“We found that this business of resentment is fatal”, wrote the authors of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The authors examined that in the way an alcoholic relates to the world, “…the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrongdoing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill.” Resentments of any kind are as poisonous to a person in recovery as taking another drink or drug. Recovery sees that harboring resentments against people, places, and things, without being managed, can lead one to drink or use again.
Resentments “real or perceived” can come from our sense of security, sense of self, financial situation, sexual ideals, or other means by which we have been offended. The fourth step of the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous requires an inventory in which these resentments are listed out. When we examine them carefully we see that many of the offenses committed to us by others were not entirely innocent on our part. Experiences of fear, insecurity, jealousy, and envy, played a role in how offended we felt by others. More importantly, how we felt about the world around us became a dictation to how we felt about ourselves and conducted our behaviors. How many times did we act passive and rude to a person we envied because of their looks or status? Did we judge them for who we perceived them to be? Worse, did we judge them because of who we thought they were perceiving us to be?
Resentments and Recovery
Each of these resentment types are outlined as character defects. Steps six and seven look at confronting these defects of character and asking a higher power to help us remedy them. By removing these liabilities, we make ourselves more of an asset to life. We clear our minds and gain autonomy in how we relate to the world.
Only going over our resentments once is not enough. In step ten, we are asked to take a daily inventory, promptly righting ourselves when we discover we were wrong. Maintaining an ongoing inventory of our resentments help keep us clear of that dangerous, resentful space the authors warn are harmful to sobriety.