In working for years with both the family and their loved ones’ substance abuse issues, I have concluded that even though there are a myriad of reasons for relapse, there are four basic ones that can become an easy switch to flip.

They are expectations, boredom, fear and resentment.

All of these represent emotional challenges for the alcoholic/addict and might present kryptonite to some people in recovery, regardless of how long they’ve been sober or how strong their program. In addition, remember that maybe one or more of these dispositions might have been a major contributor to their original route to addiction in the first place.

(1) Expectations:

Expectations guide your progress in addiction recovery, but having unrealistic expectations during the process sets you up for failure. When you set expectations so high you couldn’t possibly attain them, you add unneeded stress and decrease your chance of success. Setting realistic expectations in addiction recovery helps you form a healthy framework to succeed.

WHAT ARE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS?

Unrealistic expectations happen when you don’t know what you’re getting into or you expect recovery to turn out differently. Those expectations can be about the treatment process or life after treatment. Some common unrealistic expectations include:

  • Expecting treatment and recovery to be easy
  • Expecting to immediately feel better in treatment
  • Failing to understand how much work goes into recovery
  • Thinking you can handle addiction recovery on your own
  • Forcing perfectionist ideals on yourself and punishing yourself when you fall short of those perfect expectations
  • Expecting addiction recovery to be a quick process
  • Expecting recovery to be a constant positive trajectory — the process often comes with highs and lows which you need to account for when setting expectations
  • Thinking life will be perfect and back to “normal” after you complete treatment
  • Thinking that addiction recovery will instantly solve other problems in your life, such as financial difficulties or marital problems
  • Believing you won’t still have to work on your addiction once treatment is complete
  • Thinking addiction recovery has a definite end date
  • Expecting loved ones to suddenly regain trust in you because you’re in addiction recovery — rebuilding the damage done to trust can take time

Unrealistic expectations can happen at any time during the addiction recovery process. Before you enter recovery, you might not understand how much work goes into the process. During treatment, you’ll probably expect recovery to progress more quickly. When things go well, you might assume they’ll continue to do so, and feel disappointment if you hit a tough patch. Setting and adjusting realistic expectations throughout the process is important in staying on track.

DANGERS OF HAVING UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

What happens if you don’t set realistic expectations? You aren’t doomed to fail, but you may find yourself struggling with treatment and recovery. Those unrealistic expectations have a very negative impact on your progress. The extent of the damaging effects depends on how skewed your expectations are and how well you can bounce back from the disappointment of not meeting those expectations.

The following can happen if you have unrealistic expectations in addiction recovery:

  • Disappointment: When you expect recovery to be easy or you push yourself to progress more quickly than you’re able to, you’re likely to feel disappointed. You may question why you’re even attempting to beat your addiction.
  • Relapse: If you fail to meet the unrealistic expectations you set, you may decide to throw in the towel. Based on your unrealistic outlook, recovery isn’t working, so you decide there is no point in continuing. Relapse is a common occurrence often caused by unrealistic expectations.
  • Complacency: Expecting recovery to be easy causes complacency during treatment. Things are going well, so you assume they’ll continue this way. You might not put as much effort into your treatment program and recovery. This will cause you to miss opportunities or skip steps that help you get and stay sober.
  • Harsh Judgments: When you hold yourself to unobtainable expectations, failure causes you to judge yourself harshly. You compare where you are to where you should be according to those unrealistic expectations. This can interrupt your progress or cause you to relapse.
  • Resentment: People going through addiction recovery may feel resentment toward others if their expectations for those people are too high. For example, you may expect your spouse to trust that you won’t blow money on drugs. If your partner doesn’t believe you can be trusted with money, you may feel resentment. Your expectations for your partner to trust you immediately may be too high, considering the history of addiction in your relationship.
  • Excessive Pressure: When you set unrealistic expectations, you put excessive pressure on yourself during an already challenging time. That pressure makes recovery even more challenging and causes undue stress that interferes with the process.

IMPORTANCE OF SETTING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Realistic expectations in addiction recovery help you stay on track. When you’re realistic about the process, you’re better able to succeed. Realistic expectations go beyond just avoiding relapse.

The following reasons explain the importance of having realistic expectations during recovery:

  • Mental Preparation for the Process: Having realistic expectations means you have a clear understanding of what the recovery process involves. You understand that the process is difficult and requires your full participation. Those realistic expectations help you show up ready to work and succeed.
  • Avoiding Surprises: Along the same lines, realistic expectations help you avoid surprises. If you think recovery will be easy just because you show up, you may find yourself blindsided by the effort you need to put forth. With realistic expectations, you’re better able to handle the difficulties of the process without being knocked off your feet by surprises.
  • Stress Reduction: When you set expectations that are attainable and realistic, you feel less stress. You can see your progress, and you know you’re reaching realistic goals. That reduced stress helps you focus more attention on the recovery process so you can continue your success.
  • Patience: Preparing realistically for various aspects of addiction recovery helps you develop patience. If you have unrealistic expectations, you may feel impatient toward achieving goals. By focusing on a realistic approach, you’re better able to remain patient and stay on course, knowing what is to come eventually.
  • Progress Monitoring: Realistic expectations help you gauge your progress once you start addiction recovery. You can compare your actual progress to where you should be. If your expectations were too high, you’ll have a skewed view of your actual progress, and may feel you’re failing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re falling below those realistic expectations, it can help motivate you to get back on track. Without those realistic expectations in place, you may not realize you’re off track.

HOW TO SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS IN ADDICTION RECOVERY

You know why you need realistic expectations, but how do you go about developing them? Your preconceived notions about addiction recovery may not be the most realistic. Taking a healthy, realistic approach requires some research and careful reflection as you enter and work through the recovery process.

Use these methods to set realistic expectations for your own addiction recovery process:

  • Remember that Addiction Recovery is a Process: Going into treatment, you need to understand that addiction recovery is a process, not a one-time event. If you expect to check off a list of tasks and then call yourself recovered, you’ll be met with disappointment.
  • Educate Yourself on the Treatment Process: To set your own realistic expectations, you need to understand what happens once you enter recovery. The process is different for every person, so you can’t apply a general timeline to your life, but knowing how the process works helps you determine what is realistic for you.
  • Learn About the Addiction Itself: If a doctor diagnosed you with diabetes, you would want to know everything you could about the disease, from causes to treatment and long-term management. The same should be true of addiction. By learning all you can about your addiction, you can better prepare for the process and set expectations accordingly.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Having goals that line up with your expectations can help you stay on track and help you develop your realistic expectations. Think of goals as the steps you’ll take to fulfill your expectations. Having concrete and achievable goals with a solid action plan helps you keep a realistic approach to addiction recovery.
  • Focus on Your Health: Instead of focusing on “curing” yourself, focus on building healthier habits. This creates a positive mentality and may help you be more realistic in what you need to do.
  • Get Help Developing Your Expectations. Reach out to your recovery team for support in developing healthy expectations. Those key support figures know the reality of addiction recovery and will help you learn what to expect. Many have been through addiction recovery themselves and can offer personal insight. Don’t be afraid to open up about your goals and expectations.
  • Consider Your Own Strengths and Habits: Entering a treatment program isn’t a magic cure-all. You won’t suddenly have a new personality. When setting your expectations, consider your personality and how you handle life. If you tend to be a perfectionist, this increases the odds of setting unrealistic expectations. Account for this as you establish your recovery expectations. Thinking about how you normally approach challenges can help you channel those tendencies to be effective in your recovery.
  • Stay Flexible: Keeping your expectations flexible is an important part of developing a realistic outlook in recovery. It is impossible to predict an exact timeline for addiction recovery. Allowing a sense of flexibility in your expectations helps you account for that unpredictable progress.

MAINTAINING YOUR EXPECTATIONS DURING RECOVERY

Entering treatment with realistic expectations is a positive start, but those expectations sometimes become skewed as you go through the process. You may initially feel successful, but hit a bump, and suddenly feel you’re failing. Revisiting your expectations throughout addiction recovery helps you maintain a realistic outlook, which makes it easier to stay on track and avoid relapse.

Keep up your expectations during recovery with the following tips:

  • Acknowledge Your Progress: Whether or not you’re on track with the expectations you set, focus on the progress you’ve made. Perhaps you’re not as far along in the process as you hoped or you’ve faced setbacks. Instead of beating yourself up for those perceived shortcomings, recognize what you’ve accomplished so far. Just entering a treatment program is a huge success for addicts. Small victories along the way are worth celebrating and remembering when you feel like you aren’t living up to the expectations.
  • Monitor Your Expectations: Like many things in life, our expectations often shift once we get into a process. Periodically review the expectations you set. Determine if they are still realistic or if you need to adjust them to account for your individual progress through addiction recovery.
  • Practice Self-care: Taking care of yourself often falls to the wayside while using drugs or alcohol. In recovery, focus on those little self-care tasks, such as eating healthy, exercising, practicing personal hygiene and pursuing your interests. Those self-care tasks help you stay mentally focused and in the moment so you can stay focused on those realistic expectations.
  • Plan for Disruptions: Part of having realistic expectations is knowing that you may face roadblocks and difficult patches during addiction recovery. Planning how to handle those unexpected interruptions to your progress helps you maintain your realistic expectations. Maintain flexibility when it comes to your outlook on recovery.
  • Reach out for Support: You have a network of support, from the treatment team to support group members to your loved ones. Reach out to them throughout your addiction recovery process when you need help maintaining realistic expectations.

COPING WITH THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF RELAPSE

Addiction recovery isn’t always successful the first time. Relapse is common, but it doesn’t mean you failed or won’t have a chance at living a sober life. Despite the possibility for eventual success in addiction recovery, relapse often creates feelings of disappointment. You didn’t live up to the expectations you had for recovery, which resulted in relapse. It’s natural to feel let down or disappointed.

In some cases, relapse happens after a turning point in recovery. Everything clicks. You worked through the detox phase. Recovery seems easy. You feel a sense of joy, but sometimes that joy can cause disconnect from reality. You convince yourself that recovery is easy. When you hit a road bump that suddenly makes you remember that recovery is a process that requires hard work, you may feel deflated or disappointed. Some people slip back into drug or alcohol use at this point, because they feel that recovery isn’t working.

When you feel disappointed with your relapse, you may struggle to see any good in your life. You likely feel exhausted and may feel increased stress. Some people blame others for the relapse or for the feelings of disappointment. These reactions interfere with your ability to bounce back after the relapse and once again work toward addiction recovery.

How should you deal with the disappointment of relapse or disappointment in general during addiction recovery? Here are some healthy methods of dealing with those feelings:

  • Talk About It: Reach out to your sponsor, a loved one or someone else who will support you. Talking about your disappointment and your relapse can help you work through the emotions and create a plan to get back on track with the process.
  • Write About It: Sometimes you don’t feel comfortable verbalizing those feelings of disappointment. Instead, write them down. This is a healthy way to release those emotions. You can also share those written words with a sponsor if you want support but aren’t sure how to say the words out loud.
  • Focus on Gratitude: Just because you relapsed or failed to meet your recovery expectations doesn’t mean everything in life is bad. Keeping a gratitude journal can help you overcome the feelings of disappointment and remind you that you still have positive things in your life. You may even find your motivation toward recovery returns when you see all of the great things you have in your life.
  • Learn from the Disappointment: Instead of wallowing in those feelings of disappointment, use it as a time to reflect and learn. This reflection can help you identify the areas that caused you difficulty so you can overcome them as you once again work through addiction recovery.
  • Meditate: When disappointment over a relapse becomes overwhelming, implement strategies to get those feelings under control. Mindful mediation is an effective way to focus on the moment and manage your emotions.
  • Step Back: Remind yourself that everyone experiences disappointments in life, whether or not they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Everyone fails to meet expectations they set for themselves at some point. Look at the bigger picture, and refocus your energy on returning to your addiction recovery program to work through the disappointment faster.
  • Seek Help: If your disappointment is so overwhelming that you can’t handle it or it interrupts your normal activities, seek help from a therapist. This professional help can push you past the disappointment so you can renew your commitment to addiction recovery and start taking the steps necessary to get there.

HOW TO SET MORE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AFTER RELAPSE

Relapsing does not mean you’ll never be successful in addiction recovery. Getting back on track as quickly as possible helps you increase your chances of succeeding. Part of that successful treatment and recovery after relapsing is redefining your expectations. Perhaps your initial expectations were off base or you had difficulty keeping those expectations in sight. Now is the time to reset and set new expectations.

When you think about your expectations after relapse, consider these tips:

  • Identify Damaging Expectations: Think back to your previous attempt at addiction recovery. What were your expectations? Were they realistic? Which expectations tripped you up or caused you stress? Which expectations were on track and helped you before you relapsed? Learning from previous expectations helps you better hit the mark after relapse.
  • Set Expectations for all Aspects of Recovery: Perhaps you went into the process with realistic expectations for the treatment process, but you failed to plan for the transition back home or your long-term recovery plan. When you resume addiction recovery after a relapse, think through the full process, setting expectations for each phase.
  • Make Sobriety and Healthy Habits a Priority: Your expectations should revolve around living a sober life with healthier habits to support your new lifestyle. If sobriety isn’t your main priority, your expectations may be skewed to focus on that one concern. Some people may feel they can eventually control their substance use without becoming addicted. An alcoholic may believe they can eventually have a few drinks socially without a complete relapse. Your expectations should revolve around the idea that you’ll never be able to use the substance without becoming addicted.
  • Identify Your Relapse Triggers: Understanding the triggers that caused you to relapse or that could cause a future relapse helps you move forward. Consider those triggers when setting your goals and expectations. Planning for these triggers can help you cope with them in a positive way and avoid them in the future.
  • Remember, You Aren’t Working Toward an End Date: Addiction recovery does not have a set timeline with an end date you can mark on the calendar. Renew your position that addiction recovery is a process and something you’ll always have to consider. Relapse can happen at any point, even after months or years of sobriety. When you set your expectations after a relapse, remember that recovery is an ongoing process.

GET HELP SETTING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR ADDICTION RECOVERY

If you’re ready to enter addiction recovery, 12 Keys Rehab is here to help. Our trained staff can help you establish and maintain realistic expectations throughout the addiction recovery process. The 12 Keys Model provides you with individualized treatment to ensure your addiction recovery fits your specific needs. Contact 12 Keys Rehab today to get started on your journey to recovery.

(2) Boredom:

Everyone tells you that addiction recovery is hard work, but no one tells you that there are times when it can be seriously boring. Think of everything you go through to complete detox, work your way through rehab, develop an aftercare plan, and then return to your life. Suddenly your days are not nearly as planned out, and you may be at a loss as to what to do. The truth is, the fact that your former life revolved around substance use means that you have to build a new life that does not. When you are figuring out how to build that new life, boredom can be a problem.

BOREDOM IS ACTUALLY NECESSARY AND GOOD

In fact, boredom during early recovery can be considered an essential part of the addiction recovery process. Things may have decelerated quickly since you completed rehab and returned home, and sometimes even the satisfaction of everything you have accomplished in achieving sobriety simply is not enough. You are probably not used to experiencing emotions that have not been generated either by substance use or by the drama that surrounds it. But that kind of excitement is synthetic and hollow. You have to learn how to build richness and fullness into your life that is based on a healthy approach, and that takes time and perhaps a certain degree of trial and error.

THE PERFECTLY VALID REASON YOU ARE BORED

Stop and think about the amount of sheer time that goes into sustaining an addictive lifestyle. When every day revolves around obtaining and using a substance, and perhaps doing what you can to financially support that addiction, there is not much in the way of sitting around and doing nothing. Face it: many of the people you regularly encounter in an addiction-centered life are just as much drama addicts as they are substance addicts. When you complete detox and rehab, all of that goes away – as it should! It may feel like you are in a time vacuum, with nothing to fill up all those hours that substance-chasing and use filled before you were in recovery.

BUILDING A NEW PURPOSE AND IDENTITY

Addiction recovery is, in many ways, like rebuilding an entire life, and there will be times when you do not know what to do and become bored. That is fine. In fact, it is a pretty good sign that you are ready to take some rebuilding steps. Here are some tactical tips for coping with boredom in constructive and healthy ways while you build and shape your new life:

  • Sign up for a class
  • Create a daily schedule
  • Take a walk
  • Write down hobbies you may be interested in
  • Read a book
  • Plan meals and prepare them
  • Join a local sports league
  • Go to a meeting or continue working your steps

BEWARE OF REPLACING OLD UNHEALTHY BEHAVIORS WITH NEW UNHEALTHY ONES

If you worry that you tend to seek out activities solely for the adrenaline rush (the same rush you may have chased when you were abusing substances), perhaps you should talk it over with your sponsor, counselor, or another mental health provider. Though relatively rare, throwing oneself into an activity (particularly a challenging physical activity like extreme sports or excessive exercising) can end up being a replacement for the addiction and can impede your achieving the balance you need to have a full and rewarding life. Boredom will not kill you, but the substances you are in recovery from will. Addiction recovery is many things, and sometimes it can be dull. That is perfectly okay. Boredom will pass, and during each day of addiction recovery, you are taking steps to create a healthy, full, and rewarding life free from the substances to which you were enslaved. There are plenty of healthy ways to cope with boredom, and sometimes they can lead to longer-term solutions. Think of spells of boredom as an expected component of addiction recovery and be patient. After all, there is a new life under construction! If you have questions about addiction recovery, we invite you to contact us today.

(3) Fear:

One thing that all addicts have in common when starting recovery is that they are often afraid of the process.

Such fear is nothing to be ashamed of because it is natural. Our brains are hard-wired to become uncomfortable in the face of the unknown. Simply the anticipation of a potentially unpleasant or stressful circumstance causes the brain to go into flight or fight mode. And since fear is always about something that might or could happen but hasn’t happened yet, it is a reaction to an imagined, rather than a real, event.

Fear is always about loss; it is present only when there is desire. Fear arises when there is a conflict between what you want, need or love and what might happen if that want, need, or love is not fulfilled. Addressing fears in recovery is important because, despite being mere flights of imagination, fears have the power to derail many of your recovery efforts.

What are Some of the Most Common Recovery Fears?

  • Fear of Change: In addiction, there is often a sense of familiarity and comfort, regardless of any obvious discomforts, including physical and emotional pain. In a way, drugs or alcohol can help a person feel more in control of difficult feelings and free from worry. But that is not because these issues are being taken care of; they are simply being denied or blocked from conscious awareness.
  • Fear of Feeling: Addiction is often an attempt to avoid feeling unpleasant feelings and thinking intolerable thoughts about one’s self (I’m a failure; I’m not good enough; I’m unworthy and unlovable, etc.) When you become sober these feelings are no longer suppressed, and the results can be overwhelming. Uncomfortable feelings now have to be addressed, rather than avoided.
  • Fear of Shame and Ridicule: Because addicts often have shameful feelings about themselves, they often assume that others view them as shameful and inadequate as well. Even more scary than allowing one’s own shame to be felt is the experience of feeling that others agree with your assessment.
  • Fear That You Won’t Be Able to Mend Your Mistakes: Broken friendships, shattered relationships, job loss: all these problems have to be fixed, and it is a daunting task. Not only that, you may fear that old habits and temptations will be too hard to resist, and you will relapse.
  • Fear of Loneliness and Boredom: In recovery you have to let go of “using buddies” and create new, more appropriate acquaintances and friendships. There is often a fear that you may never replace these lost associations, and you many never have as much fun again. Changing and restricting your access to the people and places that you enjoyed when addicted takes great self-discipline.

Addressing Recovery Fears

How do you address the specific fears and concerns that are related to recovery?

  • Fear of Facing Feelings: When you stop hiding feelings and face them head on, they can seem overwhelming. But if you focus on the outcome that you are trying to achieve–sobriety and a more fulfilled, authentic life–the promise of these rewards will provide the motivation you need to do the difficult work.
  • Fear of Loss and Loneliness: When you are forced to make sober lifestyle changes –
    forging new supportive friendships and replacing dysfunctional “using” friendships – 12 step and peer support groups are great places to find more appropriate linkages.
  • Fear of Failure/Relapse: This fear is appropriate and reasonable. It often does take multiple attempts, rather than one single attempt, to gain lasting sobriety. But you learn from each setback and gain insights that help you in repeat attempts, making them easier and more likely to hold. The key is to never give up. The goal is worth it.
  • Fear of the Responsibilities of Sobriety: The fear of responsibility and accountability can be unnerving. You may fear that you won’t be able to handle the requirements of a job, or your family responsibilities. But remember the strength and determination that you had to call on in order to get sober in first place. Use these same character traits to deal with daily duties, and with a bit of practice, any challenges you face will be easier to handle. 

Steps for Managing a Fearful Mind

All of us, whether in recovery or not, face fears. It is often the way you think about the things you fear that leads to success or failure in trying to overcome them. The following strategies will help you calm a fearful mind:

  • Recognize and Acknowledge Your Fears: You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Start by admitting to yourself what it is that you are really afraid of. Sit quietly for a few minutes and attempt to fully feel what you fear most, without resisting it. Remember, fear is an imagined perception, not a real thing. In truth, fear is an illusion; therefore, it cannot hurt you, even though it feels awful.  Recognize that you can feel awful – you can feel afraid – and still be okay.
  • Differentiate Between Rational and Irrational Fears: A healthy fear response is an evolutionary survival strategy. However, some fears are irrational and exaggerated by our own minds. It’s often these fears that cause us the most difficulty and emotional distress. If a fear is irrational, stop allowing it to influence your behavior.
  • Focus on the Present Moment: Remember fears are future worries. When in recovery, the goal is to stay sober today, and not worry about what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future. It’s ok to make plans for the future and to reconcile issues from the past. But you don’t have to be anxious or concerned about these things, if you stay focused in the present.
  • Consider the Alternative: Consider the impact that your fear and its associated feelings has had on your life. Has it kept you from doing things you would like to do, stopped you from trying, or prompted you to give up before you’ve even made an attempt? Has it caused you to procrastinate, make excuses or avoid testing yourself? If so, ask yourself, ‘Has this course of action made me happy?’ Then put in writing an alternative option. Complete this sentence: To face this fear and change my life I will_____________________________________________________.
  • Use Positive Thinking and Affirmations: Viewing yourself in a strongly negative light is equally as unrealistic as refusing to see your faults. Foster a more positive mindset by catching yourself whenever you detect negative self-reflections. Reverse the negative viewpoint with positive statements or affirmations. For example, when you find yourself chastising yourself and feeling like a failure because you made a mistake, say to yourself instead, ‘Now I know that this option doesn’t work; so I can try something different. I can re-focus and use this feedback to decide on a better course of action.’
  • Ask for Help and Support: Ask for help from people who care about you and your success – friends, family members, a licensed counselor or rehab specialist. Creating and using a support team will help you get results more quickly and easily.

(4) Resentment:

The Crux of Addiction Recovery

Nobody walks into the rooms of recovery with an un-checkered past. Everyone, even those not working a program of addiction recovery, has done things to others that they regret; and conversely been affected by other people’s actions to the point of anger and resentment. How one is affected by the efforts of others can dramatically shape your future, impacting how one interacts with others. Sometimes anger can lead to lessons learned and moving forward, a vow to never put oneself in a position to be treated in that way again. Other times, feelings about perceived treatment can linger in toxic ways, forcing one to close oneself off from others or lashing out in irrational ways for extended periods of time.

There isn’t just one way to process anger and resentment, but some ways are healthier than others—to be sure. Whether you are new to addiction recovery, or have been in the rooms for decades, it is absolutely vital that you keep those feelings in check. When compared to said “normal” people, there is a big difference between what happens to people in recovery who hold on to resentments. Even a strong program can be eroded from underneath by the corrosive effects of anger and resentment, failing to keep such feelings in check can have disastrous consequences. There is a good reason for 12-Step meeting houses hanging banners that say, ‘Resentment is the “number one” offender’ from chapter 5 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Ever reminding members that holding on to such things is a slippery slope to relapse.

Letting Go of Resentment

Most addicts and alcoholics have a Ph.D. in holding on to stuff. It is so easy to convince oneself that our problems are not of our own. That somebody else made the bed and now you have to sleep in it. One tries to stuff the perceived wrongdoing deep down into the cavities of one’s mind, but inevitably the feelings will bubble to the surface to be re-lived again. Someone in active addiction will dull such feelings, or attempt to, with drugs or alcohol—and thus perpetuating the cycle of the disease. It is for such reasons that much emphasis in early recovery is placed on addressing one’s anger towards those of one’s past. The Fourth Step is dedicated to first establishing just what we are upset about, so that we can then do something about freeing yourself from it down the road.

In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases, it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So, we were sore. We were ‘burned up.’

Therein lies the crux of anger, and addressing it in recovery. What was my role? Certainly, there are times when people hurt us without cause, and one has a legitimate right to be bothered. But if you fail to let it go, the feeling only hurts you. It’s is often said that resentment is like drinking poison, hoping someone else dies. But they don’t, the alcoholic and addict is the one that pays the price.

Recovery Is A Process

With a clear mind, looking back on where you believed you were wronged almost always reveals that you had a part in the pain felt. Where you once believed that somebody did you wrong, it was actually you that owes an amends. But that comes a little later on in working the steps, to be made at a time that is decided when working with a sponsor.

There will be times that you will struggle to see the value in establishing what you are resentful about and why, especially early on in recovery. Most newcomers avoid the Fourth Step like the plague, and typically not for the reason one would think. It is usually the re-feeling (resent comes from the French word sentir which means to feel) of pain that makes people eschew this most important step, it is that deep down and if one is honest with themselves they come to realize that they are not usually the actual victim in the narrative of reality at the end of the day. But if one fails to act on such realizations, and chooses to ignore it, relapse is usually inevitable.

It may take some time for you to see the value of letting go of anger, but if you are willing to follow direction and take certain steps as people have for almost a century, recovery is possible and with it limitless possibilities. Below is part of a quote relevant to this topic, from the end of a movie, The Upside of Anger:

Anger and resentment can stop you in your tracks. That’s what I know now. It needs nothing to burn but the air and the life that it swallows and smothers. It’s real, though – the fury, even when it isn’t. It can change you… turn you… mold you and shape you into something you’re not. The only upside to anger, then… is the person you become. Hopefully someone that wakes up one day and realizes they’re not afraid to take the journey, someone that knows that the truth is, at best, a partially told story. That anger, like growth, comes in spurts and fits, and in its wake, leaves a new chance at acceptance, and the promise of calm.


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