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Resentment: The “Number One” Offender

“Do you know what she said to me? That really pissed me off!”

“I can’t believe he did that to me! I’m so mad.”

Anger is such a powerful emotion that people can be blinded by it, unable to think rationally and clearly, especially if someone is experiencing rage. Anger and resentment can lead to violence and other unhealthy behaviors.

People with an addiction can find themselves victimized by these emotions. Unable to manage their anger, people who are addicted may turn to their drug of choice to cope. Some folks might retaliate against or “get back” at the people who they are angry with by drinking or drugging.  

In the book Alcoholics Anonymous (page 64), it says, “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” This can also apply to people who are addicted to drugs.

So the question is, “How can I effectively deal with anger in sobriety?” 


First, we can pause when we’re angry. This will stop us from reacting rashly and potentially making situations worse. We can then work on addressing the anger or resentment in a productive, healthy way. If someone is newly sober, adopting this practice can take a while.

Steven M. has been sober for more than 30 years and shares his experience with anger. 

“I remember my reactions to anger and resentment before I got sober and how self-centered they were. I would go off on someone or something that angered me, like placing a hand on a hot stove!  And often would drink over it and carry resentment for weeks and weeks,” he said. 

“The recovery program has taught me how to respond to anger when it arises. I have become more mindful of my feelings and can pause before reacting to situations that anger me. I still get angry. If I respond rather than react, the anger is quelled, and as a result, resentment often is avoided. I’m grateful for the wisdom of the 12-step program that I practice every day and have for years now,” Steven said. 

What Was Affected?

Next, I can ask myself, “What part of me was affected by their actions?” This requires a little soul-searching to find the answer. Was my self-esteem affected? Did their actions affect my sense of security or self-worth? 

On page 65 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a chart that shows how we can write out our resentments, allowing us to get down to causes and conditions. When we get specific about why we were offended, we understand ourselves better and can act toward addressing the anger. Some people even add a fourth column to that chart titled “What was my role?” Sometimes, we step on the toes of others, and they retaliate. In this column, we can state what we did if we played a role in the incident. If not, my role may be something as simple as “I let this person’s actions bother me.”

Talking With The Person

Now that I know what part of me was hurt, I can take the next steps to address the anger. One option is to calmly sit down with the offending person and explain what they did and how and why it affected me. I can then ask them to change their behavior or tell them how I would like to be treated in the future so the conflict doesn’t happen again. 

For example, I can be as specific as, “When you yelled at me and accused me of stealing your jewelry, I felt hurt because I didn’t steal it. It looks like you don’t trust me. If you find that your things have been stolen in the future, maybe you could just ask me if I borrowed your jewelry instead of accusing me. I think that would be more helpful than yelling. Yelling isn’t acceptable. I want you to know that you can trust me, and I wouldn’t steal your jewelry.”  

Of course, the phrasing is completely optional and depends on the situation. The point is that I can be open and honest with someone, speak my truth, and ask for what I need in a calm, kind, and direct voice. Doing this helps me set healthy boundaries with people and resolve the situation I was angry about. This method can be helpful in resolving many issues that arise. 

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One very old and effective method for overcoming anger and resentment is forgiveness. It is a mental and spiritual practice that liberates us from the chains of resentment. When we hold on to anger and resentment, we hold onto negativity intended for someone else. However, we are the ones most affected by the negativity. By practicing forgiveness, we let go of the anger and resentment and free ourselves to enjoy life as opposed to remaining bitter and vengeful. Some folks in recovery have suggested praying for those we are angry with. This helps soften our hearts, release us of the resentment, and even lead to the next suggestion.


Another tool for dealing with anger is empathy. I can remember that many people (including myself, at times) are struggling with mental and emotional issues. Through the course of the day, I may encounter a number of people who are mentally and emotionally sick. If they offend, I can remind myself that they are struggling with life’s challenges just like I am. They are doing their best at that moment, even though their best may not be very good on that day. Additionally, we can remember that people make mistakes, so we should allow them space to make mistakes. 

Don’t take things personally

Not taking things personally can be useful as well. This can be challenging as many of us addicted folks tend to be on the sensitive side. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz lists “Don’t Take Anything Personally” as his second agreement. He says taking things personally is something that we learn to do.

“Nothing people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”

In sobriety, we can decide not to allow other people’s behavior to adversely affect us. We can decide whether to allow something to hurt or bother us. We have this power. It’s only a matter of remembering that we have this power and applying it to our lives. 

Of course, this list of tips for dealing with anger and resentment is incomplete. It is intended to be helpful only. There are other healthy practices that can be used when dealing with these emotions that you will encounter during your journey of recovery.

What other healthy tools do you use to deal with anger and resentment when they crop up? Send me an email at [email protected].

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