One of the greatest self-care strategies someone can practice is learning to let go of resentment. Holding onto old memories that bring anger, hurt, or other negative feelings and reliving them repeatedly breaks down a person’s mindset. They begin to feel those emotions again and again and dwell on the pain that those memories carry. Learning how to identify these resentments, how they impact day-to-day activities, and how to appropriately deal with these emotions allows someone to release them in a healthy way.
Connection Between Resentment and Relapse
When someone is feeling anger and bitterness toward someone or something, they are internalizing this emotion. Holding onto negative feelings sometimes allows them to grow into something greater. When the person cannot move on or release the negative feelings, it weighs them down and can turn into resentment. It is difficult to be happy or in a state of peace when the mind is holding onto hostility or uncertainty.
Those that are dealing with substance use disorder (SUD) must learn to cope with negative feelings using healthy coping strategies instead of their substance of choice. Things that are out of their control can be triggers. Those in recovery need to have strategies ready to implement when they harbor resentment toward those things that are out of their control.
In recovery, dealing with emotions, identifying what one has control over and what is out of their hands, and learning how to find peace in situations that are not peaceful support a healthy recovery. When someone is in a state of heightened emotions and is unable to identify a healthy solution to deal with those, they are heading in a direction of relapse.
Strategies to Handle Resentment
Fortunately, there are strategies to help people work through resentment. People with SUD often struggle with letting things go. Some might wonder why they can’t just “get over it.”
For someone dealing with addiction, letting go of difficult emotions can be extremely difficult. Not only do they tend to need to have some control, but many of these people have struggled with being honest. Telling others how they feel and continuously trying to please those around them may have been part and parcel of their addiction. All these attributes result in “bottling up” feelings and discomfort.
Let’s look at a few ways resentments can be handled healthily.
- Calling a sponsor
- Step-work with a sponsor
- Writing a letter to the person, though it may not be delivered
- Identify the responsibilities of all persons involved in the situation
- Try to understand the other person’s point of view
- Learning to honestly feel and believe that some things are out of one’s control
Resources for Addressing Resentment and Relapse Prevention
There are many resources available for someone who may be having difficulty letting go of resentment. Because there are so many options, there is something for everyone. However, finding what works best for an individual may take a few attempts. Below are a few options to support handling resentments.
SMART Recovery is a mutual support group program often used as an alternative to 12-Step meetings. This organization has many resources and helpful guides for those in recovery.
An article titled “Guilt, Resentment, and Blame” on the SMART recovery site says that forgiving someone is not for the benefit of the other person. It is a strategy used for those holding resentment. One can identify their part in the situation, feel the hurt that is associated with it, and let the situation stop having control. For example, one can use the ABCs for dealing with emotional upsets:
- Activating event (what happened)
- Belief about the event (what I am telling myself)
- Consequence of the irrational belief (how my irrational belief makes me feel)
- Dispute irrational belief (turning belief into a question like “Am I really…?”)
- Effective change in thinking (rational thoughts, moderate emotions)
Some of the 12 Steps used as the foundation for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) explicitly address resentments. As new feelings arise throughout recovery, one will need to be aware and ready to address them. In the Daily Reflection, resentment is referred to frequently. For example, it states how allowing “resentment to fester” can quickly sabotage success. Taking action swiftly, identifying the issue, and seeking help from another is the only way to seek change.
Treatment at Destiny Recovery Center
Destiny Recovery Center is a trusted treatment center that has many therapy services to address resentment and relapse prevention. The services, daily interaction with peers in recovery, weekly case management sessions, and aftercare planning all facilitate the development of skills and support needed to address resentment.
Some of the services that include resources for coping with resentment include:
- Individual psychotherapy sessions
- Group therapy sessions
- Family therapy
- Relapse prevention strategies
- 12-Step programming
- Communication skills training
- Family dynamics education
- Coping skills strategies
Holding on to resentments against situations, people, and institutions impact the mental well-being of the person incapable of letting go. When someone becomes willing to be honest, trust another to help them, and can work through the emotions that are intertwined with resentment, only then can they heal. If one is unable to do so, their success in recovery is at risk.
Once someone can learn these strategies and can implement them into their daily life, dealing with things that are out of their control becomes second nature. One’s attachment to anger reduces. The ability to quickly admit their role in the situation, apologize when necessary, and forgive themselves improves their chances of long-term sobriety.
Resentment is one of the leading causes of relapse in recovery. When someone is holding onto resentments, they force themselves to replay the pain of those emotions or situations. This results in self-sabotaging their own success and peace of mind. Being aware of one’s anger and feelings in situations is an important part of healing. Identifying and implementing strategies to deal with resentment allows them to avoid the slippery slope leading to a relapse. The staff at Destiny Recovery Center (DRC) is experienced in teaching strategies to let go of resentment, along with other relapse prevention tools. With individual treatment plans and a variety of therapy options, DRC can help you or a loved one. Call (909) 413-4304.