Freedom From Resentment
“Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.”
Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book pg.64
Whether you’re new to recovery or you have managed to put together some solid sober time, your addiction is subtle and cunning in nature – always lurking in the shadows waiting for a chance to devour you again.
You can work through the steps, pray daily, work with other alcoholics, and generally be doing all of the right things – and just like that, something as seemingly small as resentment can crop up and throw you completely off course. While mountains and valleys are a part of the recovery process, staying stuck in the valley can be extremely problematic. If you are unable to figure out what is holding you back, it won’t be long before you find yourself stagnant in the valley and headed for a relapse.
Of all the obstacles you may face in recovery, harboring resentments is one of the most fatal challenges you can encounter. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly describes the detriment of holding onto resentments “But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.” One of the most important keys to maintaining long-term sobriety is learning how you can overcome resentments.
What are Resentments?
Resentment is defined as “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.” That indignation is sure to lead an alcoholic to walk hand in hand with his fatal foe – another drink. To take it a step further, resentments refer to the mental process of replaying a feeling (along with the events that led up to the feeling) over and over again. Typically, in resentments, we re-experience and relive the events in a way that detrimentally affects every area of our lives – physiologically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Resentments can crop up from any recent event but typically resurface from conflicts or events that go far back into an individual’s past history. More often than not, resentments are the direct result of unresolved misperceived or real events in which the individual feels fearful, disregarded, or entirely disrespected.
You may feel recently slighted by a friend or disrespected by a family member, however, the situation may seem insurmountable due to underlying and unresolved resentments from your past. When looking over your resentments, in Step 4, it is not uncommon to recognize that these resentments have and currently may be affecting every area of your life. In recovery, the importance of addressing resentments is grave. In order to live, you must be free of resentment. Although a daunting task, it is not impossible. Here are some ways you can find freedom from resentment.
Awareness is Key
One of the key elements of letting go of resentments is recognizing the peoples, places, and institutions in which you are harboring resentments. If you are anything like me, this was a difficult request. I stepped into recovery, thoroughly convinced I was not angry at anyone other than myself. This delusion had to be smashed entirely.
In Step 4 we put pen to paper. We write down every person, place, or thing that we feel angered by. As we begin to identify these areas, we then identify and begin allowing ourselves to feel the underlying emotions of the anger – such as hurt or fear. There is a specific amount of vulnerability to proceed with this process. Laying our pride aside, we look at where we (our ego) may have felt threatened: financially, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and even within our self-esteem.
What Was Your Part?
One of the most freeing practices, through working the 12 Steps, is looking at what role you played in your resentments. For me personally, I began to accept that I had no control over other people, places, and things. However, I knew one thing for sure and that is that I had complete control over myself and my response to the things I find unacceptable. I came to the conclusion that my life looked exactly what I designed it to be. I, alone, was solely responsible for the consequences that beseeched me. Grace met me face to face in this place.
Looking at your resentments and finding your part is not a task to trudge alone – that’s why you have a sponsor. With the aid of your sponsor, you can look at how you may have been selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, or afraid. By disregarding the other person entirely, we are able to look within ourselves and see how we may have handled these offenses differently.
This process is described as one that separates the men from the boys. It’s not easy swallowing your pride, especially for the real alcoholic. However, in order to rid ourselves of seemingly justifiable anger and resentment, we must proceed. We begin to view everyone as our equal rather than better than or less than. After all, haven’t we also hurt others when we were spiritually sick? Forgiveness begins to seep its way in.
Pray, Pray, and Then Pray Some More
If you are in recovery, I’m sure you’ve heard others say act as if. I spent most of my life playing whatever “part” was most suitable for my specific needs. When it came time to get sober, I was a rebel without a cause. It wasn’t until I began addressing my resentments, that I began to understand the importance of this concept. So I became willing to let go of my resentments and now you want me to pray for this person? It sounded like utter insanity, yet my sponsor read over a specific resentment prayer in the Big Book, which states “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for that person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free.”
My sponsor explained to me that all I had to do was be willing to pray for these “offenders” for two weeks. I clung to the freedom that was promised in letting go of my resentments. I began praying, despite my lack of compassion, and over time my seemingly empty prayers became real cause and concern for the wellbeing of these people I had been condemning for what seemed like an eternity.
You see, if you begin acting as if, eventually you will take on an entirely different perspective. With the smallest bit of willingness and action, life begins to take on a whole new meaning. If you truly want to be freed from the bondage of resentments, you should pray for those that you feel have harmed you. You will let go of the need to play the judge, juror, and executioner. You will find gratitude and your interaction with the world will begin to shift. This newfound application squeezes the resentment out of our minds, genuine concern and resentment cannot coexist.