Anger in addiction recovery has a lot to do with change. Your attitude needs to change. Recognize that.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Anthony Robbins.

First, we want to say a few words about change. Change is necessary to achieve a fulfilling life. We must change, we must grow. Life cannot stay the same, it can be better or worse, but that cannot stay the same.

Keep this in mind when you think about anger in addiction recovery. You must be willing to change, or you will just remain stuck in anger.

Understand Anger

Why are addicts so angry? We all experience anger but to different degrees.

Men, have a different connection with anger than women. Dr. Sandra Thomas says that men are taught to be angry from when they are children. We are told to use anger to settle disputes on the playground [1].

First, we must learn that anger is okay, we should learn how to be angry. Anger is a natural and healthy emotion in certain situations and at certain levels. Anger, like any other emotion, is a signal from your unconscious that something is wrong.

Dr. Martha Beck describes anger as a signal that something your essential self needs is absent, or something that your essential self cannot tolerate is present [2].

Avoiding anger (suppressive) is just as troubling as defaulting to anger at appropriate times. We need to recognize that your anger is trying to tell you something and try to cultivate good anger.

Finding Good Anger

Anger can be used for good. Imagine being so frustrated by a problem that you spend extra time trying to solve it, while also not damaging any relationships. That is healthy anger [3].

Bad anger is rooted in Fear and Pain [4]. This is not a natural response, you have developed this response and it’s unhealthy. Anger generally manifests itself in three ways, aggression, passive aggression and suppression. Here is a list of the common signals of an anger issue for each type.

You can use your anger as motivation for success, to exercise, to get creative.

The Importance of Anger in Addiction Recovery

Guys in recovery who suffer from an anger problem could be suffering from co-occurring disorders. That’s the term given to anyone who suffers from addiction and a mental health issues.

It’s normal to feel angry throughout treatment. You are going to be frustrated, you are going to be confronting a lot of emotions.

Unfortunately, the relationship between anger and addiction recovery is just too great to be stated in a blog like this. The more we learn about addiction, the more doctors are realizing that the connection between emotions like anger, depression, or anxiety and addiction is multidirectional [5].

The best we can say is that learning how to manage anger in addiction recovery is a step towards learning how to manage all your emotions and take control of what influences you. That is a healthy step in the addiction recovery process.

We can say that it is important. On an individual level, guys in recovery should spend time understanding their anger and discussing it in groups and with their counselors.

Do Not Avoid Toxic Situations in Early Recovery

As we mentioned, avoiding anger in recovery is unhealthy.

For instance, you cannot and should not avoid family and friends, those support groups are important, and you will likely feel bouts of anger in those social situations, you should be there and learn how to deal with that anger.

Some doctors strongly believe that avoidance coping will likely lead to anxiety disorders [6]. And no one wants to swap out anger issues for an anxiety disorder. We, do however, understand everyone is different. If your counsellor has recommended avoidance, then listen to him or her. But for the most part, avoid avoidance.

Anger Management Coping Techniques

1 – The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique [7].

“The technique is called 4-7-8 Breathing, and it has five easy steps:

  1. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth.
  2. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  4. Release your breath from your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8.
  5. Without a break, breathe in again for a count of 4, repeating the entire technique 3-4 times in a row, then resume normal breathing and activity.”

When we a stressed or threatened we tend to naturally hold our breath [8]. You’ll be surprised how much a simple deep breath can change your entire mindset.

2 – Think Before You Speak

You do not owe anyone an immediate response. Take a few moments or even a few hours to figure out your response.

Sometimes you realize that saying what you wanted to say would simply ruin a relationship. But holding it in and suppressing your anger during recovery is unhealthy. Try the Abraham Lincoln anger management tip: write an angry letter and never send it.

3 – Change the Way You Communicate

You know what angry guys are good at? Going to extremes. Ever notice how everything is black or white, hot or cold, right or wrong?

Try not using worlds like “always” or “never”.

Use self-talk to remind yourself that this is not the end of the world, that this emotion too shall pass.

4 – Reflect

The more we reflect on our past actions the more prepared are to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

After a bout of anger, reflect on the situation as a whole. Try to write down everything you can in the moment, and again after you have calmed down. You might notice a much different perspective, almost as if you were Jeckyl and Hyde.

Use those notes in your next meeting or with a counselor.

Check out this Anger Management Workbook (PDF) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is a free anger management workbook and curriculum.

Sources

[1]: American Psychology Association – Anger across the gender divide.

[2]: Recovery.org – How Understanding Anger Revolutionizes Addiction Recovery.

[3]: Albert Tellis Organization – Functional versus Dysfunctional Anger: Part 2 – Functional Anger.

[4]: The Clearing – Understanding Anger and Addiction.

[5]: American Psychology Association – Depression, Anger, and Addiction: The Role of Emotions in Recovery and Treatment.

[6]: Psychology Today – Why Avoidance Coping is the Most Important Factor in Anxiety.

[7]: Small Footprint Family – Eliminate Stress, Anxiety and Panic In 57 Seconds.

[8]: Psychology Today – Waiting to Exhale.

 

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