It’s not uncommon for those struggling with substance abuse to also have anger management problems. Anger is a common emotion among most people. However, combine unchecked anger with addiction to alcohol or drugs and you could experience situations that cause you or others some distress. Not knowing how to process and express anger in healthy ways can lead to a wide array of problems.
There are a wide variety of problems that can surface if you aren’t sure how to manage anger in healthy ways. If you’re on the addiction recovery path and your anger levels are higher than you’d like, it will help you to learn more about anger and how to manage it in healthy ways.
Anger in and of itself is not a bad emotion. It is basically a sign that inside you’re not feeling good about something. You’re bothered. Perhaps someone crossed one of your boundaries or some sort of injustice occurred. Or maybe you’re frustrated about a task that’s taking you longer than expected. Or you’re just angry for no reason at all.
There are many instances where anger may arise, but that emotion doesn’t have to create an explosion or negative circumstances. It doesn’t have to keep wreaking havoc in your life.
The reality is that anger can become an issue when it is not expressed appropriately. Have you ever seen a person experience road rage when something happens that they are not pleased with? It can be quite frightening to witness, as the anger comes out as rage. Sometimes it even causes serious harm. Other ways anger can be inappropriately expressed is sarcasm, violence, self-harm, or verbal abuse.
Some people in recovery have a tough time dealing with the emotional charge of anger. When they feel anger rise in them, they just don’t know how to deal with it. They may panic, feeling out of control, and this could very well lead to relapse. Until the anger is managed in healthy ways, a relapse could be a never-ending, destructive cycle.
If you’re struggling with managing anger, it will be helpful to learn how to manage such emotions in constructive, healthy ways.
Take time to learn anger management techniques and put your favourite ones in your emotional regulation toolbox. This way, when anger arises, you already know what techniques you’re going to pull out of that toolbox to try to feel, process, deal, and express the feelings in healthy ways.
A great way to start managing anger is to take responsibility for it. No one can really make you feel angry, as ultimately, you are in charge of your feelings. Sure, it might be difficult to refrain from getting angry when certain things happen to you, but your reaction is up to you and you can learn how to control it. Blaming others for your anger will not do anyone any good.
When you start owning your anger, you empower yourself to start reacting differently to the emotion. You open the way to learn some helpful anger management skills.
What makes you feel angry? What triggers you?
It’s helpful to identify your triggers and figure out what anger management tools will work for various situations. For example, if you’re prone to get upset after getting home from work and everyone is vying for your attention at the same time, designate 15 minutes for relax and alone time to get refreshed. Tell your family you need this time to wind down from the day and refresh, so that you can be in a better mood for them the whole evening.
Or maybe you could exercise to blow off some steam or find a quiet spot to meditate. Do what works for you in various situations.
Your thoughts and belief systems are ultimately the culprit behind your emotions, so if you are prone to experience anger, begin to monitor your thought life. Sure, some things will certainly cause you to become angry, but sometimes things are not the big deal we make them out to be.
If your son spills milk on the floor, you might react angrily because your thoughts are saying “Oh my gosh! Milk on my floor is terrible! The smell will be awful!” Your reaction could be to shout at him.
On the other hand, if your thoughts were “Well, spilled milk isn’t that big of a deal. I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it. This is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things”, then your reaction will be quite different. It’s good practice to gauge your thoughts when things happen that could potentially cause you to become angry. Some of the thoughts could be irrational and you can talk yourself into handling the situation without reacting intensely.
Oftentimes underneath anger is an issue that needs to be discussed. It’s likely if you’re feeling angry, you may have an idea of why. If your teenager is walking around angry every day, chances are he is bothered by one or several things. If your husband goes from happy-go-lucky to mean and miserable, chances are he’s wrestling with some negative emotions as well.
Facilitate open and honest communication in your home. Get honest with yourself about your level of anger. Rather than stuff or repress it, sit with it. What is it trying to tell you? What can it teach you?
Communicating your anger to someone who can listen without a reaction may be helpful. Some people call it venting, but it can simply be a way to get the anger out with someone who is able to hold that space for you to share. The act of talking about it may be all you need to do to feel better.
One way to manage anger when it rises is to take time to walk away from the situation if you can. Perhaps you can take five or ten minutes to go off alone to try to calm down. Do some deep breathing techniques to calm down the “survival” part of your brain that’s been triggered. Take time to evaluate the situation and use some of your preferred anger management tips.
If another person has upset you, taking that time to cool off may help you ultimately express your anger in a healthy way, rather than resorting to your past unhealthy ways.
If you’re having trouble managing anger, feel free to consult a professional counsellor to help you. A therapist can help you learn how to identify anger and learn how to process and manage it in healthy ways. It very well could be that some of the anger stems from childhood experiences, which a therapist could help you sort out and process.
If your anger continues to cause you to cope by drinking or drugging, know that there are experts willing and able to help you get free from addiction and learn healthy ways to manage anger. You don’t have to feel helpless and alone in dealing with anger issues or substance abuse. Reach out for help today.