The Big Book says, on page 64, “Resentment is the “number one” offender.” Though I wrote one post about resentment already, I feel there is so much more to say about this subject and recently, have been hearing from others about how resentment affects their life in recovery as well.
If one believes that the body and soul are not one and the same, as I do, then isn’t it also true that my soul and personality are separate? And if that is true, then it is perplexing that I cannot shed resentments as I do a coat or shoes.
But yesterday, I had an amazing experience. As I wrote in the previous post on resentment, I am harboring a huge resentment against my ex-husband and his now ex-wife. It became clear to me a few days ago that this is affecting my recovery more than I imagined when I blurted out something to my son about it that I felt was inappropriate.
Though I have done all the “right things” to relieve this resentment over the course of many years based on the suggestions of AA and DA, such as prayer, steps 4-9 multiple times, etc., it hasn’t really budged. I thought, at times, it was gone, but saw that this was true only so long as I didn’t think about it. But when I did, it would roar up again.
One of my DA friends said that no one is free of resentments because we are all human. But I think the object is to get rid of all the old ones and to catch the new ones early ongoing and do what is necessary to keep them from becoming overwhelming. That is the essence of Step 10 – “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”
So for me to have well over two decades of recovery in multiple programs and STILL have to battle old resentments makes me very uncomfortable. In the Big Book, on page 66, it says, “If we were to live, we had to be free of anger” and “…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.”
Being a black and white thinker, I say to myself that I am failing at recovery if I still harbor anger. Yet, the Big Book also says, on page 60, “Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”
This comforts me and reminds me that I need to continually strive over and over and over to meet these goals, not that I am able to live in perfect peace at all moments. It means that if I want to live in recovery, I need to continue, daily, to maintain and work toward the ideals espoused in this program and strive for a stronger connection with my Higher Power.
The other day, someone in DA reminded me about a lovely Tibetan Buddhist technique called Tonglen, which is basically a simple method to become more compassionate and sympathetic. I have been doing it during my meditation practice the last few days. But yesterday, when I tried to do it, I couldn’t bring up the resentment feeling! I tried hard, visualizing both of them and thinking about what they did to me and my son. But I felt nothing. Not numb, like I was covering it up. Literally, just detached. As I would feel about a coat I just removed.
It was astonishing. Just seeing that this was possible. Even for those few moments. It made me incredibly hopeful that I can be relieved of this resentment to the point of being able to spend time with my ex without wanting to rip his heart out.
Step 11 is “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.” Meditation is a vital daily component to my recovery and I have written a post on its importance with suggestions on how to do it. If you are interested in learning more about Tonglen, here are detailed instructions. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice this. I am not. But the fact that it worked when nothing else did for me tells me that I can add this to my arsenal of tools to combat my disease.