Recently, if you read my articles on a weekly basis, you will note that I have been extremely focused on resentments primarily my own. Because I have been through Steps Four and Five a few times, I am grateful that although I can’t honestly say I’m not still harboring a resentment, I recognize it for what it is and am working on it. It is easy to recognize a resentment when the person you resent is not someone in your life at the present time and never will be in the future. Perhaps there was never even a real history between you (me) and the person (a relatively short-term relationship). These types of resentments are the ones that come and go in our recovery and ultimately, we let it go.
I have realized that not every newcomer truly can understand a resentment. To explain this I have to share a real life scenario that may make Step Four easier to some or may even provide the “aha” moment anyone in recovery might be looking for. Perhaps it depends on the age of a person, the function/dysfunction of the family unit, and/or the environment that the person lives in. Many of us were ready and willing to list our resentments about everyone and anything because we were now emotionally able to handle Step Four. What I have found, though, through sponsoring, is that every now and then there is someone who cannot find any resentments toward people they love.
The difficulty is that a sponsor can’t force someone to feel a resentment. A sponsor isn’t a counselor or a psychologist/psychiatrist who is digging into someone’s psyche looking for clues to unlock what secrets a patient holds. But a sponsor is a person who knows that something might be amiss when a sponsee can’t find any resentment at all toward people they love. This is not about being dishonest or not thorough in the moral inventory. This is about not being able to see beyond devotion to a person even though that person virtually created the dysfunctional environment surrounding the addict/alcoholic sponsee.
Let me just tell it like it is so that I can present the facts instead of dancing around them. I also want to make sure that you know what I am telling you is not my observation but facts, as stated by the sponsee. She is only 18 years old and is living at a sober-living facility with her one-year old child. She is an addict/alcoholic who spent six months in jail. She has been clean for a little over one year. She is open and very honest and prior to beginning Step Four, told me all about her family. Dysfunction is the norm. Father is in prison; mom is a drug addict; step-dad is an addict; new baby is born “dirty”; brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles all addicts/alcoholics. Weapons, all kinds of abuse, unemployment, etc. are part of the lifestyle. No, these are the lifestyle!
So as we were ready to begin listing resentments, I explained that it didn’t mean she had to be angry or hate someone but if she feels uncomfortable thinking of them or feels they did her wrong that person would be considered a resentment. She got that…kind of. She could not put her mom on the resentment list. Why? Because this was her mom and she loved her. I wanted to shake her and make her look at what her mom did to her and put her through but, of course, I couldn’t do that. No matter what I said she could only feel love and she considered her mom a “victim” in some ways. She pitied her. Even though her mom was still using and she could not condone that, thinking poorly of her mom was just too big to handle.
I was not looking for her to say she didn’t love her mom. Since she has a baby girl, I wanted her to begin understanding what a healthy relationship between mother and daughter was; that drugging with your mom wasn’t really all that cool. What I did finally say to her was, “Is there anything your mom ever did or said to you that you wish she hadn’t done or said?” This sentence was like Pandora’s Box because this did not sound as critical to her as a “resentment”. The next week she announced to me, “I put my mom on the list!” She was actually excited and even she felt that it was a major breakthrough. Coincidentally (no, by the grace of God), her brother (also an ex-addict) told her he had a kind of epiphany about their mom and clarified for her that she was not alone in her thinking that maybe mom had some problems. She is no longer guarded as she speaks of her mother because she has finally recognized that her mother’s choices were and still do remain selfish. She also recognizes that she can love her mom but not her actions either past or present. Finally, she is able to see a life for her and her young child that she never knew existed.
Many men and women fairly new to recovery have such difficulty with the whole resentment thing. I think it is the word itself. There is something kind of “mean” about it but I’m not about to change what has worked for 70 years! But many of our members today are so young and there is an emotional bond with family members or maybe friends. They are emotionally immature; even more than most of us were because of their age. If they don’t seem to get the word “resentment” because they love someone, try using the words I did, “Is there anything ___ ever did or said to you that you wish he/she hadn’t done or said?” There may be some trivial things that come up but underlying those, this just might be the opportunity for a person to be more thorough then they could ever have imagined. If you try this and it works for your sponsees or even yourself, let me know and then pass it on!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.