Once a person enters treatment and even on into recovery, it’s not uncommon to be full of raw nerves and emotions that one is only just learning to manage without self-medication. Whether we’re mad at ourselves for winding up in this situation, or mad at the people we think help put us there, it’s hard not to lash out at the world and everyone in it. This time and these feelings make for a good lesson on how toxic resentment can be to us in our recovery.

Resentment can take a variety of forms, from the overwhelming emotional kind to the quiet seething, background variety. However we feel it, resentment can make it very difficult to move forward in recovery. The key is in stopping oneself from giving in to them.

Were we to overcome our resentment, we’d all be much happier and probably have much less stress. As much as we may want to let them go on an intellectual level, we tend to cling to our resentment like it is necessary. Even knowing how bad negative emotions can be, many of us hang on to resentments as hard as our need for air. We need to take concrete action if we are going to break free of our resentments and the negativity that can ruin our quality of life:

Finding the good in our lives and the second chance we’ve been given can take us out of our resentment. As soon as we realize that we’re starting to feel the old anger, we can start to list the things for which we are grateful and stop the process in its tracks. With practice, focusing on the positive and defusing our resentment before it can take hold will become a powerful habit.

While we may not be able to control our thoughts and feelings, we can control our behavior. Just because we have a thought, or just because something triggers a feeling, doesn’t mean we have to act on them. Practicing mindfulness meditation can teach us how to view our thoughts and feelings more objectively, from the outside in. With practice, we’ll be able to develop some perspective about how we are feeling and why, and without those feelings influencing our behavior.

If we could simply think our way out of our problems, recovery would be a purely intellectual exercise. Taking action and writing out our resentments can further help us gain perspective on them. Seeing these things on paper gives them a shape and definition that we cannot see when we’re just trying to think our way through them. It helps us look at our resentments in an objective manner, and not through the warped view inside our own heads.

We’re going to be asking for a lot of forgiveness for our behavior while we were using. Deep down, we know that we wouldn’t have done many of the things we did if it weren’t for our substance use. The same is true for many of the people against whom we hold resentment. If we start exercising forgiveness with the people who we feel have wronged us, we may find ourselves free from the negative emotions that can haunt our lives.

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