Working Through Anger

anger dealing with addiction recovery

It is entirely normal to feel a bit ‘burned up’ at times – anger is just as human and just as natural as the occasional bout of sadness or elation. Typically, we feel angry when we feel we have been treated unjustly, or when a certain situation proves exceedingly frustrating or inconvenient. While getting angry is normal, it is important that we know how to deal with this potentially dangerous emotion in a healthy and constructive way.

Working Through Anger in Addiction Recovery

It is said that there are three main components of anger: cognitive, behavioral, and physical. Individuals will experience anger in varying degrees, but will always experience each of these three components.

  1. Cognitive component – Thoughts revolving around why we feel angry. Perhaps in the form of self-talk, such as, “I didn’t deserve that, he’s got another thing coming to him. I’ll show him.” On a cognitive level, we have the potential to make ourselves more and more angry and upset, until the anger manifests on a behavioral level.
  2. Behavioral component – Behavioral anger typically consists of yelling and shouting, breaking things, punching things, or throwing objects.
  3. Physical component – Usually associated with what is therapeutically referred to as ‘the fight or flight response’. Physical reactions to anger will affect the heart rate and respiration.

As addicts and alcoholics, we are used to taking our emotions to extremes – or numbing them out altogether. For this reason, expressing our emotions in a healthy way will likely be entirely new territory. In many instances (and especially when intoxicated), we will react in an outwardly aggressive way. We will express our anger verbally and physically by yelling, screaming, and perhaps picking physical fights. For many, however, anger is expressed in a more passive way.

More About Passive Anger

Many alcoholics and addicts subconsciously work to repress their emotions, stifling their anger without even realizing they are doing so. There is typically quite a lot of anger inside of recovering addicts that has not yet been effectively, openly expressed.

Some examples of passive anger include:

  • Purposefully failing at tasks as a way to ‘punish’ other people
  • Utilizing excessive self-blame, thus taking the role of the victim
  • Manipulating the other person involved in the argument to react without appearing angry or hurt
  • Sulking, drawing attention to oneself seemingly unintentionally
  • Engaging in secretive behaviors, such as making secret complaints about an individual, or talking behind his or her back
  • Resorting to obsessive behaviors as a means of dealing with anger and frustration

Although anger may stem from rational or irrational reasoning, it is said that there are four main types of thinking that instigate anger in general.

  1. Unrealistic expectations. Developing and maintaining unrealistic expectations regarding the behavior of others will often lead to disappointment and resentment. This kind of thinking often involves ‘they should’ or ‘they should not’ statements.
  2. Lacking humility. Thinking of oneself as better than or less than will often lead to feelings of anger and frustration. Developing a sense of humility will help to alleviate this irrational aggression.
  3. Misinterpretation. Misinterpreting what is going on in the mind of another individual will often lead to angry feelings. This is one reason as to why effective communication is so essential.
  4. Sense of threat. If an individual feels threatened, he or she is more liable to react angrily or aggressively. The core-belief that other people pose a threat must be smashed in order to successfully overcome this feeling.

If left unresolved, anger can be a threat to anyone – especially those in addiction recovery. It is expected that the early months of recovery are a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, fully equipped with extreme highs and lows. For years and years, emotions have been sufficiently numbed with chemical substance – now, they are all waking up at once. It is normal for a newly sober individual to feel elated one minute, and irrationally angry the very next. Because the use of drugs and alcohol is no longer available as a coping strategy, newly sober individuals must be instilled with new, healthier alternatives. For this reason, (amongst many others), the therapeutic care offered in inpatient treatment often proves essential.

Men and Anger Issues

Although both genders deal with issues pertaining to anger, men tend to grapple more with unhealthy aggressive tendencies. We at Next Chapter focus on anger issues in our male clients, holding therapeutic groups specifically geared towards dealing with pent up aggression and unresolved anger in healthy and efficient ways. We teach our clients to identify their emotions, and consider ways in which to effectively express them – whether this be addressing the individual with whom they are feeling angry and communicating in a calm and rational way, or working the physical anger through their bodies via exercise. Healthy emotional expression is key to long-term sobriety – and we at Next Chapter make instilling these skills an absolute priority.

For more information on our program of recovery, please feel free to contact us today.