Resentment Cultivation: An Alcoholics Favorite Vintage
Humanity's greatest single resource, the thing with which we have been endowed that separates us from all other life on this planet, our mind, can, at the same time, be both miracle and our most devastating enemy. This should surprise no one. The more complex anything is, and our brains are nothing if not among the most complex constructs in the world, the more ways it can go haywire. Find itself on the fritz.
One of the principle forms of mischief to which the mind is prone is that of the crafting, honing, and refining of resentments. According to 12 step literature, it is offender numero uno. My brain can take, for example, the most innocuous of statements from another person and transform it into a no holds barred, scorched earth assault on the very essence of my being. Said comment may have been utterly innocent, mentioned offhand without any kind of malicious intent at all. And yet, my hypersensitive alcoholic mind will construct a lengthy and detailed narrative around it in which not only the speaker, but also the entire world is conspiring against me, operating under the belief that I am a deplorable human being, worthy of nothing but disdain. The actual verbalizing of this sentiment can only mean that I shall be, ever and anon, a pariah, exiled from the company of others, cast out into the abyss of total and perpetual isolation. Enter shame, remorse, regret, and generalized alcoholic self-loathing. And I deserve all of it. And more!
Now, this story, this resentment, is pure fabrication, having no basis in reality whatsoever. Yet, it can, and will, invariably affect my sense of well being in a profound way. It will permeate the very fabric of my daily life, spreading its viral malevolence in the background of my consciousness to the point of making me physically ill. It is that destructive.
Once this tale has been established, the longer it sits and gestates in the ol' brain, the more detailed and fleshed out it becomes. Back stories are created. Motivations are hypothesized. Schemes speculated. All out of thin air! In this sense, resentment development and maintenance is similar to oenology (wine cultivation comparable to alcoholic resentments - unlikely analogues, no?) With proper aging and nurturing, each reaches its optimal potency. Too little time produces a volatile, impulsive reaction to the alleged offender. Too long simmering and festering in the diseased mind yields a remembered account that is so far removed from reality, from what actually was said or happened, that it cannot sustain its mental corrosiveness. There is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle wherein lies maximal mental torment.
Mix that in with the innate hypersensitivity characteristic of many alcoholics, and an ability and inclination to read very nearly anything as an insult, on top of an abundance of things for which I could and should be justifiably criticized, and the result is a truly miserable life.
All the while, the poor person who made the initial comment or action has had all manner of debts and crimes added to his ledger - thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and actions that he probably, in fact, has never had or done. And when this innocent chap encounters me, he will be met by a surly, vindictive, irritated SOB whose inexplicable wrath is based on pure fiction.
Now, of course, this condition does not afflict only drunks and addicts. Like many of the symptoms of the "-ism" in "alcoholism" we like to claim (erroneously) as having exclusively, plenty of so-called normies suffer too. It happens all the time. The difference, I think, is that, while moderate imbibers might have some negative consequences as a result of this misconstrual of intention, alcoholics have a propensity to resort to disastrous and sometimes fatal binges for relief.
So, what then to do? My experience has been that the single most important factor in becoming less sensitive has been temporal distance away from drink. This might seem like a bit of bootstrapping; over-reactive imagining being both cause and effect of drinking. But, like many other problems in the constellation of substance abuse, the first part of the solution is simply to stop. Period. So, however one does it, whatever route one goes, to whatever motivation one clings, whatever program one joins, that is both the start and the goal. Ah, the paradoxes of recovery.
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