Guilty by Association
We have a tendency to think of anger as a negative emotion.
After all, anger often leads to negative consequences. We yell at the boss and we put our job in jeopardy. We lose our temper and damage our relationships with others. We feel the rage building up until we turn green, muscle up, and smash things. (Okay, so that last one is largely limited to fictional individuals who have been exposed to too many gamma rays. But you get the idea.)
All of that seems pretty negative—but it is important to note that it isn’t the anger itself that leads to negative outcomes. Instead, it is the action we take—yelling, losing our temper, turning green—that tends to lead to negative results.
The emotion of anger itself is neutral. It is neither inherently good or inherently bad. But if it leads to negative actions and consequences—including the disruption of your sobriety—you need to find a better way to manage it.
The Upside of Anger
We have given some examples of actions inspired by anger that lead to negative results for all concerned. But sometimes anger can inspire positive actions.
Think, for example, of how angry you might feel about an injustice. That anger can be channeled into positive work to improve things so that they are more just. You might volunteer for or donate to a cause. You might reach out to others to let them know you’d like their help making things better. You might write a letter to the editor, participate in a rally or protest, or even run for office. All of those actions could be inspired by a spark of anger about the way things are.
On a more personal level, anger can light a fire under us and give us the strength to end a toxic relationship—which can be essential to recovery. You might even feel anger about the negative self-talk that can sometimes overwhelm all of us and make a conscious decision to be kinder to yourself.
Choose to Channel Anger in Healthy Ways
Even when we know that lashing out verbally or physically is the wrong thing to do, we often feel like we cannot control our anger or channel it in positive ways. This feeling of a lack of control can be particularly dangerous for a person in recovery because they may be tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol to try to numb the anger they are experiencing.
The good news is that you can make some intentional choices that can help you process anger (and other emotions) in helpful ways that will not undermine your relationships—or your recovery.
Examples of these sorts of intentional choices include:
- Resisting the temptation to express your anger in terms of blame and instead focus on “I” statements that explain how the current situation is making you feel.
- Stepping away from a confrontational situation and suggesting that the conversation resume once you and others have had some time to calm down.
- Practicing yoga, mindfulness meditation, and/or deep breathing exercises as well as exercising (though it is important not to overexert when fueled by a strong emotion) and/or journaling can all help you manage anger. They can all be helpful in the immediate moment when you are experiencing anger, but regular, ongoing healthy practices like these can also help bring a more general sense of calm to your everyday life.
- Choosing forgiveness can also be an excellent way to manage anger and to keep it from eating away at you over time. We are not suggesting that you need to maintain relationships with those who have hurt you—or who contributed to your development of a substance use disorder—but it is possible to put aside angry feelings so that they don’t fester.
- Choosing something positive to do as a result of the anger, as we have explained above, is also an excellent way to ensure that your emotion leads to beneficial outcomes.
Getting Help Is Nothing to Be Angry About
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we understand that you might be feeling quite angry with yourself if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes that anger can make a person feel as though they don’t deserve to get help.
But that is simply not true.
The best way to deal with the angry feelings you might be experiencing is to address your substance use disorder head on. We can help with medically supervised detox and a robust rehab program designed to start you on your recovery journey with confidence. We can also address any co-occurring mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, trauma, etc.), and we can provide strategies for dealing with difficult situations and emotions that are likely to pop up in recovery.
When you are ready to reclaim your life, we are ready to support you at Wooded Glen.