When it comes to achieving long-term recovery from an addiction, RESENTMENT is a very important issue. From what I’ve experienced in my own life, read in recovery literature and heard from other addicts, ALL addicts (including myself) MUST face/release our resentments in order to be able to “stay stopped” from acting out with our drug(s) of choice. To clarify, while we may not have to face/release resentment(s) in order to become sober, we definitely must face/relase our resentments in order to stay sober, one day at a time.
The dictionary definition of resentment notes that it “is the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.”
Many years ago I learned from a recovering alcoholic that the Latin meaning for this word implies that we actually choose to “re-feel” our injured feelings, thoughts and perceptions in order to experience the feeling of resentment. So to feel recentment means that we have a choice — three choices actually: we can deny our resentment or we can admit we have resentment and then (once admited or faced) we can chose to take action in order to release our resentment. To my understanding denial, admission and release all involve choices.
The “Big Book” (Alcoholics Anonymous) points out that ”…resentment is the number one offender” for alcoholics and, I would assume, for all types of us addicts. It also states that in order to stay sober (e.g., stay in active recovery) that we must be freed from our resentments.
To this background about my understanding of the meaning of the word “resentment” I’ll now focus on answering the specific question that was posed by a reader of this blog, which was…
I bring up the topic of resentment because of a comment/question I received from a reader of this blog. This person’s words should be understood in the context of my blog entry dated November 15, 2008 (Did Science Finally Catch Up With 12 Step Recovery? AND…How Much Urine Does My Bladder Hold?). The comment/question I received read,
“I do feel like you seem to have a LOT of resentments towards some people in recovery. Does writing about them in this blog help you get over them?”
As to the content of the specific journal entry in question, my answer is: absolutely not.
Thinking back to the definitions of resentment I shared above, an Overeaters Anonymous member stating that HER “bladder works list a still” and therefore “it converts urine into alcohol” has NOTHING whatsoever to do with me. It is a statement referring to another OA member’s reality. Therefore I could not have been “injured” or “insluted” by her comment (remembering that resentment is about what has “injured” or “insulted” us).
While I did back in 1990 (and still now in 2008) find the OA member’s comment odd, illogical and humorous, it never injured or insluted me. I’ve NEVER overate over that member’s words — although I might have accidentally spat out food while laughing uncontrollably when considering the preposterous nature of her words (If I did, would that make me guilty of “unintentional bulimia”? Probably not.
In any case, I journaled about the “Still” comment because I do find it offensive when any OA member (as in the case of the woman who made the “Still” comment) inserts into the context of an OA meeting (or other OA-sponsored event) comments of a highly controversial nature. Why does THAT bother me? The answer can be found in the 12 Traditions.
Tradition 10 reads, “Overeaters Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the O.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” Further, the Big Book states that “No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues…” And it seems only logical that what applies to AA (the grand daddy of all 12 Step, 12 Tradition fellowships) should also apply to OA.
In my opinion, anger is an appropriate response to Tradition violations. At the same time I will acknowledge that the late Bill W., co-founder of the AA fellowship, wrote on many occasions that it was important for alcoholics to avoid anger at all costs.
In 36 years of coninuious sobriety, I find it very difficult to believe that Bill W. never once felt anger. To never once feel anger throughout a 36 year period is not being human. Given all of the unkind things that were rumored about Bill W. and fellow co-founder Dr. Bob during the early days of the AA fellowship, I know that I would have felt anger if those things had been said about me!
As a Christian I also take into consideration the words of Saint Paul where he writes that it is OK to be angry — so long as we don’t allow our anger to cause us to sin (Ephesians 4:26 & 27: “Be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil any opportunity [to work].“). As a Christian I have a right and duty to place the teaching of Scripture above Bill W.’s opinion. Nothing against Bill –But as a Christian I place the Bible as a higher authority than the words of another addict.
Rather than to pretend that I don’t feel anger, what I find to be a more reasonable approach to dealing with anger (so anger doesn’t threaten my recovery journey), is to 1) Feel anger. 2) If possible, do something LOVING with my anger (e.g., pray, work for change, etc.) and/or 3) Confront what I feel needs confronted. In the context of the Serentiy Prayer (which is not taken from Scripture), I am pointed toward the truth that PRAYER is absolutely neceessary to know when to “let go” of anger about things outside of myself.
But enough about anger. Resentment is the primary focus of this journal entry.
it is no secret that the Overeaters Anonymous fellowship has lost thousands of members over the past decade for any number of reasons, including the introduction of “controversial outside issues”. Among the most controversial of such issues that has divided this wonderful fellowship is the discussion of theories regarding nutrition. Believing that one’s body is capable of “converting sugar and flour into alcohol” is (at best) “controversial”, is it not?
Another point: Since when does any addict (myself or others) NOT have a right to openly discusss whatever is bugging us (regarless of whether or not such things cause us resentments)? When did the toxic behavior of other addicts (that take place within the context of fellowship meetings and other fellowship-sponsored events) become something that I have to “keep secrets” about? In my recovery from dysfunctional family issues I’ve learned that keeping secrets is UNhealthy.
As to the reader’s direct question, “Does writing about them in this blog help you get over them?”, my answer is not really. While writing IS a key tool to help release resentments (along with prayer), the writing I’m doing on OveractiveFork is not intended to be a substitute for working the 12 Steps. We need look no father than the pages of the AA Big Book to discover, in the context of working Step 4, a five column format for working through one’s resentments.
Beyond writing about resentments when working Step 4 (as instructed by the Big Book), I’ve found it very important to work Steps 5 – 9 to help me get to the point of releasing my resnetments. Then after and in the process of) working Steps 4 – 9, I can’t emphasize strongly strongly enough the importance of PRAYING about our resentments — and if need be, praying about then just ONE resentment at a time.
We PRAY to find release from the RESENTMENT we feel for those people, places and situations that have injured and insulted us -- One Resentment At A Time!
Why is prayer important to releasing resentment? Because I believe that prayer helps me to connect with God and that God can do for me what I can not do for myself. If you can release your resentments apart from the grace of God, good for you! I can’t. I need His help!
How do we pray in order to become free of our resentments? Here’s what is suggested from the same AA Big Book I’ve referred to many times in this journal entry…
“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or 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. Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”