Anger in recovery is a common emotion to have. Anyone who’s gone through the motions of addiction, then rehab, detox and sobriety knows what it’s like to be set off by every tiny little thing, experiencing the urge to shout or be violent over seemingly nothing. Getting off the drugs doesn’t magically reverse an ill temper – and worse yet, often enough, getting off the drugs makes the anger a lot harder to manage.
To explore why anger is such a common issue for those in early recovery, we need to understand what anger is. Anger is a normal emotional response to a wide variety of emotional and physical phenomenon – the point of anger is to get us riled up, and physically capable for retaliation. It acts as a sort of manifestation of our inner incentive to take revenge on the things that hurt us.
However, anger is a very instinctive emotion, and a very dangerous one. It’s essential for any adult to be able to control their anger – to be able to react in a measured way, rather than losing control and getting into all sorts of trouble. For those struggling with addiction, anger is nothing new at all – in fact, it’s typically a huge problem.
This is because addiction may either uncover a previous anger-related issue – such as emotional suppression – or because the addiction itself acts as a coping mechanism to a major source of anger, constantly depriving people of their ability to safely express their anger. Other reasons include misdirected anger and self-loathing, poor examples of anger management in the past, having an ill-tempered personality – the list goes on and on, but always follows the common thread that addiction and anger go together due to a lack of proper closure.
Addiction And Blocking Anger In Recovery
Addiction dangerously develops an ill temper in the same way it can develop anxieties, and depressive thinking – through the constant depriving of healthy emotional expression. Drug use is a coping mechanism – it subverts and distracts you from pain and discomfort by flooding your system with positive chemical reactions. Aside from the physical addictiveness of drugs, they also foster an emotional bond by becoming the only answer you must stress, anger, hatred, sadness, and physical pain.
When you decide to give up drugs, you’re not just giving up the joy of a high – you’re giving up a coping mechanism, one which helped you sweep countless issues and negative emotions under the rug. With the rug gone, one slight breeze is all it takes to envelop your life in an angry dust cloud. And for most, exactly that will happen within the first few weeks of recovery.
With your primary coping mechanism gone, there’s nothing to block the anger out – and you’re forced to control your emotions instead. However, learning to do that after relying on addiction can take a little practice – and a lot of effort. Recovery and sobriety aren’t easy roads to walk – but if you want to be able to keep both feet on them, then you’ll have to learn not just to stay away from drugs, but also to live with yourself and your emotions without drugs. You’ll have to relearn what it means to be both physically and emotionally healthy – and one of the first steps towards doing so is learning how to control your temper and resolve your anger in recovery without incident.
Approaching Anger in Recovery
The first and foremost thing you should do is ask those around you how they deal with their anger in recovery. You’ll find a wealth of advice coming from different individuals with different backgrounds and reasons for their anger. Some might recommend physically channeling your anger, by doing things like punching empty water bottles. Others might recommend meditation.
If asking around your sober living community doesn’t help, then checking in with a therapist and asking for anger management classes is another option. Anger management isn’t always necessary, but if you or those around you find your temper to be a major issue in life, then getting help specifically for your anger issues is a good idea.
Keeping a journal is great, too. It lets you channel your anger in recovery through words instead of actions, giving you a way to vent that doesn’t hurt anyone, while helping you start down a path of self-therapy. Physical fitness may also help – being unhealthy can affect your mood, make you irritable and lower your ability to deal with emotions correctly. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can help you regulate your body’s hormone levels, keep your mood normal, and help you lower or even eliminate angry outbursts.
Resolving Passive Aggressiveness
Many individuals harbor and express anger in recovery in a separate way, one they consider socially-acceptable and “healthy” – through passive aggressiveness. Instead of lashing out with angry tirades, tantrums and physical altercations, passive aggressiveness is usually expressed through more subtle forms of punishment. Ignoring a person, giving them backhanded compliments and deliberately sabotaging their efforts are all ways to express anger passively – yet this creates a toxic environment that breeds nothing but continuous grudges and stress.
Passive aggressiveness isn’t healthy. It’s destructive to yourself as well as those you’re trying to hurt, even if you don’t so much as lay a finger on them. However, blocking the anger out or ignoring it won’t work, either.
If you feel the urge to hurt someone emotionally and be passive aggressive towards them as punishment for a perceived wrong, then instead try and therapeutically tackle your situation and see what you can do to make things right. Try and schedule a one-on-one with your target of aggression and talk it out, instead, so they understand how you feel. Go through the motions to settle your anger in recovery and your stress through exercise, therapy, or meditation. Channel your frustrations into something constructive.
Dealing with early recovery and all the usual stresses of life can be monumentally difficult — but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be in control of your own emotions. Don’t give yourself the excuse that recovery is the reason for your outbursts and fits of rage – at the end of the day, you are the reason why you can’t control your own anger. It’s on you to learn how to, and to do it before you hurt those around you, directly or indirectly.