How can you learn to overcome anger and resentments in sobriety? What is the process by which you can learn to let go of anger so that you can enjoy more peace and serenity?
I have found that there are a few helpful suggestions for this that actually worked for me. I think that much of recovery is like this: You have to take suggestions from people, test out the idea for yourself, and see if it helps you in recovery.
This is different than asking for advice, then declining the things that sound too tedious or difficult for you to do.
No, when you ask for advice in recovery, you need to actually apply the advice and put the ideas into action so that you can see if they benefit you or not. You cannot predict what will help you and what will be a waste of time until you actually try the suggestions out for yourself.
The idea is: Ask people in AA or NA what has worked for them in the past when tackling a specific problem, then implement their ideas and suggestions into your own life. See what works after giving a technique a fair chance to work (30 days is a good ballpark for most problems and solutions). If something is not working, you can always ask for more suggestions later and try new things.
One of the suggestions that you are going to hear often at AA and NA is the idea that if you have a resentment against someone, you should pray for that person. In other words, rather than seething with anger and hatred at the person, you should flip it around by forcing yourself to talk to your higher power and wish good things for this person that you resent. Of course this idea sounds very counter intuitive, and most of us question the validity of it at first. It is something that you have to try for yourself and see if it gives you any relief or not. It is said that “resentment is like taking poison yourself and believing that it will somehow hurt the person that you resent.” This is crazy. All of your anger is negative energy that just drags you down, and for what? What good is the anger? It accomplishes nothing but robbing you of peace and serenity. You must figure out how to overcome it, and if praying for the other person doesn’t work for you, then you need more suggestions.
Here is another suggestion that is going to sound very counter intuitive as well: Start exercising. That’s right, vigorous exercise every day (or almost every day). Of course, check with your doctor first and make sure that you can take on a vigorous exercise program.
So you are probably wondering: How is vigorous exercise going to help me to overcome my resentment? And honestly, I do not necessarily believe that it will eliminate the resentment directly. What it does for me, however, is that when I engage in vigorous exercise every day, it helps to regulate me emotionally. Any stress or negative energy in my life is put on the back burner when I get done with an intense run or an intense workout. So the exercise is not necessarily eliminating the resentment, it is just making it much easier to deal with it. I can get some serenity back and more peace in my life emotionally if I am taking good care of myself physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially when I am trying to deal with a resentment.
In terms of actually getting rid of the resentment and being totally free of it, you need to get with a sponsor or a therapist and actually “do the work.” So what it means to do the work in this case is that you need to figure out how to forgive this person that you resent.
Forgiveness is often misunderstood. It is not about forgiving the other person and thus “letting them off the hook.” Instead, you are going to forgive them and let yourself off the hook.
Ultimately, you have harmed other people in your life at times. All of us, every single one of us, has at one time or another in our lives, hurt someone. Yes, even you. It has happened.
And there have been times when that other person did not get any direct retribution from you. In other words, you hurt them and you got away with it and they just had to deal with their pain.
If you happen to believe in a higher power, then you probably believe in the concept that every individual will, at some point, be judged for their misdeeds. And when you forgive someone, part of your process may be in realizing that this person will be judged for their misdeeds by a higher power, and that this lets you off the hook.
You do not have to judge anyone, even someone who hurt you, because you know in your heart that they will be judged at some point. You are not their higher power, nor do you need to be.
In turn, you need to look at your own misdeeds and think about your own judgement against yourself. Here is a key point in letting go of your resentments: You must figure out what your own misdeeds have been, and then do the work that is necessary to forgive yourself for all of that stuff.
If you cannot forgive yourself for your own misdeeds in life, then you will not allow yourself to let go of your resentments against others. Do you understand why this the case?
It is because you are holding others to the same standard that you hold yourself. If you are beating yourself up mentally for the transgressions of your past that you are responsible for, then you will tend to beat up others mentally (hold resentments) against other people that have done the same to you.
Therefore, you must forgive yourself for your own misdeeds.
One very thorough way to do this is to go to AA or NA, find a good sponsor, and work through the 12 steps with that person. When you do your fourth step you will uncover all of those misdeeds of your past. Then in the subsequent steps you will take actions to help you work through the self forgiveness that is necessary to move on from that guilt and shame and remorse. All of those emotions are negative and they can do nothing good for you. You must work through them in order to get some relief.
Once you have done this work on yourself, and worked through your own shame, guilt, regret, and remorse, you will be free to the point that you can now forgive others much more easily. You will see that when you transgressed against others, you were only doing the best that you could in life, you were doing the best that you could to get your needs met, to get what you think you needed, to find the love that you thought you deserved. And you will see that other people who have hurt you were only trying to find their own love, their own happiness, to make it through their own life and find a way as best they could. Perhaps they were ignorant, perhaps they had been abused themselves, perhaps they were mentally ill or sick or whatever. The reason doesn’t matter, they lashed out and hurt you somehow and they were only trying to find their own way through this crazy life for themselves, doing the best they can, and they screwed up by hurting you.
You have done the same to others. And if you can learn to forgive yourself, then you can learn to forgive others as well. But you have to be willing to dive into the work, talk to therapists and sponsors, get honest with yourself, and do some very thorough step work and soul searching.
The results are well worth it. Freedom and serenity await you!