How Resentment Hurts Sobriety

How Resentment Hurts Sobriety

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

It’s not a secret. In order for a person to move forward in recovery, the past has to stay put. Sure it exists, and we will have to deal with its ramifications, but it cannot dictate who we are today. We give power to the past (poor decisions, bad habits, painful memories) when we let it control our today. The are lots of things that will negatively anchor us to our past and keep us from moving forward in healing, but our resentments are amongst the toughest to face.

What Is Resentment?

It’s a feeling of being unjustly wronged. But more, resentment typically slips into a fixation on the person (or situation) that caused the injustice. In some cases, resentment can even carry some validity. It’s a natural emotion. However, strong resentments that overwhelm us or take us continually into our past will hold back our ability to recover.

As well, resentment is a negative emotion. It brings pain because we’re not able to let go of festering distrust or anger towards whoever has treated us poorly in the past. It mars our present moment with negativity. For recovering addicts, negative emotions bring with them the scent of relapse. Getting caught up in them can undermine our resistance to triggers or become a reason for impulsive actions that bring us back to our self-destructive behaviors.

Outward Resentment

There are plenty of places we might be resentful towards people in our past; however, recovering addicts will harbor certain grievances towards people in our lives unwilling to see beyond our past actions.

  • The boss who won’t hire us back after being burned
  • Family members who refuse to allow us back in their lives
  • Friends or loved ones trying to control our lives or actions
  • Watching others succeed in their sobriety while we still struggle


Strong resentments that go unresolved could mean you are in danger of being the classic dry drunk. Remember, detox, residential treatment, IOP, aftercare, all of these treatments are tools to help you live in a way that is transformative. You have momentum from staying sober yesterday, but today is still the day that matters. Living out of control, allowing resentment to dictate your actions is a sure way to derail your daily efforts. And it could be a sign that you have given up on being clean for simple abstinence.

Letting Go of Resentment

Resentment is emotional bondage. It keeps us connected to the negative feelings while it also does nothing to remedy the situation. It does not have any impact on a real (or supposed) conflict, nor does it change the person we have these feelings towards.

So what can we do?

Well, the simple answer is to give it up. Or let it go.

This can be as small as choosing to take away the power of a meaningless situation on our current lives. Or it could be as big as sticking with our therapy. Using our support networks. Talking to our sponsors. Bringing up our resentments in counseling and unpacking where our feelings come from and where they are taking us.

Practices for Recovery

If you are mired in the negative emotions of resentment, find your support. However, while you are here, try some of these methods to help you in the here and now.

If you are in a situation where your resentments and your other emotions and thought processes are taking a toll on your sobriety, we can help. We offer a full continuum of programs for recovery. Please call us today to talk to someone who understands your situation, and we will do what it takes to help you find the right solution for your recovery journey: 844-489-0836.

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