“OK, I’m not using (or drinking) anymore, but what do I do with my anger? If a client finds no answers to this question, relapse is likely, fear will continue to poison the family atmosphere, and therapeutic gains will be jeopardized.”
~Ronald and Patricia Potter-Efron, Anger, Alcoholism, and Addiction: Treating Individuals, Couples, and Families
People new to recovery are often surprised how angry they are.
Addiction is itself partially caused by an inability to cope with everyday stress and frustrations in a healthy manner. These poor coping skills carry over to interpersonal relationships, resulting in resentment, arguments, passive aggression, and even domestic violence.
Much of how a person reacts to feelings of irritation or anger is determined by misconceptions they have about this very powerful emotion.
Myth #1 – Anger Is Inherited
“My whole family is a bunch of hotheads.”
“Of course I have a temper – I got it from my dad.”
“This is just the way I AM.”
Falsely believing that a predisposition to anger is an inborn trait takes away the self-control that a person must exercise to cope with stress. In a healthy manner. After all, if a person thinks that they CAN’T change, why will they even TRY?
But how a person expresses their anger is a LEARNED behavior.
And, once you understand that, you can take steps to UNLEARN inappropriate responses and RELEARN more positive and productive alternatives.
Myth #2 – Anger Automatically Leads to Aggression
“I got mad and things got out of control.”
“If YOU would stop bugging me, I wouldn’t blow up.”
“I only hit her because I was so angry.”
Another mistaken belief about anger is that once a person is angry, it inevitably leads to aggressive behavior. On the contrary, it is possible to be assertive WITHOUT becoming aggressive, argumentative, or violent.
Anger doesn’t have to escalate, IF the person:
- Practices nonaggressive assertiveness
- Avoids hostile or negative “self-talk”
- Changes any irrational or fear-based beliefs
Addiction is fueled by negative emotions, including anger. Reciprocally, the consequences of unhealthy expressions of anger can lead to unhealthy coping through substance abuse.
If you live in Southern California and want to learn how to manage your anger during recovery from addiction, Lasting Recovery outpatient drug and alcohol rehab in San Diego can help.