The Trouble with Resentments

Holding on to grievances, often may seem justified, but is it worth it and who does it harm?

I am sure we can all relate to finding certain people in our life difficult. As humans, we have hundreds of interactions with individuals and groups over our regular week. It would not be rational to think that, with all these relationships and interactions, everyone is going to be pleasing to us. Neither are we going to be pleasing to everyone.

In recovery, it is not uncommon for the individual to want to be liked by everyone. As impossible as that may be, in early recovery we still think it is attainable and are sensitive to finding that maybe we are not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ or our opinion does not meet with everyone else’s.

Resentment is created within us when another person, especially someone we care deeply for, does something that either harms us or those we care about. Like damp rot, resentment is subtle. It will seep in and spread slowly, rotting every part of our psyche. Like damp rot, if left untreated and held on to instead. The resentment ruins our foundation of recovery and could lead to a collapse.

We are sensitive people, prone to taking things personally and often seeing challenges as a personal attack of sorts. We give much thought to those who have wronged us. Harbouring feelings of revenge or self-blame, we overthink situations and can create mountains out of molehills.

people on the street in a busy market

But why is this so bad for our recovery?

Here is some information on how resentments can hurt us and our recovery. With some handy pointers on how to let go of resentments.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) describes resentments as the Number One enemy of the alcoholic. It is a trigger for relapse.

Remember, by letting forgiveness into our hearts, we aid recovery.

Importance of the Moment

Life is short. Time spent overthinking and feeling angry about what might or might not have happened robs us of experiencing life in the moment. One foot in the past overthinking the resentment, and one eye on the future wondering how you might get your own back, will only serve to ruin the present moment.

The moment is all we have; we cannot alter the past, and for addicts, it often holds feelings related to guilt or shame. The future is unwritten, but in recovery, while focussed on resentment, we can turn our future into a place of anger or fear.

Such negativity robs us of the moment and the abundance around us. Maybe, while we focus on resentment, we are missing out on time with a loved one. Or perhaps, because our focus is clouded by anger; we fail to see the beauty that nature presents that day.

Being in the moment is the safest place for us in recovery to be. Resentment will only rob us of this precious time. Bringing negativity and stealing us, from all that is positive around us.

woman sitting on some steps looking towards a sunset

Letting go with Love

Even the suggestion of thinking loving thoughts for the person you resent might make some people think this approach is crazy. How can it work?

In recovery, many of us have come through highly traumatic situations. The very thought of thinking that we must think lovingly of those who hurt us might lead us to question our sponsor’s or therapist direction. But please give this a chance.

The opposite of hate is love. The reverse on anger is peace. To allow fear to leave our lives, we must first allow love and peach to enter it. By sending and learning to let go of resentment through love, we recognise the positive emotions to defeat the negative feeling in our life.

By letting go with love, we are learning to love ourselves. It is for many of us the most beautiful healing process we can embark on as we heal from past trauma and learn to love ourselves without conditions. Ultimately it is the process of recovery.

So next time your therapist or sponsor suggests sending loving thoughts to someone who wronged us, do not be too quick to dismiss it as madness. It may be the solution to resolving resentments.

toy boy and girl, sitting on a bench, facing opposite direction

Inventory your Motives and Expectations

Often when we look over our resentments, we find that we set ourselves up for it.

A great example of this is when we might do something at the request of someone. We might have thoughts on the praise we will receive in return for our helping hand. A handy hint is to inventory yourself. If there is a hint of “what is in it for me”, chances are you are heading for resentment.

Learning to give and to be a service without expectation is vital for long term recovery. You are doing things only when you are entirely comfortable to be doing so, without recognition or a ‘payback’ for yourself. Means you are less likely to resent people for not giving you what you feel you deserve. That respect and good feeling already have come from yourself.

Practice Gratitude

My sponsor once told me that no matter how I feel “someone is dealing with worse”. I remember once leaving a mobile phone on a bus and resenting the driver for driving off so hastily before I could get back on and retrieve it. I recall my sponsor saying how privileged I was to have a phone to lose and how even more fortunate I was to have a friend who had a phone for me to lend. So, I could call him. Even in moments of loss, there is gratitude to be found.

By practising gratitude daily, we open our eyes and hearts to what is already good and how full our lives already are. Finding gratitude allows us to rid ourselves of resentment for what we have nots.

silver keychain with the words "thanks" locked on a bridge

Prevent Relapse

Resentment can be a powerful relapse trigger and can be the number one threat to early recovery. This negative emotion provides no useful means and only gets in the way of our recovery. One must learn to let go of resentments to experience a full and prolonged recovery.

Holding resentments has been described as like carrying a great weight around all the time. By letting go of this negative emotion, the individual can lighten their load and life becomes a lot easier. It frees up energy that they can now put to more productive use.

In many cases, it is resentment that has caused a person to abuse substances in the first place. In recovery, we must learn new ways of how to deal with things that challenge us in the world.

Just being open-minded to the truth of resentments helps us minimise the risk of relapse by learning to proactively deal with confrontation, with the help of a professional or recovery peer. We help turn early recovery into long-lasting recovery.


If you feel you need to talk to someone about any of the areas covered here, please don’t hesitate to send us a message online, or give us a call if you’d like to chat: 0800 140 4044. We also provide detox at home, for those looking for a more personalised service.