In recovery there is so much more than just abstaining from your drug or behavior of choice. Keep FAR from the deadly three.
Fear. Anger. Resentment.
Why? Addicts have trouble feeling feelings and dealing with them. These are really toxic to the addict. It is okay to feel these feelings, but it is more important to know what to do once you experience them. On one hand, I want to tell you to keep yourself far from these feelings. They are rarely useful. If you keep far from them, you in fact processing them in some ways. Let’s look at this.
Fear is about the future. Anger is about the present. Resentment is about the past. The future we really can’t control. The past we can’t change. The present is where we really live. Fearing the future and resenting the past affects our present and squeezes the life out of it. When we experience fear, we avoiding the moment now. Now there are times when we do have immediate and healthy fear and it is about something happening right this minute, for instance we may have fear of a rattlesnake that is trying to bite us. But the toxic fear we need to avoid in recovery is the fear of what is going to happen next, usually called anxiety. Addicts many times have anxiety and fear which is so strong and intense it propells them into relapse. So is it our true personality that cause us to worry so much? Or is the addiction trying to get us to relapse by becoming an inner terrorist? We worry what people think of us. We are afraid of failing. Afraid of relapsing. Afraid of how we are going to handle the next financial or legal problem. We may have fear of feeling and anything in general.
These deadly three, fear, anger and resentment really boil down to selfishness in the past, present and fear.
Fear: “I am afraid I am not going to get what I want.” (future) “I am afraid of what is going to happen.” “I want things to go the way I want them.”
Anger: “I am not getting what I want now.” (present) “That is not fair.” “I want what I want now.”
Resentment: “I am upset I didn’t get what I wanted.” (past)
Anger is typically about the present. We get angry so easily. Things don’t go our way. We want things how we want things and we get angry if it doesn’t happen our way. Yes, we could have a righteous anger about an injustice done to someone else, but this can still lead us to using our drug of choice again. We have be so careful about anger. We get angry in an AA or NA meeting when someone says something that makes us upset. If we hold on to it, we can end up leaving in a huff and without us knowing it seeking our first relapse. We might ask us what is behind our anger? Are we embarrassed, scared, powerless, hungry, or tired? Do we feel misunderstood or judged? Do we see an injustice and feel that things aren’t fair? Do we use anger to try and control a situation, in essence to get what we want, to manipulate and control? Letting go is really a practical tool in any program of recovery. But it is more than that. It is a spiritual discipline.
What about anger in the past? Well, it gets a separate category. Resentment. Resentment means to “re-feel.” (Re – again, sentir -feel) Think sentimental, but in this case it is not pleasant feelings but unhealthy ones. The first time the person or life did something mean to you they hurt you. The next 100 times you thought about it again, you are only hurting yourself.
Resentment is holding to anger from the past. It is a grudge, a judgement. It is like a booger. The more you try to flick it onto someone else the more it sticks to you. Sorry for the crude and gross example, but it is pretty true. Resentment will result in spiritual death. One can not be in a state of forgiveness of the wrongs they have done, while holding on to the past wrongs of others. Now, before you panic and wonder how you will ever get past resentment, let me tell you that is like an addiction itself. You may be powerless over it. Not helpless but it is more powerful than you. It makes you temporarily insane. Just enough so that you go out and use. But. . .you can admit powerlessness over resentment and your life has become unmanageable at the moment. You can pray for it to leave you like you would a vice and ask for the virtues of acceptance and gratefullness. You can also do a 4th step on it in the 12 step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This is really powerful and helpful in preventing future resentments because there are underlying character defects that are what attracts the resentment.
For instance, you might be resentful that you spouse doesn’t understand how bad things are for you. Your pain, suffering, how hard it is to stay sober. While this is understandable at some level, 12 step recovery moves us to a higher plane. We might be resentful because we are really immature. We want everyone to understand us. Is this practical or even achieveable? Perhaps we are self-centered or selfish. Maybe we are too sensitive. We feel things so deeply so we demand that people empathize with us. Maybe we are controlling and want people to read the script we have written and to play the part our way. “Work with me” we say to the people around us. As long as I keep these defects of character, I will be attracting resentment in my life. Instead, I need to be praying for more toughness (less sensitivity), for acceptance and understanding of others, and our egos to be deflated.
Keeping fear, anger and resentment far from you will help you stay away from using your drug of choice. Sobriety means to feel feelings, to see realistically and to hear what is really being said. In essence to experience life with less distortion. Feeling feelings that are old (resentment) or fears that are baseless and haven’t even happened is unnecessary. Being drunk or high doesn’t help us see what is really going on. Nor does being fearful, angry and resentful. These emotions tend to cause us inebriation of another kind. Some kind of dysphoria. The oppositie of euphoria. They call this a dry-bender or a dry drunk experience.
Solution: For fear, we we must ask for courage. We must face the future with hope. Faith in God Who pulls us out of the mire of addiction. The solution for anger is to pray for mild responses and to pause when agitated – to see the whole picture. Everyone has a history which causes them to do the things they do in the present. The person I am angry at may not be intending to hurt me. They are acting the best way they know how to act. Praying for them, as mentions in the AA Big Book, will change our experience. The solution for resentment is to pray for forgiveness, to ask God to dissolved the past hurt and to give you freedom from it. Resentment kills. Forgiveness brings life.
It is important to know that the spiritual program of recovery is truly a way out. It really does work if you work it.