We’ve all experienced anger at some point in our lives. It bubbles up in response to some harm or injustice, and leads to physiological responses like a quick heart rate, sweaty palms or racing thoughts. Anger feels like an emotion that is outside of our control as if we can’t help but react in a certain way.
While anger, like other emotions, is not always within our power to choose or push aside, we can most definitely decide whether we let our anger take control. Too often we let anger hold the reigns and worsen an addiction. The frustration we experience may be warranted, but we are still responsible for the behavior that follows our actions and for refraining from actions that could jeopardize our recovery.
In this article we’ll take an honest look at anger and addiction, discussing the connection between the two and how each can exacerbate the other. Plus, check out common anger management benefits for recovery and the best anger management exercise to take back control of this powerful emotion.
Anger and addiction
Anyone who has faced addiction can tell you that heavy emotions come with substance use. Many people experience shame and guilt following the development of drug dependency. Depression and loneliness are quick to follow. Frustration and irritability come about in many ways and are heightened by withdrawal symptoms.
Struggling with addiction means that every day is challenging. The flow of emotions that come with highs and withdrawal periods can lead to many responses. One of the most common is anger. Anger can stem from annoyance at the high cost of drugs, frustration at solo attempts to get sober, disappointment at broken relationships and the pain of losing the freedom you once had.
Anger and addiction are closely tied because someone who faces substance use has lost control of her own life and lashes out in response.
Addiction surely leads to anger, but anger can also precede addiction. A person who doesn’t have a handle on anger management and behaves based on emotion can surely spiral into bad habits. If a person has struggled to manage his emotions through a productive and safe outlet, he may be more likely to impulsively begin drug use and seek drugs after negative emotional experiences. A person who lives with anger and has no coping skills will develop poor ways (like substance use) to manage emotional distress.
Anger management in recovery
Anger and addiction are a common pair, and each worsens the other. In your attempts to break a substance use habit and regain the authority in your life, anger could be sabotaging your attempts. This is why anger management in recovery is so important.
Anger management and addiction treatment should occur simultaneously if you’re aiming for long-term success. Without treating underlying anger issues, finding ways to manage urges and implementing coping strategies is only a temporary fix to the problem. If you treat addiction without healing the rage underneath, triggers to return to substances will be nearly impossible to fight and anger will only build.
Anger management and addiction recovery should happen simultaneously through professional treatment. One of the keys to true freedom and long-lasting sobriety is by making recovery sustainable. This requires a deep look at your internal motivation and root causes of addiction. It’s likely that if you struggle with anger now, it’s not just a trigger but at the very origin of your substance use and can be traced back to your first uses of the drug.
Anger management in recovery should include some form of individualized psychotherapy or talk-therapy. If you’ve never participated in therapy before, you’ll find it’s less intimidating and offers more concrete guidance than you could have imagined. Therapy is the best tool for identifying personal triggers to anger and connecting them to your substance use history so you don’t repeat the mistakes of your past.
Anger management benefits
Anger management, like all good things, comes with time. There’s no simple week-long course that can guarantee results. Rather, putting in the work in treatment, making necessary lifestyle changes and working on anger management exercises will pay off more and more as time goes on.
The hard work is well worth it though. Here are some anger management benefits you can expect to start seeing after a few weeks.
- Relapse prevention
- Greater control over your own emotions
- A greater sense of peace and calm in daily life
- You’ll be able to make decisions rationally instead of emotionally
- Behavior is less impulsive and more in control
- Better relationships
The benefits of anger management will show you that you are the master of your emotions, not the other way around. You’ll start to see an impact on your sobriety as soon as you see signs of anger in yourself decrease.
Anger management exercises
The best anger management exercises for addiction recovery will be recommended by your treatment provider who knows you personally and can individualize exercises that fit your needs. However, if you want to get a jump start on anger management or supplement your therapy, here are some ideas.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: this process of slowly tensing muscles and releasing pressure has been shown to offer benefits for numerous strong emotions. Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique you can learn on your own and literally implement anywhere. It’s well worth keeping in your back pocket.
- Movement: many individuals who struggle with anger find that the body’s response to frustration is easier to channel into activity than it is to completely suppress. If anger makes you agitated and eager to move, try working out. Go for a run, hit the gym or do a quick 10-minute cardio workout.
- Learn about negative thinking patterns: men and women who struggle with anger management often have distorted thinking patterns. A person may feel that everything is directed as a personal attack or easily jump to conclusions. Recognizing and reversing these thoughts can happen through journaling or reflection.
Anger management techniques should also be coupled with prevention strategies or activities that start your day off with positive thinking and self-care.
Find solutions to unrestrained anger
If you feel like your most all-consuming emotion is anger and it has impacted your attempts at sobriety, you need to reach out for professional intervention. At Real Recovery, you can find the personalized help you need in a non-judgmental environment. Contact us today to learn about a variety of programs for substance use and mental health issues.