Resentment is the Number One Offender
“Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick” Big Book, page 64
How is it that a doomed and hopeless alcoholic such as me, can now stay sober comfortably? I was absolutely terrified of life, and yet today I am living my dreams. In my early days, I wanted to slap people who said these things at meetings! And yet it’s absolutely true: the very things that I was daydreaming about (usually after a truckload of cheap beer), that I was too messed up to attempt, are the very things I am blessed with today.
It’s a good thing that there’s nowhere in the Big Book that says: "It’s everyone else’s fault that we’re alcoholics.” That’s as far as I ever got: blaming others and staying miserable. Time after time I would offload my problems with people on counsellors, family and friends. It didn’t make me feel any better, and it never stopped me from drinking.
“To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore” Big Book, page 66.
There it is: the alcoholic without the solution. If only my ex-girlfriend, or my mum, or my friend, or the entire world would….. The way out of this mess for me has been the 12 Steps, with the aid of a sponsor. That is it, nothing else. I haven’t had to top it up with pills or counselling. I may not be the most successful alcoholic, with an impressive career and suchlike, but I LIKE my life, and I enjoy living it SOBER.
In order to remain sober comfortably, I had to deal with my resentments, and to continue to do so. Steps 4 and 10 are essential for this, because I have to see MY defects of character as the reasons for my resentments. Step 5 was a freeing experience, but I need to continue to be sponsored. I need to continue to recognise my defects of character, when the world doesn’t behave the way I want it to. I need to continue to work with newcomers, and to take my home group seriously, regardless of what is going on in my life. I take these actions in order to keep resentments at bay, so that I can stay sober. Before I came to Alcoholics Anonymous, my life was one big resentment. I had so many problems, I didn’t know where to begin. I kept drinking more, to numb the problems, which obviously made them worse.
I used to get drunk on my own, from the morning until I collapsed. I’d obsess about my past, convinced that the “good old days” were behind me. I would blast my music at antisocial volumes, upsetting my neighbours. The very thought of staying sober was absolutely ridiculous: life was far too painful. However much trouble I caused by my drinking, staying sober was out of the question. And so I ended up at Alcoholics Anonymous out of desperation: I found life impossible, with or without alcohol. I knew that simply not drinking was NOT the solution to my problems. My problem was me and the way I reacted to the world. My whole attitude to life stank. I needed one of these “spiritual awakenings” that I heard people talked about at meetings. I learned very quickly not to be put off by that term, because a spiritual awakening in Alcoholics Anonymous is a change of thought and attitude. And boy did I need one of those, big time! I didn’t come to AA just because I couldn’t find work or a girlfriend. EVERYTHING was wrong.
But these days, I wake up sober and fairly serene and calm, thanks to the people in my home group who carried the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to me. If all they had said was “Don’t pick up the first drink”, I would be dead now: no doubt about it. I had no way of not picking up the first drink: my life was too unbearable, and there seemed no point in staying sober. I thought staying sober would be hard, and unbelievably painful, as indeed it had proved to be, when I tried it on my own. But the members of my home group demonstrated to me that a happy sober life was possible, by working the Steps: the programme of recovery.
Thank God my drinking got bad enough for me to do something about it. I often think “Why me? How come I’m prepared to do what countless suffering alcoholics won’t do, despite the pain they are in?” I used to think “Why me” as in “Poor me!” But this is a different kind of “Why me!” So many people come to meetings, battered and bruised, with their lives and freedom hanging by a thread. But suggest to them that all it takes is a few simple actions to have a completely different life, and they walk away. I can relate to that: I was exactly the same myself once, and so I stayed sick. Just for today, I feel so lucky to be one of the people who will do whatever it takes to avoid returning to that dreadful daily torture of my former life.
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 harbouring 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. Big Book, page 66
Of course resentments will pop up from time to time. The Steps won’t have the power to change the world around me. And I’m still an alcoholic, so naturally I’m going to react badly to situations from time to time. But it never occurs to me that the best way out of it is by having a drink. That is the change of thought and attitude brought about by working the programme of recovery, as outlined in the Big Book. And when I get honest about the resentment, I realise that it’s my reaction to it that causes me misery. I need to continue to work with newcomers, because that is what is suggested in the Big Book. If I get resentments hanging around for too long, I’m in trouble. Therefore I need to continue to put in the actions that got me sober in the first place, and continue to stay sponsored.
Arash, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth