Working Through Resentment


A resentment is defined as a bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly. When we flunk a class we believe we should have passed with flying colors, we form a resentment towards that ignorant professor. When we get cheated on after years of selfless sacrifice and devotion, we form a resentment towards our ungrateful scumbag of an ex-partner. When we get cut off in traffic, we form a resentment towards all of the inexperienced drivers on the road (and they are all inexperienced). In some way or another, we feel we have been wronged, and we simply cannot accept that fact and move forward. For whatever reason, we continuously dwell on this horrific injustice, blaming the world and its unlawful inhabitants for our current state of discontentment. What a world, what a world, what a world.

Poor Me, Poor Me, Pour Me a Drink

The word resentment comes from the Latin word “sentire”, which means, “to feel”. The prefix “re” means “again”, so resentment essentially means “to feel again”. Resentments are those pesky little grudges we seem to constantly relive; the people, places, and institutions we find ourselves trashing repeatedly. For the average alcoholic, living in constant resentment has likely become a way of life. We are burned up at our family members and friends for being too sensitive in regards to our drinking. If they knew what we had been through, after all, they wouldn’t be nearly so scornful and judgmental. We blame others for the exacerbation of our symptoms. If the world hadn’t been so cruel to us early on, we wouldn’t feel the need to drown our sorrows. Taking no responsibility for our actions, we continue living a self-destructive life of denial and ignorant condemnation. To hell with everyone else.

In Order to Recover, We Must Be Free of Resentments

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that if we truly wish to recover from a hopeless state of mind and body, we must learn to master all of our resentments. Yes – each and every one. The Big Book claims that resentment is not just counterproductive to our recovery, but from it stem all forms of spiritual sickness. Reliving past experiences is not just a grand waste of time, but often proves fatal to the alcoholic individual. Fatal? Isn’t that a tad bit dramatic? Look at it this way: if you constantly dwell on an experience that stirs up unbearable feelings, you will eventually drink in order to numb those feelings. And for us, to drink is to die. But how can we possibly forgive the neighbor that molested us when we were young, or the father who abandoned us before we were born?

There is a Solution

Fortunately for us, AA never leaves us without a clear-cut solution. A very specific remedy to overcoming all deep-seated resentments can be found in the back of the Big Book, on page 552.

“If you have 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 everyday 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.” (Found on page 552 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition.)

Working through resentments is an absolutely crucial component of addiction recovery – clinging onto an old grudge is like drinking poison and nonsensically waiting for the other person to die. It may seem impossible to work through some past harms, especially if you have conceded to your innermost self that forgiveness is out of the question. Keep in mind that harboring resentments will only cause you suffering, and remember that those who have wronged you are perhaps spiritually sick themselves. While working through some resentments will certainly take time, find faith in knowing that progress, not perfection, is what will help to keep you safe and protected.