It seems like a simple idea, and maybe like an unnecessary thing to worry about…
Resentments: A Major Threat to Addiction Recovery
One of the biggest threats to recovery from addiction is getting caught up in negative emotions. Resentments are among the most powerful of these emotions, and for many recovering alcoholics and addicts, resentments can trigger the urge to use and are a threat to addiction recovery.
A resentment is defined as a feeling of persistent ill will or bitterness toward things or people. It’s an all-consuming negative emotion that is felt in response to real or imagined harms done. People who have resentments dwell on feeling hurt or angry, and the intensity of the emotions are frequently out of proportion to what actually happened.
For recovering alcoholics and addicts, feeling very resentful toward someone can be dangerous territory. Resentments tend to get stronger if you don’t let them go, and as the emotions get stronger and more negative, they can lead those in recovery to impulsively turn to a drink or a drug.
Triggers for Resentments
Resentments can be triggered by just about anything. Your boss could pass you over for a job promotion. Your mother-in-law could ask you why your laundry isn’t caught up. A cashier could wait on the person behind you in line or seem to treat you with rudeness.
It really doesn’t matter what causes you to feel resentful, because there are many times that feelings of resentment are triggered by episodes that were misinterpreted. Sometimes they are triggered by things that never happened at all. You think someone looked at you critically when they weren’t looking at you at all. You think your boss is always giving you a hard time, but he or she is actually having problems at home. You think a friend is trying to act superior to you — but are they?
More often than you realize, resentments may originate completely in your own mind.
The Challenge of Relating to Others Sober
There are times that others are actually treating you unjustly. Your family or friends may treat you as if you’re nothing but a good-for-nothing drunk no matter how hard you try to get well, and you can’t help but resent being constantly treated as if it’s impossible for you to change. You may work for an employer who abuses his or her power or you may be in an unhappy marriage in which your partner expects you to do more than your share pretty much all the time.
Relationships can be very challenging, particularly for a recovering alcoholic or addict. You’re trying to learn who you are sober, and it’s difficult to avoid reacting to demands from family and friends or from any kind of negativity or hostility from other people.
In early sobriety, your emotions are particularly volatile and frequently unpredictable. Things or people may upset you without warning. If you get stuck in the negativity, your efforts to lead a productive sober life can be quickly derailed.
Getting Past Resentments
Alcoholism and drug addiction aren’t just drinking and drugging problems; they are also thinking problems. Learning to live sober requires that you learn new ways of reacting to things and people, and new ways of thinking. You have to learn to let go of negative emotions. There is a lot in life that you can’t control, including the behavior of other people. When you dwell on resentful feelings, you are wasting energy that could be better spent focusing on yourself and your recovery.
Carrying resentments around can be compared to carrying a huge anchor with you everywhere you go. These negative feelings weigh you down and just might cause you to have a relapse.
For most people in recovery, the question isn’t if out-of-control resentments will trigger a relapse; it’s when. To stay sober, you need to release negative feelings and focus on positive thoughts and emotions. It’s kind of like changing the channel in your own head.
Learn to calm stormy emotions by practicing healthy habits, like yoga or meditation. Physical exercise can also help to channel negative energy into something positive. Sort through your feelings by attending support groups and sharing your feelings with others. It can also be therapeutic to write down negative emotions in a journal.
Resentful feelings can be very overpowering, but you can learn to calm turbulent emotions. Your sobriety depends on it.