Recovery resentment - the reason you still feel angry, lonely, hurt, and raw when your loved one is finally in recovery. Author Carolyn Hughes explains.
The following is a guest post by Carolyn Hughes, a freelance writer with special interest in alcohol issues. Carolyn is currently writing The Hurt Healer, a novel based on her own experiences of abuse and alcoholism, and lives in Northern Ireland with her husband and their two daughters. She celebrates 13 years sobriety and says, “My proudest achievement is that my children have never seen me take alcohol or had to live with a drunken mother.” Carolyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to visit Carolyn’s blog, The Hurt Healer, to read more of her insightful posts. You may also wish to follow her on FaceBook.
Recovery Resentment by Carolyn Hughes
Recovery Resentment – why you still feel hurt and angry after your loved one stops drinking.
You never thought they could, but your loved one has done it! They’ve got sober and everyone is happy. So why do you still feel so infuriated and upset? It’s Recovery Resentment. Here’s some insight into what it is and what to do.
Great news! You’ve survived the hell of living with an alcoholic and they’ve decided to get help. Past experience has led to disappointments and frustration after your loved one has started treatment only to quit, but this time they are adamant they will stick with it. You are cynical but even so, there’s a tiny glimpse of optimism because you never thought this day would come.
They say they are “Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.” So are you. Alcohol has been the root cause of all your problems whether emotional, physical, social or financial. So you indulge in thoughts of a carefree life where drink is not in control.
To your amazement the alcoholic does actually seem to be making a serious attempt at beating the addiction. You’ve no idea what prompted this catalyst for change but you welcome it with open arms. They are following their programme and you notice a real commitment. By some miracle they’ve managed a day, then a week without a drink and they’re on course for their first dry month, six months……
Everyone has noticed a change and you have the feeling you should be elated. Of course you’re pleased that they’re on the right track. Delighted that family life has calmed down. Genuinely relieved that they’ve dumped their drinking buddies and made new sober friendships. Yet there’s something that’s making you sick to the stomach. Why do you still feel angry, lonely, hurt, and raw?
It’s ‘Recovery Resentment.’
As an alcoholic who took twenty years to admit it, I know how terrifying it is to be in the position of having to give up drinking or die. Even though I wanted my daily torture to end, it took me six months in residential rehab to get physically detoxed and psychologically ready to begin my journey to an alcohol free life.
At the end of it I didn’t just have a few months sobriety to celebrate, I also emerged 28lbs lighter and looking years younger. I had renewed my faith and I wanted to share my new found zest for life. Naturally I assumed everyone would appreciate how much I had endured in treatment and that they would welcome me back unconditionally. Most were willing, but some were not.
I realised that some were resentful of my success because their own relatives had failed. Others were addicts and preferred being around addicts. Those I found the hardest to deal with were friends who I’d hurt so badly through my alcoholism that they were unwilling to accept any apology and were unable to forgive me.
Whatever the reason, there were people who quite simply resented my recovery. However, it wasn’t until the tables were turned that I appreciated ‘Recovery Resentment’ completely.
After 12 years of sobriety my husband decided he would drink again. After a year and a half of managing the nightmare that had become our family life he finally relapsed and admitted defeat. He made the decision to get back on track. And he did.
Except that he seemed to think that his ‘not drinking’ excused him from taking responsibility of the damage he had done to me and others. I didn’t dare mention the fact that he had all but thrown our marriage away out of fear of triggering off the next relapse. He was feeling fine again and wanted to just pick up from where we left off. And he gave a convincing argument about leaving the past in the past and moving on.
My mind agreed but my heart didn’t. I felt so raw and so damaged. But at the same time I was boiling with rage. How dare he act so smug and self righteous! How dare he chant AA slogans at me – “Live and let live”! How dare he feel better!
And to make it worse he relatives and friends seemed to take his side. Whilst cheerfully nodding in agreement at how wonderful it was that my husband wasn’t drinking, my insides churned as they warned me against talking about things that were over and done with.
Everyone also assumed that because my husband was okay, then so was I. But I needed support to manage my ‘Recovery Resentment’ and if you can relate at all, then so do you! I have two suggestions:
- Don’t seek revenge by doing the same things to your loved one as they did to you when they were drinking. You are better than that.
- Do go to Al-Anon or some similar group where you can vent your feelings and find some empathy and understanding. You deserve it.
At the end of the day I was able to forgive and forget largely because I am a recovering alcoholic. I know the power of alcohol, so for me it was a case of ‘but for the grace of God’. I can’t imagine what it must be like if you don’t have that insight. But I do know that my husband’s addiction wasn’t and isn’t my fault and neither was my recovery resentment. And it’s not your fault either!