When Recovery Becomes Resentment

By Jennifer Storm 12/14/17

“We are just concerned and wondering when you plan to come back. You know, you really need to think about getting a new sponsor, Jen."

woman sitting with elbows on knees and hands covering face
We must remain hypervigilant and able to recognize when we are drifting away or indulging a resentment.

I was in a meeting tonight and someone was sharing about how they became resentful about their recovery and it lead to a relapse. This image was so powerful for me as it flashed me back to seven years prior when, without realizing it, I copped a major resentment with my own recovery. I was embarking on my 13th year in recovery and watching my sponsor—a beautiful, strong and intelligent woman—take on the biggest fight of her life: cancer. When I found out she was diagnosed, I fell apart. I knew in that instance that my life was going to change completely and that she was about to lose hers. She had been my best friend, my mentor, my soul sister and my touchstone for years in recovery. She was my first call every morning and the thought of her leaving this world rocked mine.

She immediately began treatment and fought like hell to beat a disease that had the upper hand from day one. It was a gut-wrenching process watching her lose her battle. My last words to her were "I love you" and she responded in kind, only to leave us hours later. I was so blessed to have known this incredible woman and to be present for her transition into the next phase.

After her death, I went to a very dark place spiritually. I was angry at God and became very resentful of the program. Every time I went to a meeting I was either met with pity or judgement for my lack of attendance. I was attending a women’s meeting every week and while it was often full of inspiration, there was also a group of nosy and above-it-all types that began to grate my nerves. I had zero patience for the rhetoric and I became bitter and nasty. I slowly stopped attending all meetings and just kept to myself.

I’ll never forget one instance where I was indulging my grief and self-pity at the local supermarket.

Chunky Monkey or New York Super Chunk? As I turned each of the pints of ice cream in my hands to do what I would normally do, check the nutritional ingredients and then calculate if the splurge is worth it, I instead just threw them both in my cart and began to walk away. I stopped in my tracks in front of Brownie Batter and, without thought, grabbed that one too and absent-mindedly tossed it into my cart with the others. Basically, there was the equivalent of a heart attack at the bottom of my shopping cart but I didn’t care because at this point I’d welcome it, anything to make my heart feel something other than the dull nothingness that was my constant companion. I maneuvered through the aisles, barely remembering what I needed as I turned a corner and literally slammed right into Carrie. Carrie was a busybody from the 12-step meeting I usually attended.

“Jen, oh my! Hi,” she exclaimed all sunny and then suddenly her face transformed into an expression of fake solace. “How are you?” She said as though there was a camera zooming in close on her moment of compassion.

I took a deep breath. “I’m fine Carrie, how are you?” I responded even though I could care less how she was. My eyes had already wandered past her, searching for a quick escape.

“HAHAHA 'FINE,' really Jen, we all know what that means,” she said, half joking but returning to her compassionate stare. “Well, we haven’t seen you in a while. We’ve been worried about you.”

Ugh, the “we” statements, this is the shit I hate about people like Carrie. When a person in a 12-step program “we’s” you, it’s the equivalent of the old lady at church shaming you for missing mass on a Sunday. It’s loaded with ridicule and judgment masked in care. It's bullshit; it's 12-step rhetoric that makes me what to scream at its hypocrisy. Usually I have a witty comeback for shit like this but I am empty and just want to get home and launch into my heated love affair with Ben and Jerry.

I just stared at her.

“We are just so worried about you since Mag….?” She says judgmentally as she eyes my cart, taking in the three pints of Ben and Jerry’s, a bag of cheese Doritos, Q-tips and two boxes of tissues.

“Don’t even say her name, bitch! You have no right to even breathe her name; you do not even have a fraction of her grace and spirit,“ I screamed in my head as I glared at her with a tight-lipped smile. I wanted to come right out of my skin and run out of the store.

I don’t even think Carrie realized my mood or if she did she was too self-absorbed to care, she was on a mission to 12-step me back into the rooms.

“Well, we are just concerned and wondering when you plan to come back. You know you really need to think about getting a new sponsor, Jen.”

“Carrie, how about you go to aisle three and get yourself a big cup of go fuck yourself, how about that,” I said in my head as I just stood there, irate, until I realized her mouth had dropped open and she was staring at me like I just ran over her big book. That was when I realized that my conversation in my head-- came out of my mouth. Oh well, I thought. I tilted my head, gave Carrie a big fake smile, and swiveled my cart around her stunned face towards the register.

I did not look back.

I did not care.

Fuck Carrie, fuck them all. How dare she even say that to me? It had only been a month. A month!! And these people just wanted me to what, replace her, find someone else? After 13 years of unconditional support and love I was just supposed to get a new sponsor? This was the third time someone from a 12-step meeting had asked me when I would be getting a “new” sponsor. It was part of the reason I stopped going for a few weeks. As though it is just that simple to replace a soulmate. To find someone to fill the large black gaping hole in my heart.

I was still fuming inside as I threw my bag in the car and screeched out of the parking lot. I just wanted to get home. I wanted to scream. How dare she. The nerve. I was so pissed I reached for my phone to call my sponsor, because she is the only one who would even begin to understand how ridiculous what just happened was…and then I stopped myself. Obviously, she wouldn't pick up. She isn’t home anymore. I threw my phone down onto the passenger side of the car and drove, feeling even emptier than I had before I got to the store.

I got home and proceeded to sit on my couch and eat the contents of my bag. Three pints in, no sign of a heart attack, no sign of a heart, really, just numbness covered in chocolate.

I spent many days like that on my couch, eating my feelings and emotionally numbing myself. After a few months and 20 pounds of weight gain, I realized I needed to snap out of my negative coping behaviors. I was at work--after pushing myself into a suit that had become too tight around the seams due to my indulgences--and while bending over in my office, I heard a loud rip; it was the back seams of my pants that finally gave way and busted open. I was mortified. Luckily, I had a jacket that I quickly tied around my waist before humbly walking out of my office to my car. I realized then that I needed to pull myself out of the pity pit I had been hiding away in and regain my footing in a spiritual program.

Thankfully, I had a strong foundation under my feet from all the work I did in early recovery, and picking up a drink or drug was not something I craved anymore. Obviously as people with addictions we can use all types of things to help us run, avoid, and cope. We must remain hypervigilant about our programs and be able to recognize when we have drifted off course or when we are indulging a resentment. I realize that the old stale routine I had become stuck in wasn’t working for me anymore so I started going to new meetings and meeting new people. I began incorporating meditation into my life along with another program, Refuge Recovery. The combination of these activities has taken me to a whole new level of spiritual growth. As we hear in the rooms of recovery, resentments can take us right into a relapse if our spiritual program is not in order.

As I sat in this meeting listening to this woman share the pain of her relapse, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I was sitting there, open and listening, resentment free.

Jennifer Storm was appointed in 2013 by the Governor of Pennsylvania to serve a six-year term as the Victim Advocate of Pennsylvania advocating daily for crime victims throughout the criminal justice system. She is the author of several books on addiction, victimization and trauma, including Blackout GirlLeave the Light On and Picking Up the Pieces Without Picking Up.

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As a content expert on victims' rights issues, a survivor of sexual assault, and an outspoken advocate, Jennifer Storm is no stranger to the media, in fact, she is often times the first call they make when stories break.

Her media appearances are vast and include frequent appearances on all major networks including, ABC, FOX, NBC, NPR, CBS, and PBS as the county spokesperson for victims' rights. She has appeared on NBC's The Today Show, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, CBS 48 Hours Live to Tell program, and E! News online. She has appeared on local and national talk shows including The Harrisburg View and WITF's prime time public affairs show SMARTTALK, Dr. Drew Live, Recovery Coast to Coast, and many more. In 2002, Ms. Storm also publicly debated Oliver North live on his syndicated talk show Common Sense with Oliver North.

Ms. Storm has traveled the country giving keynotes, lectures, workshops, and panel discussions regarding victims' rights, LGBT rights, addiction and recovery, and civil rights.

Ms. Storm is very comfortable giving interviews, both taped and live. Jennifer is the author of four critically acclaimed books on addiction, recovery and victimization. Echoes of Penn State: Facing Sexual Trauma, Picking Up the Pieces Without Picking Up: A Guidebook Through Victimization for People in Recovery, Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery and Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America. Her newest book is Awakening Blackout Girl: A Survivor's Guide for Healing from Addiction and Sexual Trauma.

Jennifer Storm recently received the 2012 Gail Burns Smith Award from the National Crime Victim Law Institute presented at their annual conference for Excellence in Victims Services. She received the 2012 Liberty Bell Award from the Dauphin County Bar Association and the 2011 Pathfinder Award for Excellence in Victims Services in the Commonwealth of PA presented by Governor Tom Corbett. She was also appointed by Governor Tom Corbett to the Victims Service Advisory Board on July 22nd, 2011 for a four-year term.

Blackout Girl was recently optioned by DolGer Films to be produced into a film in early 2015. Visit the official IMBD page for updates.