19 Apr Managing Anger in Addiction Recovery
Anger is a common emotion in addiction recovery. At some point, you have to learn to deal with it and process it in a constructive way. Your anger might be directed at yourself, or at certain people, or society in general, or even at law enforcement and the legal system. The fact remains that anger is very common among those recovering from addiction. Why is it important to deal with anger in addiction recovery? The main reason is that anger is often strongly attached to the risk of relapse. If you don’t properly process your anger, you might end up turning to drugs or alcohol again to cope with it.
Where Does Anger In Recovery Come From?
Anger is a normal and common human emotion. However, it has the potential to become twisted and misdirected, which can cause problems for the person expressing the anger as well as those around them. The two biggest causes of anger are fear and pain. These responses can be physical, psychological, or both. You might be literally afraid of something or someone. However, it’s also possible to be afraid of less tangible things like shame or loneliness. Pain is similar in that respect. You might feel physical pain related to your addiction, but you might also feel emotional pain from other things like loss or hurt feelings. Understanding the reasons for your own anger is the first step to processing them in a constructive way.
How Your Body Responds To Anger
When you get angry, your body releases a surge of hormones called catecholamines. This causes a burst of energy and a tense feeling. The latter feeling can last for several hours or even days. If you act on your anger, you’ll likely feel an increase in your blood pressure and heart rate. It’s common to feel a strong surge of adrenaline at the same time. You might think that suppressing anger is a good way to deal with it and control these physical responses. However, suppressing anger is not a substitute for properly coping with it. In fact, suppressing anger can also cause physical symptoms like headache, neck pain, back pain and muscle tension.
What Are Your Triggers?
In order to manage anger in recovery, you’ll need to understand your triggers. It’s important to identify the situations and people that trigger your feelings of anger. Your addiction therapist might have you create a list of things that make you angry. These might include situations with your family, your work, your friends or anything else. The following are some examples of what triggers anger in people:
• Feeling helpless
• Being taken advantage of
• Feeling like no one loves you
Since anger in addiction recovery can lead to relapse, it’s important to know these triggers as you work on relapse prevention plans as well.
Coping With Anger
The first step is knowing what triggers your anger, and the second step is recognizing when you’re experiencing an angry response to something. When you start feeling a physical anger response, you can distract yourself by focusing on deep breathing, moving away from the situation that’s provoking you, or finding another distraction that will interrupt the fight or flight response. Managing anger is a learned skill. However, the following are some ideas that might help:
• Learning relaxation techniques
• Finding humor in a situation
• Distracting yourself
• Going outside to experience nature
• Positive self-talk
• Writing your feelings down in a journal
• Asking others for help
The key is to interrupt the anger response and manage the feelings associated with it. As previously mentioned, managing anger isn’t the same as suppressing it. You can definitely learn how to suppress anger, but it’s generally counterproductive and will cause you to build up tension. Carrying tension with you on a regular basis can result in emotional instability that may lead to relapse.
How To Manage Anger In Addiction Recovery
Anger in recovery is more of a unique situation than general problems with anger. People in addiction recovery often find themselves angry at others and also at themselves. Even someone who is totally committed to addiction recovery may find themselves angry at the people who forced them out of their previous lifestyle. Change is difficult for many people to deal with, even if it’s a positive change. Another source of angry feelings in addiction recovery is when people around you don’t trust that you’ve changed. This is common as addiction often hurts many people around the person who experienced the addiction.
When you feel anger towards others during your addiction recovery, you might consider taking the following five steps:
Reflect on your anger and think about whether it was warranted, or if it was related to your addiction.
Apologize right away to whoever you directed your anger at if it was unwarranted.
Forgive whenever possible. If you want people to forgive you and trust you again, then you need to prove that you’ve changed.
Walk away from the situation if you can. Once you take time to calm down, you’ll often find that it wasn’t worth getting angry about.
Practice the therapy techniques you’ve learned during addiction treatment on a regular basis.
How To Deal With Anger At Yourself During Addiction Recovery
It’s also common to be angry at yourself while recovering from addiction. You might end up taking your anger out on other people when the real source of it is negative feelings towards yourself. Many people recovering from addiction feel guilt and shame about the things they did while using drugs or alcohol. It’s important to find healthy ways to deal with this type of anger as well. Start with the following five steps:
Forgive yourself. Overcoming internal anger starts with forgiving yourself for problematic behavior in the past.
Talk about it with someone you trust or with your addiction therapist.
Focus on the things you’ve accomplished during addiction treatment. The fact that you even entered treatment is worth celebrating. Don’t dwell on the past, but instead focus on your progress towards the future.
Look forward to the future. Along with recognizing your accomplishments to this point, you should also set future goals and remind yourself what else you have left to achieve.
Practice self-care. Your anger may be derived from low self-esteem. Practicing self-care and self-love can help you feel better and boost your confidence, which can alleviate angry feelings.
At New Method Wellness, we believe in an individually tailored and comprehensive treatment approach to address underlying issues. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, reach out to New Method Wellness today and take the first step towards a sober life.