Resentment is a common feeling among those in recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, as well as their families. Resentment can be a huge hurdle in the way of recovery and can be a massive barrier to someone’s efforts to progress in their recovery or in re-establishing trust for a unified familial front against addiction. Resentment is common, debilitating, and can take many forms. Families can harbor resentments towards their loved ones in recovery, even while they are actively doing their best to support the recovery process. Those in recovery themselves may be trying to recover, but still finding feelings of resentment in themselves among the shame and guilt of their actions before sobriety. Addressing what resentment is, as well as beginning to learn ways of dealing with resentment, can help someone continue to progress in their recovery journey and restore relationships as they take their next steps towards their own future.
Resentment is a complicated emotion. It involves someone harboring a good degree of anger towards another as they hold on to past wrongs or grievances that someone has experienced, and their mind may constantly be replaying these transgressions over and over again. Resentments, by their nature, are incredibly hard to let go of and can frame the view that someone has of another — or themselves — in a wholly negative light, thus informing future interactions or their self-esteem. What makes addressing resentment so difficult is the fact that emotions don’t happen in isolation. It is possible for someone to resent another in recovery for their past actions, while still remaining hopeful for the future. However, failing to address resentment and the memories connected to it can cause further stress for everyone involved, ultimately leading to a complicated recovery process.
Acknowledge Its Presence
There seems to be a stigma related to talking about resentment. It is a very antagonistic emotion and discussing it can bring about a large degree of stress, as it forces many unsavory memories to resurface and demand accountability. However, burying it within one’s self can only lead to more stress. Resentment is common, and there will have to be a conversation about what particular emotions are building up within someone, in order to move forward. Whether this is a family member who needs to talk about the various ways that someone else’s addiction has affected them in their lives or the reasons why someone believes they are not worthy of trust or happiness, all forms of resentment need to be addressed. Failing to talk about these aspects can only lead to compromising the recovery process as someone struggles with each of these elements at every step. Having a set time for a family to sit together, or attending a family therapy session, may help provide the proper environment needed for those feeling resentment to express themselves and begin to work through these difficult emotions.
Practicing showing gratitude, either to a loved one or to oneself, can go a long way in combating the prevalent feelings of resentment that may be just below the surface. Showing gratitude, even in subtle ways, can be a way of conditioning the mind to the positives that someone is doing now in the moment, rather than the wrongs that someone has done in the past. It is a way to acknowledge the progress that someone has made themselves, and a way to measure their dedication to the future. Practicing gratitude isn’t intended to help someone forget about the past, but rather, condition the mind to be willing to look to the present and future when forming opinions and a frame of light around a person.
Forgiveness Is a Choice
Forgiveness isn’t something that comes easy, whether someone is forgiving another or trying to forgive themselves. However, knowing that forgiveness is a choice that someone can make can take away some of the power that emotions like resentment may hold. No part of forgiveness means someone has to forget about the past; rather, it is a way of expressing hope and faith in another to address these problems and not make similar mistakes, going forward. Viewing forgiveness as a choice also has another benefit in that it can be the first thing someone feels they can entirely control. It is at the behest of each person when they are ready to forgive, but knowing that it is their choice can make them more open to the idea that they are willing to forgive at some point. While feelings of resentment are very prevalent in many people through the recovery process, each person has a choice to forgive themselves or another about past actions and can make the conscious decision to look more toward the future than the past.
Resentment draws its power from replaying tragic wrongs from the past and constantly subjecting those feeling resentments to the anger therein while they are left unable to change the facts. However, while changing the past may be impossible, each person, in recovery or supporting a loved one, has agency over how they can frame the future by talking about their feelings of resentment, practicing gratitude, and teaching the mind to focus on what lies ahead, as well as a positive time of forgiveness.
Harboring resentments is both dangerous and common during someone’s journey to recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction, Lighthouse Recovery can help. Located in Dallas, Texas, Lighthouse can work with you to find the program that can fit your individual needs and goals in recovery. Each program, from sober living to intensive outpatient recovery, can be modified to address your unique situation and help instill the skills most pertinent to you through your journey to sobriety by employing a number of different therapeutic approaches. Programs and skills can be developed both for you to begin addressing the roots of addiction and resentment in yourself, or even to help a family member begin to work through their own vulnerabilities.