Dealing with anger while recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is an unexpected part of rehab for many. Regardless, if you don’t learn how to process anger in a constructive way, recovery can be very tough and may lead to relapse.
Trauma, whether it’s childhood trauma or trauma suffered as an adult, causes pain. For many, drugs and alcohol were a great way to deal with that pain. Once you’re in recovery, and you can no longer use substances to stuff your emotions, the harder it may be to manage your anger.
Many of us decide to suppress our feelings and focus on not using/drinking for today. However, when we do this, it causes our anger to build up like a pressure cooker until we explode.
Through my ten years of recovery, I have worked on various aspects of my mental health, but none so important as coping with anger. In this post, I’d like to go over three methods I’ve found to be successful when dealing with my anger.
What are Your Anger Triggers?
Like there are relapse triggers in recovery, there are also anger triggers. Being honest with myself and others has been key in beating anger. I journal almost every day. I use my journaling to plan out my day, to reflect at the end of the day, to write down my hopes and dreams, or simply to doodle.
Make sure to go over the list of the things that make me upset at least once a week. For example:
- People who share at NA meetings and make everything about themselves makes me angry.
- My sister called me to ask me about the car loan payment she cosigned on.
- My coworker arrived late to work without saying sorry.
- When my boss criticizes my work.
Going a step further into the underlying reason for why these things make me angry has helped me cope. For example, my sister calling me to ask about the car loan she cosigned on makes me angry because it makes me feel like she doesn’t trust me. Like she’s babysitting me. Why does it make me feel that way? Because when I was using I was very irresponsible and she had to pick up the slack and pay my car note. Understanding that her actions are a valid reaction to my actions helps me deal with the pressure. Going a step even further, and talking to my sister about what I have uncovered has reduced the strain on our relationship.
Journaling Is Therapy
As I mentioned above, journaling is an important aspect of my life. I know that not everyone likes to write, let alone do it every day. As a matter of fact, I have a friend, who is also in recovery, who hates to write. So he records his thoughts on his phone. He’s gotten very good at it, to the point where he’ll go over the recording and take simple notes.
Talking and writing about your feelings is something that many addicts are not good at. Drugs and alcohol are a very convenient way of dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, and anger.
I’ve found that by taking at least 15 minutes a day to write down my most pressing thoughts has helped me be more calm and methodical when dealing with my emotions.
Here’s an example of a 15-minute journal entry:
Today is Wednesday, it’s 7:00 pm, and I’ve spent the whole day at work. Something happened this morning that threw me through a loop. I went into the conference room and Jane was there talking to our boss about me. How do I know she was talking about me? Because as she always does she had a notebook with a list of complaints about my attitude. I could immediately feel my face get red. I was so mad I could cry. During the marketing meeting with my boss, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t keep my mind off of Jane. The moment I was able to fit in a slight at Jane during the meeting I took it. It’s so childish. I just wish that she could go away.
While writing that, I was able to reflect on what had happened and my own feelings and actions. As you can see, I even wrote: “It’s so childish.” This helped me check my own attitude towards Jane. I stopped focusing on Jane’s actions and started to focus on mine. Today, I have a better relationship with her, and our boss has taken notice of my attitude change. I think he would have fired me if I hadn’t changed. Regardless, I feel much more calm, focused, and driven at work because of it.
Working out and playing basketball has been one of the most effective methods of managing my anger. I read the book “How to Effectively Control Your Anger.” by Vicki L. Schutt, and she wrote that exercise helps you release your emotions, especially if you feel as if you’re going to explode.
Furthermore, it can help to reduce stress by increasing your body’s production of endorphins, which are natural “feel-good” neurotransmitters. The next time you feel stressed or angry, try going for a run, doing some yoga, hitting the gym, or shooting some hoops. Nothing really seems to matter as much after a hard workout.
I personally like to work out or shoot hoops after work. It tires me out and helps me sleep better. Whatever was troubling me that day pretty much goes out the window, and all I want to do is read a book or watch my favorite series in bed.
The truth is that our circumstances do care about how we feel about them. Sometimes people in our lives don’t care either. As that age-old saying goes: Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Every decision is better made with a calm mind. If we don’t control our anger, we become a prisoner to it.
Dealing with anger has been a lifelong journey for me. I hope that this blog post has helped you cope with your own demons. How do you deal with anger? Feel free to make comments or suggestions below.