Dealing with Resentment, the “Number One” Offender

“Oh, Janelle, what have you done!” I fumed.

As I sat in a large circle in Lakeside Behavioral Health Center trying to make sense of it all, I spoke with therapists, clinicians, and others. I struggled to even slightly alleviate the rage burning inside me.

Anger first comes on in a flash of bright fire, and, if left to develop over time, fades into a seething volatile substance. It is called resentment, the “number one” offender, according to page 46 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I had it in spades.

I felt completely justified in my anger. After all, after what had happened to me, who could tell me that I shouldn’t be angry?

As time went on, the anger shifted forms inside of me, presenting itself in unusual ways. A hatred of women, a distrust of anyone around me, and sporadic thoughts of getting revenge.

My anger had become full fledged resentment.

Merriam Webster defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” The Big Book takes a look at how resentment affects alcoholics, saying on page 46, “[Resentment] destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stems all forms of spiritual disease.”

I tried to go to AA meetings, but they were full of happy, relatively joyous people and I disliked them immediately. I thought that falling in love might cure me, but, though it was wonderful, I was still consumed with resentment just a few months into the relationship.

Then came the move to Illinois for her. The resentment continued to fester.

My girlfriend was drinking and though she never offered me any, I could just see the amber liquid sloshing at the bottom of that bottle. I had to get to a meeting and fast.

Never did it occur to me that it might be my resentment causing the disturbance in my serenity and not her.

A long table was laid out In the side room of a neighborhood church, individuals all around it. There was a large black man sitting on one side of the table and to this day, I can still hear his joyously robust laugh. I asked that man to be my sponsor and started working through the steps again.

When we reached step four (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves) we tackled fear very easily and the sex inventory was not much. But then the section on resentment came.


Tackling my Resentment

It was there that I broke down. I told my sponsor what had happened. He nodded and said the same thing had happened to him too. We broke down the resentment section into categories, and most of my resentments fell in two places: Janelle and me.

He asked me to buy a single rose for her and have it sent to her doorstep. And he asked me to pray for her, wishing to her all the things that I wanted, such as happiness and peace and joy. I must have prayed for 15 minutes straight. After all those years, the resentment I had been carrying around was finally lifted.

The resentment towards myself was more difficult to unhinge and it was a process that took time. But if resentment is a feeling of indignant displeasure at some perceived wrong, then the antidote for me was forgiveness.

It was tough. But boy was it worth tackling.

No doubt that resentment would have caused me to drink at some point and to drink for an alcoholic is to die. I’m eternally grateful for that man and the wisdom he passed on to me. Someday, I hope to do the same for someone else.

Author: Chris T. is a writer and recovering alcoholic.