Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go through life and never feel anger—not because we’re suppressing the emotion, but because we simply don’t have anything to feel angry about?
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Anger in Recovery
But in reality, of course, we have plenty to be angry about. Like getting cut off in traffic. Or the boss dropping a big project in our laps on Friday afternoon (with a Monday morning deadline). Or bullies—both kids and adults—who go out of their way to make life miserable. And much more.
In general, we think of anger as a negative emotion. It’s no fun to feel, and it is no fun to be around someone who is feeling it. Still and all, anger can serve positive purposes. It can inspire us to work to correct injustices and inequities. It can give us the motivation we need to leave an untenable situation, whether it’s a bad job or a bad relationship. If the anger is directed inward, it can goad us into making a change that we know we need to make—like deciding to get help overcoming a substance use disorder.
So anger can, in fact, be a productive, helpful emotion. But it probably goes without saying that anger can be negative, too. One of the dangers of anger is that it can undermine your recovery.
Analyzing the Downside of Anger
One of the problems with anger is that it can make us feel as though we are out of control. We’ve all had moments when it just seems as though we get angrier and angrier—even when we know the strength of the emotion is out of proportion to the situation. Anger of this sort can also lead to feelings of guilt or embarrassment when we finally calm down.
None of those feelings are particularly conducive to protecting your hard-won sobriety. That’s because you may be tempted to turn back to drugs or alcohol to keep such feelings at bay—or to forget about the consequences of things you said or did while you were angry.
Given that anger is at times unavoidable, it is important to find ways to manage it effectively so that your sobriety is not threatened.
Intentional Choices to Help Manage Anger
You can do a number of things to prevent anger from overwhelming you. It can be helpful to make some intentional choices so that you are better able to grapple with anger when it arises. These choices may include:
- Choosing to be kinder to yourself: We all have inner critics who like to remind us of all the ways we have messed up. And your critic might be particularly loud after you have lost your temper. Making a decision to be kinder to yourself can pay dividends when anger arises.
- Choosing to step away from confrontation: You can usually tell when a conversation is about to go off the rails, and making a conscious decision to step away until you—and the other party—can calm down is a good idea. But if you can’t postpone a conversation, you can also choose to focus your own comments on “I” statements that explain how you are feeling rather than assigning blame to the other person.
- Choosing to be intentional about your mental health: There are plenty of ways to support your overall mental health that can make it easier to manage anger. Practicing mindfulness and/or yoga, writing in a journal, getting regular exercise, and more can provide significant benefits that also support your recovery.
- Choosing to forgive others—and yourself: It can be all too easy to let your anger fester, but this is almost never a beneficial approach to life. And if your anger is directed at yourself, it can be particularly destructive. Forgiveness is better all around, though you may still need to end toxic relationships.
- Choosing to do something positive: We have already noted some circumstances in which anger can be channeled in such a way that it leads to something good. Seeking out those opportunities is always an excellent choice.
Making the sorts of choices above can go a long way toward ensuring that you can maintain your sobriety—even in those moments when anger arises, which it inevitably will.
You Should Not Feel Angry About Needing Help
When you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you may feel angry with yourself. And that anger might make you feel like you have to sort things out by yourself. But it is important to remember that substance use disorders are a brain disease, not something easily overcome on your own.
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we offer personalized treatment plans grounded in evidence, compassion, and respect. You may be harshly judging yourself, but our team will never judge you. Instead, we will help you address your substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorders so that you can begin your recovery journey with confidence.
Our message here is simple: Just like you should not let anger undermine your sobriety once you are in recovery, you should not let anger keep you from getting the help you need in the first place. Let us help you reclaim your sobriety and your life.