Twelve Steps to Resentment-Free Living

Break free from emotional bondage

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has the account of a woman whose drinking placed her in jail twice and nearly destroyed her third marriage. Her last drunk, she recalls, lasted 60 days and was continuous. “It was literally my plan to drink myself to death,” she explained. Joining AA saved her life, primarily by assisting her in overcoming the habit of resentment.

This woman wrote, “self-pity and resentment were my constant companions…for I seemed to have a resentment against everybody I had ever known.” Moreover, “the only people who would support this attitude or whom I felt understood me were the people I met in bars, and the ones who drank as I did.”

Resentment is the No.1 Offender

Resentment is poisonous to our inner existence, according to AA. The Big Book states the case clearly: “The number one offender is resentment. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.”

A person engulfed in bitterness has little chance of recovering from addiction. Nevertheless, if left untreated, many types of addiction are lethal.

Looking at the term itself is instructive. “Resentment” is similar to “re-sentiment” since “sentiment” means “feeling” and “re” means “again.” So resentment means “feeling again.” This is at the heart of resentment: revisiting prior bad feelings or wrongs done to us by others.

It’s as if each of the offences is being recorded on camera in our heads. Resentment, in effect, is mentally repeating the scenario every day. As we do so, real wrongs worsen, and imagined wrongs take on a life of their own.

This mental habit proves to be very costly. After all, resentment does not affect the person we resent. It also does not resolve the disagreement. Instead of liberating us from the wrongs of others, resentment causes them to dominate our thinking—a type of emotional bondage.

Breaking free from resentment

Fortunately, the Twelve Steps of AA provide us with practical techniques for dealing with resentment, such as:

Write down your resentments. We might note the person we dislike, the conduct that irritates us, and how it has affected our life. Grievances appear large and powerful when they are in your thoughts. Yet, once written down, they no longer appear as massive or strong. Many resentments seem ridiculous on paper. They are the same resentments that felt fair, justified, and powerful in your head.

Examine your part in the resentment. The Big Book instructs us to evaluate the initial occurrence that ignited our animosity and ask: Did I do anything to cause or worsen this situation? If we’re being honest, the answer is usually yes.

Be willing to live a life free of resentment. Individuals might derive a strange thrill from feeding their resentments. The fear of being without resentment is sometimes the only thing that keeps us from being free of them. Individuals in the Twelve Step programme seek the assistance of a Higher Power in letting go of resentments. Talking to a therapist helps.

Pray for the person you are angry with. The woman mentioned above (in the Big Book) discovered another way to release her deep-seated resentment. “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you pray for that person or the thing you resent, you will be free. If you ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, prosperity, and happiness, and you will be free.”  

Achieving peace of mind

Do this, she advises, even if it appears to be just words at first. Do it every day for two weeks, and you’ll understand what it means to be unburdened. Because positive concern and resentment cannot coexist, this strategy effectively squeezes resentment out of our consciousness.

She puts the same idea in other words: “AA has taught me that I will have peace of mind in exact proportion to the peace of mind I bring into the lives of other people.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, call Freephone 0800 140 4044

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