Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) is difficult, and it is common to feel a mix of emotions throughout every stage of the addiction recovery journey. However, anger can be one of the most prevalent emotions during this time of change. Learning to process anger and overcome its potentially destructive effects is essential for maintaining a healthy emotional state in sobriety.
Anger can manifest for many reasons, and preparing to cope with anger is necessary for both short and long-term sobriety. Working with peers, professionals, and supports to identify sources of anger and develop personalized strategies is essential for preventing relapse and maintaining a healthy routine for navigating daily life, even in the face of frustrations and stress.
Identifying the Sources of Anger
Anger is an intense emotion that manifests differently for each person. For many, such an emotion is uncomfortable and can be a normal reaction to external stressors. However, it is also an emotion that can manifest as a result of other factors. Recognizing and navigating stress, sadness, depression, anxiety, and more is exceptionally difficult. Still, it is important for those in addiction recovery to understand that these complex feelings can masquerade or present themselves as anger, which can further complicate one’s emotional healing journey.
Using journals and talking with peers and professionals in a dedicated addiction recovery setting can help those in recovery differentiate between anger, sadness, shame, grief, and other emotions. Being able to differentiate between when external stresses are upsetting each individual or when internal feelings are informing their perspective and causing feelings of anger is a profound experience. Those in addiction recovery can only truly begin to overcome the effects of anger after identifying when anger is present or if anger is the symptom of other stressors or emotions throughout recovery.
The use of addictive substances also fundamentally affects a person’s mood, with anger being exceptionally prevalent. Increased feelings of frustration are common in those navigating SUD and withdrawal. Discomfort in the face of change, feelings of shame, isolation and depression, intense feelings of anxiety or uncertainty, and more are all difficult feelings to process. Left unaddressed, each of these can also manifest as anger.
The Effects of Anger
Feelings of anger have a myriad of effects on those navigating their recovery and can be directed either inward or toward others, depending on the individual. Anger directed internally can bring feelings of shame and guilt, compromising one’s self-image, motivation, and overall belief in a person’s ability to successfully navigate the recovery process. An individual may blame themselves for the deterioration of relationships, compromised workplace performance or employment, legal consequences, and much more. Being angry at oneself can also cause an individual to believe that they are somehow “unworthy” of a happier or healthy life, compromising otherwise effective addiction recovery efforts.
Anger directed outward towards others can have just as many destructive effects. Those in recovery may say things they don’t mean toward loved ones throughout their addiction recovery journey, making forgiveness and the reparations for past mistakes even more complicated. This kind of anger can also lead to destructive behaviors. Outbursts, the destruction of physical objects, or even physical contact are all damaging to each person’s recovery efforts. These behaviors further complicate familial relationships and an otherwise supportive home atmosphere necessary throughout sobriety.
Overcoming the use of drugs and alcohol is already difficult, and those in recovery may feel compelled to turn to these substances if faced with unmanaged feelings of anger. Actively dedicating strategies to address anger throughout addiction recovery is necessary for a truly transformative recovery.
Overcoming Anger in Addiction Recovery
There is no one single approach that will help everyone in addiction recovery address anger effectively. However, finding ways to identify the sources of anger is paramount and can help individuals better understand how to avoid outbursts or otherwise aggressive behavior.
Use a Journal
Journaling can empower those in recovery to look back on stresses that may have led to angry outbursts or help identify the presence of other emotions that may be informing these angry episodes. These can also help an individual identify patterns that may further inform their emotional health in sobriety.
Establishing effective communication strategies is absolutely necessary for healthy well-being. Anger can cause an individual to experience a warped perception of reality, leading to misinterpreting the words of others, making criticisms difficult to process, or feeling as if genuine questions are personal attacks. Practicing communication with loved ones can mitigate these misunderstandings and empower those in recovery to engage in healthy, constructive dialogues.
Each person’s sleep routine can also inform anger and other problematic emotions. A lack of sleep or persistent nightmares can undoubtedly surface stress. Adhering to a sleep routine, turning off electronics, and avoiding caffeine can all help an individual get the sleep necessary to process stress without turning to anger as a response.
Physical activity is great for processing anger, providing the body and mind with an outlet to express pent-up emotions. Going for a jog, engaging in sports, or utilizing at-home workout routines can all provide direction while processing anger.
Simply feeling anger is completely normal, and it is a necessary emotion to feel from time to time. However, having strategies to process anger in recovery is necessary to prevent it from birthing destructive behaviors or contributing to relapse. Having dedicated strategies to process anger allows such an emotion to be safely expressed rather than avoided or pent up, creating an effective way to process stress for each person’s continued success in sobriety.
Anger is a prevalent and dangerous emotion in addiction recovery. However, learning to process it safely rather than push it down or lash out is important. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand the need to identify and safely express common feelings of anger throughout the recovery process in order to develop the most comprehensive, transformative strategies throughout your recovery journey. Your time in our dedicated treatment programs is personalized to address your unique needs, from developing pertinent and practical sober strategies while providing emotional support and addressing any mental health needs along the way. This all-encompassing approach empowers you to heal the whole self and address these lingering feelings for a new, healthy lifestyle. For more information, call (480) 741-9414.