Dealing with Resentment and Alcoholism

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Dealing-with-Resentment-and-Alcoholism

According to the classic book Alcoholics Anonymous, resentment and alcoholism go hand in hand: “Resentment is the Number One offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have also been spiritually ill. When our spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically” (p. 64).

In fact, addiction in all its forms – from behavioral addictions to substance abuse – often stems directly from feelings of resentment that include bitterness, jealousy, grudges, hostility, and prolonged anger. The fourth step in the Twelve Steps is devoted largely to rooting out resentment, finding its real cause and owning up to one’s own part in whatever happened to cause the resentment. Dealing with resentment and its effect on alcoholism is critical to maintaining sobriety.

What to do for Addiction that Stems from Resentment

The fourth step asks the addict to list resentments, focusing on what the alcoholic has done to cause the situation and on what changes the alcoholic can make, not what anyone else must do, in order to have healthier relationships and make restitution for his or her own poor behavior.

Once a resentment inventory is shared with a sponsor, therapist or counselor, he or she might suggest additional actions, such as examining whether the resentment is based in reality or on the alcoholic’s misperceptions and old ideas; continuing to journal about the resentment to find more clarity and peace; or going the extra mile to do something nice for the “offender” – a behavioral change that could transform feelings on both sides of the resentment.

Resentment and alcoholism (or addiction of any kind) should be dealt with promptly throughout an individual’s long-term recovery. However, it’s important to understand that in many cases, there is a real offender listed in a resentment inventory, and that the alcoholic may not have had a part in what happened. This is true, for example, in cases of domestic violence, rape or child molestation. These more serious resentments should be handled with the help of a professional psychologist.

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