If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)
This is a key concept that seems to be missed in many recovery circles. I regularly hear people share that seem as though mad at everyone. I don’t have a problem with a person in recovery experiencing those feelings, the problem I have is that nobody seems to feel that it is necessary to try to help these people find freedom from this or to even discuss the fact that these kinds of feelings are death to people like us. That is a long, miserable, prolonged, sinking in quicksand kind of death.
If nobody has noted this important idea for all of us in recovery and for all people working the Twelve Steps to you, let me be the first: ANGER, NEGATIVE FEELINGS AND NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ARE POISON TO YOUR WORLD AND TO YOUR RECOVERY!
That can be multiplied exponentially for one of our worst archenemies; resentment.
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 66)
Resentment is a big killer for those of us in recovery. We have absolutely no room for this ridiculous mess in our lives. Not only can we not have this in our lives we need to take time at the end of each day to search out these kinds of feelings and desperately do all we can to be rid of them before we lay our heads on the pillow and transition into the next day.
When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 86)
Whatever it takes, no matter how drastic the response may seem, we cannot allow ourselves to keep anger and resentment. If you truly understand resentment as a terrible poison for your life then this statement will be painfully clear to you. Whatever it takes, no matter how drastic the response may seem, we cannot allow ourselves to keep this terrible poison in our system.
Sometimes when this is discussed, a few people come to believe that expression of the feelings is the cure and go off on a whirlwind tangent of crazy assaults on all unsuspecting passers by they deem to deserve it. I am not saying that there will never be an instance where you might need to stand up for something or someone, but angry outbursts are simply the same poison in a different color.
And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)
And more clearly and directly stated:
We avoid retaliation or argument. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)
Did you notice how in the passage from page 84 “fighting anything or anyone” is directly tied to interest in relapsing. Both are tied together with the concept of sanity. Fighting anything or anyone and relapse are insanity and by the time a person gets to Step Ten sanity should have returned. By Step Ten these kinds of feelings and outbursts should be a thing of the past and on the rare occasion that they almost come up, they cause a recoil. The kind of recoil that a person has when they are not paying attention and their hand accidentally touches the hot stove.
Look at these definitions from Dictionary.com for the word “recoil”:
- to draw back; start or shrink back, as in alarm, horror, or disgust.
- to jerk back, as from an impact or violent thrust
- …to draw back in fear, horror, or disgust: to recoil from the sight of blood
That is not to say that angry, frustrated, resentful, etc. are not a part of you are now. What all of that says and what I am saying is that those things absolutely cannot be a part of who you need to become to get recovery.
Who you have been is the problem and who you are supposed to become through the recovery process is the solution. Staying the same is not an option. If you stay the same inevitably you will do the same. If you do the same, you will eventually get the same results.
This may be quite a tall order for some of us and I do not disagree with that assessment. The fact it is hard to change or even hard to want to change however, does not somehow make it okay to stay the same.
As a matter of fact, many of the tasks of recovery are hard to change or hard to want to change (like the fact of using and the need for recovery itself). If you are not willing to run towards these kinds of change and desperately work towards them at all costs, you can count on little if any recovery. A person who will not change has decided to stay the same and can expect the same results.
There are also those who have found some degree of freedom and yet have not found the real freedom we are promised. In many of these cases these attitudes are evident and often dismissed as the result of this lack of freedom yet seldom are these looked at as possibly the reason for the lack of freedom.
Before you can be free of the poisons that the world is trying to shove into your life you have to deal with the poisons you shove into your own life. These angers, frustrations, resentments etc. are the luxuries of the people who do not use, but they are not for us. For us these are among the most painful and prolonged forms of self torture and suicide there can be for us. On the other hand, freedom from these may be your keys to freedom from many evils that poison and devour your life.
Stay sober my friends,
- How to Make Anger and Resentment Unnecessary (psychologytoday.com)