I am an alcoholic, and have just started treatment. My boyfriend is trying to be supportive. When he gets angry he gets my 81 yr-old father involved, he calls me a drunk in front of my son, and my father. This makes me very angry. I know I can’t expect trust right away. But I don’t need to be belittled either. He always talks over me, so I end up yelling. Then I get the silent treatment. He tells me I can tell him anything, and to talk to him, but I’m scared because if I make one mistake and slip, he just throws his hands up and tells me you’re just going through the motions, you’re a drunk, you’ll never stop… He doesn’t make it easy to talk to him. Please some advice would be helpful!
Resentment is a very common recurring issue in recovery, especially in early sobriety and concerning family members. I trained my family for years with my substance abuse to always expect the worst; it became sort of a defense mechanism for them. It took years before the painful/stressful memories of my past actions faded and they began to see me instead of a drunk. During this time it led to a lot of resentment on my part, which is very dangerous considering that my alcoholic thinking would tempt me with the “you might as well drink, they think you are anyway” spiel. Conversely they had a lot of resentment too. I would get mad at them because no one trusted me out on without a leash, but I didn’t realize the extreme amount of stress this put them under. After all, I had trained them to expect a phone call from the hospital or another disappearing act- so even a simple trip to the grocery store for me was a stressfest for the family left at home dreaming up the worst case scenario.
So how does one deal with resentment in recovery? Introspection is the key.
One of the biggest lessons of recovery is that you only have power over yourself. This means no one has the power to “make you better”, but it also means you cannot change others regardless if they are well adjusted or also battling their own recovery issues. This means it is up to you and you alone to make progress in your recovery, and also realizing that the only way to influence others is through changes in yourself.
I know it may sound counterintuitive when speaking about an alcoholic (we can be a selfish lot), but make it about you. Whenever you are feeling resentment toward your friends and family, try to back away and use introspection. Forget about them; think about how you can make this better. Be willing to take one for the team. When both sides are feeling resentment, escalation is imminent. There is a solution, but you will have to make it about you.
This sort of introspection is tough. I still struggle with it but the rewards are great when you maintain emotional control and intelligence. Conflict abates, negotiations are productive, and best of all- stress levels are lowered on both sides.