Back at the end of my drinking days, I had very few people left to talk to. Part of the reason was because I had deeply wronged so many of my friends and loved ones, and they surely knew that they were safer in simply staying away. Part of the reason was because my favorite topic of conversation had become listing the many ways in which I had been wronged; the ways in which I was gravely misunderstood, and how likely you would be to drink like I did if you had been through what I had been through. But you didn’t drink like I did, did you? Because you hadn’t been through what I had, had you? No. Because my level of suffering and torment was unimaginable to most – save maybe the poets. The world was certainly cruel back then, and I would tell anyone who cared to listen just how cruel it was.
Resentment and Loneliness
I became so lonely and so isolated that I took up wandering into unfamiliar bars with a fabricated backstory, and spilling the counterfeit beans to the bartender as I drank (and sometimes cried, depending on how committed to the story I was at the time). I remember one night in particular, I has found a hole-in-the-wall bar a short distance from where I was staying. It was very early, and probably not too late in the week, so the bar was far from crowded when I arrived. I ordered whatever it was I was keen on ordering at that time (maybe a Moscow Mule, maybe a rum and diet, maybe a cheap glass of house wine – it was all just booze to me), and began telling the bartender about my day. How my best friend and roommate (and sometimes lover) had proposed to me; how afraid I was to break his heart, how I had said ‘yes’ and then, in a fragile state of emotional uncertainty, run to the bar to clear my head. How the man I was really in love with was a punishing brute – uncaring and cruel and incapable, I knew, of bestowing me the kind of passionate love I so deeply yearned for. Even when I was inventing all of my relationships and circumstances, they were still drenched in bitter resentment. I knew little else.
Placing the Blame is All That We Know
I remember this night in particular because I hadn’t blacked out yet. I remember it because I ran into someone I knew, and I was immediately overcome with a sense of sheer panic. Would the bartender figure out that I had been fibbing when this naïve acquaintance called me by my real name? I cared so much. I cared so much about what the bartender thought of me. My heart breaks thinking back to the authentic emotional and spiritual turmoil I unwittingly suffered on this night (and every night prior, for years and years). I truly had no one left to talk to. Unwavering resentments, coupled, of course, with true alcoholic insanity, had driven everyone out. All friends, all relatives, all coworkers, all acquaintances. The only people that truly understood me were the strangers I met in bars – the ones sitting alone; the ones who drank as I did.
What is a Resentment?
Resentment itself means to “re-feel” – breaking the word down, we see that it resembles “re-sentiment”; “sentiment” meaning “to feel”, and “re” meaning “again”. When we experience a resentment, deep-seated negative feelings are brought to the surface, and we feel all burned up thinking about something that happened long ago – something that others seem to have successfully moved on from. We revisit past harms, and recycle past emotions. And living in the past, of course, is far from productive. Each time we mentally replay an emotionally upsetting scenario, we set ourselves up to continue wronging others, and to give wrongs that were initially imagined a life of their own. The act of stewing on personal injuries (real and make-believe), is a tiresome mental habit that comes at no small cost. Rather than freeing us from the wrongdoings of others, holding onto resentment allows those people, places, and things to continue dominating our thoughts and feelings. Our resentments act as heavy and restricting chains, binding us emotionally to the very things we so desperately wish to be rid of. As many say – holding onto a resentment is liking drinking poison and waiting patiently for the other person to die. By doing so, we are hurting no one but ourselves. Resentments bind us to others in an unhealthy way while simultaneously isolating and ostracizing us – the sooner we are free of them, the better.
Learning to Forgive
Fortunately, once we enter into a program of recovery, we are presented with the tools necessary to overcoming even the most obstinate of resentments. We begin to understand and acknowledge the fact that despite how we try, we cannot change the events of the past. We learn to see and accept our role in things – we learn that we are not victims, nor are we perpetrators. We are merely fallible and constantly evolving human beings, prone to making mistakes and undergoing unfortunate experiences from time-to-time. The key is not dwelling on those mistakes or the negative aspects of those experiences, but learning from them and moving forward. We begin understanding that while clinging to resentment may give us the illusion of strength and power, our real strength lies in our ability to forgive and let go. Learning to forgive those who have harmed us – including ourselves – will allow us a freedom and peace of mind far beyond what we could have imagined.