resentful.
Some say “It’s natural to have expectations. I expect my family to be loving and supportive, this is normal! I expect my job to pay me on time, is this not a reasonable expectation?”. Sure, a cross section of the developed world would probably agree with you. For emotionally balanced and sane people this would be a reasonable and sane expectation. But those same people would react to being disappointed in an emotionally balanced and sane manner.
Not so with addicts. We would use any excuse to drink and use, and having a ‘reasonable’ target to blame it on makes the reason more appealing. Anytime my expectations are not met, I’m laying the groundwork for a resentment.
The ‘Number One’ Offender
The Big Book names resentment as the number one destroyer of addicts and alcoholics. “Self-Righteous anger is the luxury of more balanced people.” As addicts, we must be rid of anger. It’s a liability that endangers our well-being. When our well-being is in crisis, we are susceptible to relapse.
We chase the sense of ease and calm that comes at once when we take the first drink or drug. The problem was it no longer came at once. We had to use more and more to feel at ease again. Once we become sober, we do not suddenly become peaceful and at ease. We must acquire the tools necessary to bring this sensation about for ourselves.
A single resentment can bleed into every corner of our lives. If we don’t like something someone said in a meeting, perhaps we stop going to that meeting. Then perhaps we stop going to that meeting place. Soon we aren’t going to meetings. Soon we don’t think AA actually works. Soon we don’t think we actually have a problem. Soon we think we’ll show those AA people. Soon we’re using again.
And once that happens, we have given up choice in what happens next. Maybe me make it back to recovery, maybe we end up in an institution, prison, or dead. Resentment in a very real sense can be fatal.
Luckily, there are effective means of ridding this from our lives:
- Discussing with a Mentor or counselor at once
- Looking for our part
- Praying or Meditating for the person concerned
- Writing out our concerns and slights
- Taking an inventory of the situation
Talking it out with a trusted friend, mentor or counselor gives us an outside perspective on the matter. Can offer us insights and alternative perspectives we might not have considered given that we were angry and incapable of empathy. Helping us to see the larger picture rather than our narrow-minded myopic version.
Looking for our part helps us to see that often times we are often the culprit when it comes to resentment. Let’s look at our earlier example; we took offense with someone at a meeting. As a result we made an independent decision to no longer attend that meeting. Which caused a snowball affect which wound us up completely leaving the fellowship. No one forced us out. No one said we were no longer welcome. Our coping skill was to avoid the situation and isolate. We had personalized a statement that likely was said in a general sense. So our part would be that we took something personally, got our feelings hurt, and as a solution to this isolated. From that perspective we can see that the individual in question is by no means responsible at all. The problem was entirely of our own making.
If the resentment persists in light of our earlier efforts, prayer and meditation for the person we’re upset with can help us to gain more empathy and understanding. Reminding us that we are all sick people trying to do our best. Humanizing their experience and having empathy for that as we would like to also be treated and helped often takes the anger straight out of us.
There’s always been something therapeutic about setting pen to paper. Taking inventory of the situation and setting these facts to paper helps to take the power away from it and set them before you for your inspection. Taking stock in how you were affected, where your part is, and what happened to cause these feelings is an effective tool to get to the bottom of the problem as well as formulate a solution.