Harboring resentments is like drinking poison, hoping the other person gets sick. In recovery, we are taught that resentments are the main offender and keep us slaves to our anger and sadness. At the root of our anger and sadness is fear, and fear can drive us to do almost anything. After all, wasn’t it our fear of being rejected that caused us to use drugs? Wasn’t it our fear of inadequacy that drove us to drink? Wasn’t it our fear of economic insecurity that led us to sell drugs or to steal from the ones we love? Wasn’t it the fear of our true selves, riddled with imperfections, that forced us into desperation and insecurity and to self-medicate so we wouldn’t have to feel?
Before the drinking, and the drugging, and the lying, cheating, and stealing, we were resentful—resentful at the hand we had been dealt in all areas of our lives and all the wrongs that had been done to us. Our families, friends, teachers, bosses and coworkers: we resented them all. These resentments were too much for us to handle, and so we drank and used drugs.
In recovery, we are given the opportunity to turn our lives around. We get to start anew, improve our health and acquire clarity of mind. We get to put to rest all of our old ways of thinking and reacting—we learn how to respond rather than react; and we learn to respond to our emotions in a sober way: equipped with the tools of recovery, we can walk through our pain, frustration, sadness, anger and fear. We take a look at our character defects and begin to recognize the part we played in allowing our character flaws to fuel our addiction.
The fourth step of Alcoholics Anonymous gives us the opportunity to recognize, enumerate and exorcise the resentments that keep us sick; the fifth step allows us to express these resentments to someone in a safe and healthy way without fear of being judged or criticized, and to let them go completely. In step six, we become ready to have our Higher Power remove the character defects caused by our resentments, and find ourselves asking to be relieved of these shortcomings in step seven. With all the earnestness at command, we are begged to be fearless and thorough from the very start. But as we move through the steps, more courage and thoroughness is required if we are to progress and grow stronger in our sobriety.
Some of us hold onto a few of our resentments and don’t allow ourselves to be completely free from them. But if we intend to recover from the emotional torture we have inflicted upon ourselves, we must let all of the resentments go. After all, half measures will avail us nothing, and unless we surrender each and every resentment, the result will be nil until we let them go absolutely.