The Anger of Addiction and What To Do About It

Posted by | Alcohol and Drug Use, Treatment Programs | May 11, 2015

For many alcoholics, there exists pent up anger that may even be playing a role in the addiction. Anger might have started in childhood, continued throughout adolescence and eventually began to contribute to addiction or other risky behaviors.

Anger is an interesting emotion – perhaps different than others – because it can make us feel powerful. It can invite us to do things we might not otherwise do. Anger sometimes makes us feel better than others, stronger. Sometimes we might feel entitled with anger. Although anger is a powerful emotion, learning how to feel anger and express it appropriately is the most important task with this feeling.

Some people, although they may have stored or present angry, they instead direct it inward, which in and of itself can be a beginning to addiction. Each choice to use drugs or drink is like another attempt to direct that built up anger toward oneself. This is very common among men and women who don’t seem to have an anger problem on the outside, but on the inside they can get incredibly angry. In fact, for some people it’s hard to express anger. Perhaps anger was not okay to express in one’s family, which can have an influence on one’s ability to express this powerful emotion later in life. For others, women in particular, the culture in which you were raised might also condition you towards not being able to express anger. Some people are afraid of anger making it more difficult to express anger themselves. In this case, anger might be directed inward instead.

You might see why it’s important to learn how to express this emotion. Many men and women, if they do know how to express it, do so destructively. They might yell, hurt the feelings of others, become physical, behave in passive-aggressive ways, or as mentioned earlier, direct their feelings of anger towards themselves.

Yet, it’s necessary to learn how to express anger in safe ways. This might mean taking a step back away from your anger, noticing it, and then deciding calmly what to do with it. Of course, this is easier said than done. For most people, anger comes on like a rocket, blasting off inside and shooting out into the room. Learning how to feel anger but not blast it out towards others or oneself is a tremendous skill. Many people, regardless of whether they’ve struggled with addiction, need to learn this skill.

One way to help work with your own anger is learning how to relax. One of the most difficult times to relax is when you’re feeling the heat of your emotions. When the circumstances leading you to feel anger are surrounding you, it’s difficult to remember to surrender and let go. Although relaxing is often the last thing on your mind but also the best thing to do in those moments, actually remembering to do so can be challenging.

However, what you can do to support yourself in relaxing when moments get stressful is to have a practice of relaxation. If you’re relaxing on a regular basis using proven relaxation techniques, then you’ll be more apt to remember to relax when your body and mind tense up. It’s certainly difficult to relax if you’re not in the habit of doing so. If you’re not used to relaxing your muscles, breath, thoughts, and body on a regular basis, it will likely be far from your mind when your day gets challenging.

Yet, if relaxation is your primary state at least once per day (in the morning shortly after you rise and/or in the evening right before bed), then there will be more of a chance to access that relax state when you’re feeling angry.

Then, when you’re in the heat of anger one day, instead of blasting off like a rocket, you can relax and calmly decide what to do. You can, in a mindful way, decide how to manage the anger inside of you without hurting anyone, including yourself.

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