Dealing With Anger in Recovery
Recovery is an active process that involves learning about yourself and taking steps to avoid relapse. A major trigger can be emotions that seem uncontrollable especially because drug use can become a band-aid for coping with intense feelings. When a person enters recovery these past emotions may bubble up or a person might realize that they have never learned how to process their emotions to begin with.
Anger is a particularly challenging emotion because of the two main ways that our culture normalizes its expression, whether through outward-directed aggression or inward-facing internalization. It is also a common emotion surfacing in recovery as there may be anger that arises towards yourself, family, government systems or agencies, or a specific person. Anger is a valid, natural emotion, but when expressed in an unhealthy way, it could have grave consequences.
Where is the Anger Coming From?
In many cases, anger is a secondary or masking emotion, meaning that the anger is only a physical expression of the deeper emotions of fear, disappointment, rejection, or others. Another way to conceptualize anger is as sadness’s ‘bodyguard’. As a more familiar emotion, it offers a sense of control that may feel more comfortable than admitting vulnerability.
Unmasking and acknowledging the precipitating emotions that lie underneath can help you better understand your triggers for anger such pressures from family, feeling unloved or misunderstood, or perhaps even unresolved trauma. Beginning to recognize triggers and avoiding dangerous people or situations can help begin the process of dealing with anger.
In addition to avoiding triggering situations, there are some coping skills that can help. Some can be utilized in the moment or some can become regular practices that can help reduce stress to be less angry if situation arises:
Mindfulness. Growing awareness of your feelings without judging or labeling them is practicing mindfulness. You can do this in your mind or by journaling about times you felt angry. Learning breathing exercises can also help you return to a calm state, and restore connection to your body. Attention placed on the out-breath, through lengthening it, hacks into your body’s ‘rest and relax’ response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Distraction. When swept up in anger, it is easy to make an impulsive decision without thinking about the consequences. Try going to a ‘safe place’ in your mind, grounding yourself by noticing the sights, smells and sounds around you, watching a show, listening to music, or any other enjoyed hobby can help get your mind off the anger for long enough to lessen your risk to act out. Distraction is different than avoiding feelings as it is intended only as short term assistance until you are able to find the time or appropriate space to be able to process the emotion.
Exercise. Anger is closely related to physical sensations in the body and activity can be a great way to work out this energy. While you exercise you can think about what is making you angry (if it feels safe to do so) to help work through feelings. Doing exercise such as kickboxing, weightlifting, or a learning to channel anger through a martial art or brazilian jiu jitsu training could potentially be a way to reduce stress throughout the week. Find a routine and an outlet that best fits you.
Talking It Out
Having a partner in working through anger can be monumental in learning how to handle emotions and also give you a space to share your feelings. This could be a close friend, partner, sponsor, therapist, an anger management class, or all of the above!
Speaking out your feelings can help you to not bottle things up and receive a third party perspective on your thoughts and situation. Bringing another person into your emotions can also be a time to learn new communication skills to express anger effectively. Counseling can assist you in learning new skills and to have a safe space to sort through the painful emotions that arise in recovery and further your growth.
If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate, request a free consultation or contact us today at (877) 895-3231. At Launch Centers, We’re happy to answer any questions you may have!