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Dealing With Anger in Recovery

An important part of Step Four–a searching and fearless moral inventory–is identifying resentments, which are a kind of anger that we hold onto for far too long. Being prone to anger can create a lot of resentments pretty quickly. It can also raise your blood pressure and cortisol, which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have a history of alcohol or cocaine addiction, the last thing you want is more cardiovascular risk. Anger doesn’t always lead to a Hulkish display of smashing and violence. It often turns inward and manifests as isolation or depression. If anger is directed outward, it can lead to arguments, violence, and car wrecks.

There are plenty of reasons learning to control your anger is necessary for recovery. Whether you are more prone to screaming at a hapless barista or castigating yourself for yet another terrible life choice, there are some strategies you can use to get your anger under control.

Recognize when you’re starting to feel angry.

Some people go from zero to 60 so fast they hardly knew what happened. There are almost always warning signs you are getting angry. These may include slight irritation, shallow breathing, tightening of the jaw, squeezing in the chest, tingling in the back of the neck, or hotness in the face.

Take a deep breath.

Once you feel the anger starting to build, you can be pretty sure anything you do as a direct result of that feeling won’t be helpful. Before you do anything, pause for a moment, take a deep breath, hold it for a second or two, and breathe out slowly. Repeat if necessary. Even if you don’t exactly feel calm, you will at least be able to go onto the next step.

Identify what you’re feeling.

Yes, you’re feeling anger, but what’s behind it? Typically, anger is caused by frustration or fear. Admitting frustration or fear makes us feel vulnerable, so instead we get angry, which feels powerful. The problem is that, in addition to distorting our logic, anger is too vague to be useful. If you can take a moment to figure out what’s behind the anger, you can deal with it more effectively.

Proceed with caution.

Whether you’re angry with yourself or someone else, it’s easy to get carried away with your invective. “You always do this,” “You never listen,” “You’re the worst person,” and so on. These kinds of criticisms are rarely true and never helpful. Think about what you actually want out of a situation and look for the most mutually agreeable solution. Or think about how you will feel in three days, when the heat of the moment has passed.

Think long-term.

The steps above are for dealing with anger in the moment. It’s also important deal with anger in the long term. Getting enough sleep is a good start. Exercise improves your mood and executive functioning, making it easier to collect yourself under stress. A therapist can help you understand why you are so prone to anger and help you develop cognitive strategies to feel less prone to anger in general.

Anger is often a destructive emotion that perpetuates addiction and threatens recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.