Resentment In Recovery

Resentment in recovery is a huge hurdle for most recovering addicts to leap. Some people struggle dealing with individuals they meet in recovery, but almost everyone struggles with friends and family when it comes to resentment. That’s because people we care about typically have a very strong ability to get under our skin, or we have higher expectations of them. In any case, this article was made for anyone who ever struggles with resentment. Whether it’s at work, with friends, or spending time with the family, you need to have the skills and knowledge it takes to overcome these challenges. By understanding how resentment in recovery works you can more easily deal with your issues.

Dealing With People & Family You Resent

It is a common experience for people to feel resentment toward  their families and others. It can be the result of many things, including:

– The way your parents treated you when you were growing up

– How they treated other members of your family

– Your own behavior toward them

– Their behavior toward you

– Your relationship with them now

– Your feelings about yourself

– Your feelings about them

Personally, I grew up with a father who was a very unhappy drug addict. If you take a look at the list above, I could spend hours ruminating or telling you about all the times he crossed the line. He made me to feel insignificant and unimportant, that he only cared about himself. It’s hard to hold space in your heart for someone that seems limited to only to their basic impulses.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on
which it is poured.
—Mark Twain

What is the difference between resentment and anger?

Resentment is a feeling that you have toward someone who has hurt you, and it’s a feeling of disappointment or frustration. It’s not necessarily directed at that person; it may be directed at other people in your life as well. It’s often accompanied by negative thoughts such as “why can’t they be more helpful?” or “they always mess everything up.”

Resentment affects our relationships with others by making us feel like we don’t matter. We resent those who treat us poorly because it seems like they believe that they are better than us. This makes us think that we don’t deserve good treatment from them.

We also resent those who do things for us without asking. If we know that we need something done, but we aren’t asked, we might feel resentful. We might even get mad if we find out that someone did this for us without asking

Anger is a much stronger emotion than resentment. When you’re angry, you feel like you want to do something about what happened. If you don’t act on your anger, you will probably experience depression. Anger is a strong emotion. It comes from a sense of extreme injustice. People become angry when they feel wronged or cheated. They may yell at people or throw things.

In my experience, the resentment I held towards my father stemmed from all the times he made me angry. In many cases, I didn’t even realize how angry I was at him. Instead, I simply avoided him at all costs and stuffed those feelings deep down. This is obviously unhealthy, and I believe the problems I had with addiction had a lot to do with how I was perceiving and dealing with my anger and resentment at that time.

Illustrating the struggles of resentment in recovery

How does resentment affect your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers?

Resentment, out of all the emotions, has the greatest power to cause a complete disconnect from family, friends and co-workers. Resentment places us into a tiny box, with huge stone walls around it. As long as the resentments exist, our ability to heal from that trauma that started the resentment in the first place.

Even worse, the amount of people we resent tends to build up overtime. Imagine a brand new car engine that never receives an oil change. This brand new motor is designed to run for years and years, but eventually the dirt and muck builds up so much that it stops functioning properly. Eventually, the motor becomes entirely broken to a point where it needs to be completely rebuilt.

Hanging onto resentments is the same as allowing that muck and grime to build up in the engine, but it occurs invisibly, in your mind. The craziest part of all? Most people are completely unaware that this is happening with each negative experience and new resentment. Like me, they push those feelings down, pretending the person they resent no longer exists. Then they sit, wondering why they are so miserable. You only realize how massive an impact these resentments are making once you let them go. What a concept!

Why do I feel resentful?

I’m sure you’ve felt resentment  before. Maybe you were disappointed in their actions or maybe you didn’t understand why they acted the way they did. Perhaps you thought that you deserved better treatment. Whatever the reason, hanging onto this stuff only hurts you, not the other person.

When Do I Feel Resentful Towards My Family & Other People?

You probably experience resentment when:

For me personally, I had many times in my life that I found myself in extremely difficult situations like homelessness and unemployment where there was no one there to help me. This lead to a mindset of being “on my own”, not being able to rely on anyone. I abandoned those who I loved most just because of a simple idea that I didn’t even choose. That idea lead to a lot of self-isolation and misery, and it stopped me from growing.

While there will always be situations where feeling resentful may be justified, there is a simpler and more empowering answer as to when you can expect to feel resentment. It’s in those difficult moments where someone isn’t acting properly where we need to exhibit compassion and empathy. We never know what someone else is dealing with internally.

So, in a nutshell, what do emotionally intelligent people remind themselves when they feel resentment coming on?

“This is a great opportunity to exhibit compassion and empathy”

…and what do people who allow themselves to be weighed down by anger and resentment think when that resentment itch starts to kick in?

This person has wronged me, and I will punish them with aggression or passive aggressive behavior”

Seriously though, the latter scenario probably isn’t even consciously aware of what’s going on in their head. It’s like a parasite that you don’t even know is there until you do the work of learning to forgive them for their transgressions.

Why do I feel resentful towards my family?

There are a thousand reasons why someone might make a decision to hold resentments against their family members. Some might seem minor, others completely unforgivable.

There’s a lot of parents out there who really are quite awful, I’d know. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember a few simple facts about being human. Firstly, people make mistakes. They often act irrationally due to circumstances that they don’t let you or anyone else in the family know. They say and do things they don’t mean when they’re angry or resentful – things they usually regret.

…and guess what?

There is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is how you let those behaviors affect your own. That’s why it’s important that we practice empathy, compassion, and forgiveness towards these kinds of people. It empowers us to love them despite their shortcomings. It inspires us to love ourselves enough to not let our ego get in the way, making all parties involved miserable more often than not.

“Those who give up resentful thoughts surely find peace.

—Easwaran Eknath (one translation of the Dhammapada)

How to deal with people and family members that disrespect you?

1. Don’t take it personally. They are acting out of spite, or their own internal struggle not out of any real dislike for you.

2. Be patient. Your patience will pay off eventually. The old adage “Kill them with kindness” applies here.

3. Tell them how you feel in a compassionate and respectful manner. Let them know what you think about their behavior.

4. Get away from them. Go somewhere else where you won’t feel so trapped.

5. Find an outlet for your anger, something productive or relaxing where you can consciously observe the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing without letting them get the best of you

Recently, my father was very ill, finding himself  homeless, unemployed, broke, and in the hospital. Leading up to this point, he had been living in a hotel for almost a year and a half. I drove 9 hours to pick him up from the hospital to take him into my own home and help him get on his feet again. It might be shocking to hear how irate he was the moment he got out of the hospital. Yelling at me, acting condescending, and making angry demands from the moment he hopped into my car.

I practiced all of the 5 suggestions above, even 4, to overcome this difficult situation. In the moment, I was furious. How could someone with literally no options at all act so unappreciative and rude in this situation?

You’d think even with someone as selfish as my father he’d be kissing my butt, if not to serve his immediate self interests. I let him know I was feeling unappreciated, and now worried about driving in the car with 9 hours let alone bringing him into my house. Instead of listening, this made him even more hostile – trying to call me a bully and that he no longer wanted to come to Arizona. At one point, that resentment got the better of me when he started lying through his teeth about having other options.

“Yesterday, you told me that you literally had no options. So you were either lying then or you’re lying now. But if this is what you want, FINE! I’m dropping you off at your car.”

Next thing you know, he realizes his gambit has failed, and he flips the script again, begging me for forgiveness. And I did.

I hate being around my family or other people.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is draw boundaries and maintain space. In the process of doing this though, it’s important to analyze why exactly you feel such animosity towards family members. No matter what they did, it’s important to remember that the only person you have control over is yourself. Sometimes the process of overcoming resentment can be as simple as accepting that simple truth and practicing forgiveness.

How do I cope with family members that I hate?

1. Try to keep your distance from them.

2. Talk to your friends instead.

3. Take time to relax.

4. Write down all of your thoughts and feelings.

5. Don’t try to change them. Just accept them

1-4 are all fantastic options when you find yourself in a situation like I did when my Dad was getting out of the hospital. I was taught as a child that hate is one of the strongest words and feelings that we have. However, in that moment my anger was so intense I sure felt like I hated him. Sometimes all you need in these situations is a bit of time to cool off and gain perspective. That, in itself, isn’t enough for most people to completely overcome the negative impact of the ongoing resentment.

The biggest one here is #5. When it comes to our family, we don’t get to choose. That means we’ve gotta deal with a whole different situation when we are dealing with them. While 1-4 may be good for getting past the anger part, number 5 is the only way to completely avoid the pain and suffering that comes from wanting to change things that we simply cannot change.

Illustrating the struggles of resentment in recovery

Is it OK to not like your family or other people?

Yes. No one likes everyone. But there are times when you just don’t want to spend time with certain family members. That doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them. It simply means that you don’t enjoy spending time with them.

It’s important to remember that no one is perfect. Everyone has faults and imperfections. So, if you don’t like someone, chances are that they have flaws that bother you. That person may have some objectively valid gripes against your character as well. When you learn to be forgiving and accepting, this stuff loses it’s power to cause you lasting pain.

If you don’t like your family, then you should talk to them about it. Explain to them how you feel. Ask them to listen to you. Make sure that they understand what you’re saying. Even more importantly, make sure you explain it to them in a way that doesn’t cause conflict. Even if the discussion does get a bit heated, remember to accept them as they are, and you’ll be able to take comfort in knowing you did the right thing.

What’s not okay is to hang onto anger and resentment against your family. Not because of what it does to them, but because of what it does to you. I learned this lesson firsthand with the passing of my mother. She was a heavy alcoholic, and her vice eventually killed her. I was so mad at her for letting my little brothers down, that I declined seeing her in the hospice until the last minute. I wasn’t even able to really say goodbye, because she was mostly gone by the time I got there. An extreme example, sure, but stuff like this happens all the time to families with unresolved resentments.

Can I Change How I Feel About Family & People I Resent?

Yes. You can learn to appreciate your family again. In fact, you can learn to love them.

First, you must realize that you don’t have to put up with bad behavior from your family. That doesn’t mean never talking to them again. It simply means drawing boundaries, having faith in your own ability to be strong even in situations where you know family members might test your patience.

To change how you feel about your family, you must first put the judgement and self-righteousness aside and accept your family for their flaws. You may not be able to choose your family, but you can definitely choose how you feel about them. It may not be as simple as flipping a switch, but recognizing the problem and finding willingness to overcome it is often the hardest part.

Patience isn’t a virtue.. It’s an achievement.

What are some ways to deal with these feelings of resentment against family and others?

1. Accept the truth.

2. Express your feelings.

3. Apologize.

4. Forgive.

5. Learn to live without this person in your life.

6. Re-evaluate your relationship with this person.

7. Do something nice for this person.

8. Give this person a chance to redeem themselves.

9. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of this person.

10. Work through your problems

11. Remember that you are still related to this person.

12. Find another way to resolve conflicts.

13. Let go of any anger or bitterness that you may have toward this person.

14. Reach out to other family members.

15. Get counseling.

16. Meditate.

17. Pray.

18. Practice mindfulness.

19. Spend more time with positive people.

20. Surround yourself with supportive people.

21. Volunteer.

22. Move on.

If people learned to practice even a few ideas listed above, there would be many less broken families. Many less broken hearts. Many less broken dreams. Many less lonely addicts and alcoholics stuck in their habits, wondering why they can’t trust anyone, find true fulfillment, or get off of drugs.

Why can’t they be more supportive of me, help me, or love me?

Because they cannot change the past. They cannot make things better now. And they cannot force you to love them. They cannot or will not change their behavior to meet your expectations.

So, why not try to accept them for who they are? Why not forgive them for all the wrongs they’ve done? Why not let them know that you still love them? Why not reach out to them?

It might seem like they don’t deserve this, but remember, you’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for you, and I promise you’ll come out a better, stronger, happier person on the other side.

You might find that by doing so, you will come to terms with the situation. You’ll be able to move forward.

Resentment in Recovery

What does AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) say about resentment?

Now we’ll discuss resentment in the context of recovery, referencing the big book of A.A., which has helped so many people find new lives in sobriety.

“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.”  (p.64, Alcoholics Anonymous)

It is important to understand that when we harbor resentment, we are holding onto negative emotions. We are keeping our energy focused on the past. We are focusing on what has happened instead of what could happen. This keeps us stuck in life, overridden with negative emotions – especially when circumstances don’t allow us to keep distance from them.

As we said earlier, you have a choice in how you feel about people, not matter how they treat you. The action behind that decision is very simple – we must first be aware of where our attention is. Then we need to redirect that attention from the negative into the positive. Instead of focusing on all the things this person does to drive you crazy, change your focus to be understanding of why they are the way they are, and that they probably couldn’t change that even if they tried. We need to focus on the present moment. We need to focus on what is happening right now. We need to focus only on what is going well.

If we keep dwelling on the past, we won’t be able to create a new future. If we dwell on the past, we will never be able to heal.

What does resentment mean in recovery?

In recovery, we talk about being grateful. We talk about appreciating what we have. We talk about looking at the bright side of life. Sounds idealistic? Well, it kind of is. The fact is, maintaining gratitude is a very difficult and ongoing process. Especially when we’re faced with a situation involving certain loved ones.

No one said it would be easy, but the alternative is much worse. Resentment is like having an illness. It’s like having a disease. It makes us sick. It keeps us from enjoying life.

And if we don’t deal with it, it will interfere with our healing process indefinitely.

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.”
― Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

How do I stop feeling resentful?

Alcoholics Anonymous is a Christianity based, 12 step program that Seachange Recovery and it’s clients participate in heavily. Alcoholism was once considered a death sentence with no real solution for thousands of years. Since it’s inception, it’s helped millions of addicts find a better way of life, so there must be something to it.

  1. The first step is to admit that you’re feeling resentful. The second step is to ask God to help you overcome your resentment.
  2. Ask God to give you strength to resist the temptation to feel resentful. Ask him to guide you as you work through your resentment.
  3. Write things down, including where you might have been at fault, or how you might’ve handled the situation better
  4. The fourth step is to forgive the person who hurt you. Forgive this person for all the wrong he/she did to you.
  5. Discuss the situation with your sponsor, mentor, or trusted advisor.
  6. Make amends with the person wherever possible.

Forgiving this person gives you freedom to live your life without bitterness.

Some people are really turned off by A.A. or the word God, and that’s okay. The idea is the same, regardless of how you want to go about it. Take some time to really analyze what they did to make you feel this way, take a look at how you could’ve handled things better, then talk it out with someone else. Forgive this person for all the harm he/she has done to you.

Why should you let go of resentment?

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone or approve of the person’s behavior. Forgiving someone breaks the cycle of hate and violence. Forgiveness does not mean that you forget what was said or done. Forgiving someone is not the same thing as forgetting. You can forgive someone but never forget what happened. It simply means that you let go of any anger and resentment. It simply means that your mind becomes clear. Your mind becomes open and receptive to new ideas and possibilities. Your mind becomes open to positive thoughts and feelings. Forgiveness is not easy. But it’s worth every effort.

How to make amends with yourself

“One day at a time.”

If you have been carrying around resentment toward yourself, you may need to take some time to reflect on why you harbor such negative feelings. You might find it helpful to write down your reasons for being angry at yourself. Then, try to understand where these emotions come from. What are they based upon? How did you learn them?

When I started looking within and asking myself these kinds of questions, I realized I was letting much of the behavior my Dad would exhibit cause me to exhibit the exact same behavior. I was becoming the man that I supposedly hated so much! It was this epiphany that allowed me to overcome the burden of all these resentments to a point where I’m proud to say the relationship between my father and I is great. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I knew it was worth it when all my relationships started to improve, not just the one with my Dad. I knew it was worth it the first time I found myself in a difficult situation with the old man, but I was cool as a cucumber. It’s empowering to a degree that’s hard to put into words.

Once you’ve identified the source of your resentment, you’ll be able to work through it. You will then be able to develop more constructive ways of dealing with yourself.

What if I’m unable to forgive myself?

Sometimes we can’t forgive ourselves for something we’ve done. We can only hope that our own conscience will eventually lead us to forgiveness. But sometimes, even when we know that we’re wrong, we don’t feel like we deserve forgiveness. We may believe that we were too weak or selfish to overcome temptation. Perhaps we felt guilty because we didn’t stand up for ourselves or maybe we feel ashamed because we failed in some way.

Whatever the reason, we may feel that we don’t deserve forgiveness. In those cases, we need to remember that we are human beings. And humans make mistakes.

And we all deserve forgiveness.

But if you really cannot forgive yourself, you may need professional help. You can contact a therapist who specializes in helping people deal with their anger issues. A good therapist will listen carefully to you and help you identify the root cause of your anger.

However, if you or someone you know is currently struggling with addiction or alcoholism, handling that first is absolutely essential. Seachange Recovery is a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Santa Monica, California that can help you overcome not only the physical dependency, but also mental traps like addiction in order to ensure long lasting sobriety and happiness.