Dealing with Resentments in Addiction Recovery
When you hold a resentment, it's like holding a hot coal in your hand with the intention of throwing it at someone else. The problem is, you're the one who gets burned. Resentments in addiction recovery are like this, and they come with additional risks.
Having a resentments in addiction recovery can quite literally ruin your life, and even has the power to kill. This may seem dramatic, but the truth is that countless people in recovery have relapsed and died from harboring resentments. In this article, we look at why resentments are so dangerous, and how you can free yourself of them.
What is a resentment?
Put simply, resentment is a negative feeling you may experience if you feel wronged in some way. Perhaps you feel like someone has been dismissive of you, has taken you for granted, or has not given you the credit you deserve. Maybe you feel like you are not given the same opportunities as others. You might feel resentment if you perceive that you have been manipulated.
Whatever caused your resentment, it is important to deal with it. Holding on to resentments can cause us to lose our piece of mind. This is particularly true for people in addiction recovery, who often have the tendency to ruminate and overthink on things that are bothering them.
Ways to deal with resentments in addiction recovery
If you’re struggling with resentments in addiction recovery, go through this list. See which techniques for addressing resentments resonate with you.
Practice allowing yourself to feel the underlying emotion
Sometimes, there is a feeling underlying the resentment. The anger acts as a less painful smoke screen for the emotion behind it. This may be fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, embarrassment, betrayal, jealousy, sadness, hurt, or worry. Feeling this emotion may help release the resentment.
Practice being present with the resentment
By taking time to reflect on our past actions and understand where we went wrong, we can learn from our mistakes and move on.
In doing so, we can also forgive those who have wronged us in the past. Forgiveness is not about condoning someone's actions; rather, it is about letting go of our own negative emotions and freeing ourselves from the grip of resentment.
See your part in the resentment
If you are struggling to move on from resentments in addiction recovery, reflect on what you did wrong in the situation you feel resentful about. Once you have taken responsibility for your own actions, you can put things in perspective. You will also be in a much better position to forgive those who have wronged you and move on with your life when you understand that they are human, and like you, make mistakes.
Note that if you sincerely did not play a part in the situation that caused the resentment, don’t create one. This is particularly true in the case of abuse where professional therapy should be sought.
Try physical activity to shift resentments in addiction recovery
Physical activity is a great way to help deal with surface resentments. When we are physically active, our brains release endorphins, which are hormones that have mood-boosting effects. This can help us to feel better about ourselves and any resentments we may be feeling.
Exercise can also help us get rid of any excess energy that might be fueling our resentments. If we can find a way to release this energy in a positive way, we will be less likely to dwell on negative emotions like resentment.
Mindfulness to move resentments in addiction recovery
When you're feeling resentful, it can be difficult to see things clearly. You may feel like you’ve been treated unfairly, or that someone has wronged you in some way. Mindfulness in addiction recovery can help you to step back from these strong emotions and observe them more objectively.
Try to take a few deep breaths and focus on the present moment. Notice the sensations in your body and the thoughts that are running through your mind. Don't judge or try to change anything. Just observe.
With a more clear and calm mind, you may be able to see the situation that caused your resentment in a new light. Perhaps there was no malicious intent, or you can see that the other person was acting from a place of their own pain.
Mindfulness meditation, qi gong and yoga are all great practices that may help to shift resentments in addiction recovery.
Loving-kindness for resentments in addiction recovery
Try to treat the people you have resentments against with kindness and compassion. This is a tricky one to do, as we can get attached to our resentments. However, if you are able to, it pays dividends.
You can also try incorporating loving kindness into your meditation practice. This is a meditation that can help you to cultivate compassion and kindness towards yourself and others. It involves repeating phrases of goodwill to others and to yourself (who you may also have a resentment towards). Over time, this practice can help to shift your perspective and make you more compassionate overall.
Stay out of others' resentments for peace of mind
Resist joining in in others' anger and resentment. If you have people around you who are regularly angry or resentful, do not engage with them when they bring up their resentments. Consider distancing yourself if this is possible and you feel it would be good for your mental health.
Journaling for resentments in addiction recovery
Journaling can be a helpful tool for dealing with resentments in addiction recovery. The act of putting thoughts and feelings down on paper can help to clarify them and provide a sense of relief. It can also be a way to work through difficult emotions in a safe and private space. You may be surprised at how much better you feel afterward.
12 step approach to resentments in addiction recovery
The 12 steps provide a framework for dealing with resentment in addiction recovery. Primarily, this involves working step 4 and 5. In step 4, 12-steppers write down a list of all of the people that they have resentments towards and exactly what that resentment is. They also look at what was affecting in them by having this resentment. Next, the person writing step 4 writes down what their part was.
Step 5 involves reading this out with a sponsor. A good sponsor will point out the actions that they did that may have made the situation worse. On the other hand, a good sponsor is likely to point out when a person was not at fault.
People in the 12 step fellowships regularly report that these are some of the more transformative steps, and that talking about these resentments can put things in perspective, often effectively releasing the resentment.
Consequences of not letting go of resentments
While not releasing resentments might not always cause a relapse, the effects can still be ruinous. Take, for example, someone who has a resentment towards their mother due to being neglected during childhood. Fostering the resentment means that they do not speak to their mother.
Doing this also has the knock on effect of poisoning their relationship with their siblings. Feelings of anger continue bubbling up, affecting other areas of their life. Eventually, their mother dies, and they also feel enormous guilt.
Alternatively, someone recovering from addiction may have a resentment towards an institution like the police, who they believe have unduly persecuted them in the past. Looking deeply into the resentment, it becomes obvious that at its root was a police force who were merely doing their job and policing against someone who was engaged in illegal activity.
You may also have even developed a resentment at some point, and forgot what caused the resentment. Even though you are unsure of why you are resentful towards someone, the feeling remains.
Whatever your resentment is, the bottom line is that it can destroy your peace of mind and stop you being able to live a fulfilling life. It is far better to deal with resentments in addiction recovery head on, rather than letting them stew!
Resentments and health
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the various organs correspond to different emotions. Anger with the liver, joy with the heart, fear with the kidney, sadness and grief with the lung and worry with the spleen.
So if you have poorly functioning kidneys, you may be excessively fearful. If your liver is not working optimally you might frequently lose your temper.
In TCM, it is not just poorly functioning organs can cause negative emotions. It also works the other way round. If you worry all the time, your spleen may stop working well. If you are always angry, the effects may be felt on your liver. This has the knock-on effect of causing hormonal problems, headache, redness of the face and eyes, dizziness, dry mouth, irritation and lack of feeling, among other symptoms.
All this is bad enough if you have lived a relatively healthy life, but if you have spent much of your life abusing your body, it is even more important to look after it. Not only can keeping hold of anger cause new health problems, but it can also contribute to existing health issues. Note that this is particularly important for those with alcoholism to bare in mind, as alcohol tends to be far more destructive to the liver than other drugs.
The TCM approach to dealing with liver issues involves treatments like acupuncture, herbal medicines, moxibustion (heat therapy) and hot cupping using suction cups. Though, if you have liver problems and are also full of resentments, it may be worth dealing with your resentments first!
How resentments change body chemistry
Anger can alter your body chemistry in a number of ways. It can lead to an increase in the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause a number of physical changes including increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and faster breathing. All of these changes may then have a negative impact on your overall health and well-being.
Your increased heart rate and blood pressure can cause problems for people who already have high blood pressure or heart conditions. And the stress hormones that are released when you get angry can lead to problems like anxiety, insomnia, and weight gain.
Not to mention, when you are angry you may have trouble thinking clearly, which leads you to make impulsive decisions that you regret later.
Dealing with justified resentments
Not all resentments are unjustified. If you have been the victim of sexual abuse as a child, you have a right to be angry with the person who abused you. For resentments of this type, while some of the above tips might help, you need to get professional help.
It is important to seek professional help for a justified resentment caused by abuse. This is because a therapist can provide support and guidance as you process your emotions and learn how to cope with them in a healthy way. Unless someone is professionally trained to help people deal with abuse, you should not enlist them to help you with your abuse.
The many paths to work on resentments in addiction recovery
After reading this, you will understand that there are many ways of dealing with resentments. The key is to choose the ones that work for you, and practice them regularly. Resentments will always pop up from time to time. Having these tools will help you to deal with them as they happen, so you don’t have to wallow in them and risk relapse.
- How Emotions and Organs Are Connected in Traditional Chinese Medicine: https://www.verywellmind.com/emotions-in-traditional-chinese-medicine-88196
- Forgiveness: Your health depends on it https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it
- How to Let Go of Lingering Resentment and Achieve Peace of Mind, According to Mental-Health Experts. https://www.wellandgood.com/how-to-let-go-of-resentment/
- Resentment. (2022, October 1). In Wikipedia.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resentment