Your mind is in a heightened state during recovery. You’re on edge. You’re anxious. And most of the time, you’re angry. Recovery can leave you feeling fatigued, stressed and traumatized. It can leave you feeling anxious, worried and highly emotional. And all of these feelings can trigger anger, which is why it’s such a common emotional response for people in recovery.
Many drugs remain in your system for a long time and some of them are known for triggering episodes of rage. However, even in these cases the real problems typically don’t begin until the user attempts to kick the habit. The good news is that these feelings are not as uncontrollable as they appear. There are ways that you can deal with them, ways that you can stop them in their tracks. In this article, we’ll look at 4 strategies for dealing with anger in recovery because as anyone who has experienced these feelings can attest, nothing side-tracks recovery like an uncontrollable fit of anger.
4. There is No Such Thing As Cathartic Anger
At the turn of the new millennium, a trend turned began to filter through the alternative healthcare community. It promoted something known as “Cathartic Anger”, whereby patients were told to let all of their anger out instead of holding it in. For many, this made sense, which is why it caught on. Even today it continues to be taught as a legitimate method for anger management.
However, this method was debunked many years ago. Psychology Today called it the “Myth of Catharsis”, while many studies were performed that debunked it, both in the form of verbal ranting and physical violence.
It makes sense. If you train yourself to respond to feelings of anger with violence and verbal assaults, then that will become your natural response when those feelings arise. You’re reconditioning yourself. And as the aforementioned studies have suggested, patients who regularly practice some form of catharsis are typically more prone to anger than those who do not.
3. Take a Breath
That doesn’t mean that you should bottle your anger up. Instead, you should give yourself time to rationalize the situation.
How many times have you responded aggressively to an email or text message, only to regret doing so a few minutes later? At the moment you received that message and felt that anger, you were reacting in a way that you thought was reasonable. But reason rarely ventures into the aggressive mind.
So, whenever you feel angry, give yourself time to relax. In most cases, you just need to take several deep breathes as you clear your mind. This is especially true for those going through recovery, as episodes of anger, while intense, are often short-lived and triggered by insignificant things.
Now that you have let the initial wave of anger pass, you should be thinking a little more clearly. Your brain is still in a heightened state and you’ll still be feeling some of that anger. As a result, you’ll try to justify the way you feel.
So, take some time out to think the situation through. Is the anger you’re feeling genuine, have you really been aggrieved so much that it warrants such a strong physical response, or is it just the result of an imbalance of chemicals brought about by your recovery? By responding aggressively to a situation, will you be helping yourself in any way, or will you be making life very difficult for yourself and others?
In most cases, it only takes a few honest answers for someone to stop what they’re doing and let that anger ebb away. After all, a single act of anger can cause immense damage to the person expressing it and the people they love, yet it rarely, if ever, does any good.
1. Take Preventative Measures
The most important thing you can do to deal with anger is to make sure it doesn’t arrive in the first place. In recovery, this isn’t always easy. But there are ways:
– Improve Quality of Sleep: Avoid caffeine on a night-time, take some herbal supplements or do a little exercise.
If your sleep is longer and deeper, your mind will be in less volatile.
– Meditate: Meditation is a great way to center yourself, to improve your focus and to soothe your anger and stress.
– Avoid Toxic People: You need people who will support you, not people who will make life difficult. So, avoid the people likely to cause you anger.
– Walk Away: Arguments usually begin slowly and innocently, but we can all sense when they are getting out of control. So, try to avoid entering into any such arguments, and if you find yourself in one that is getting out of hand, simply walk away.
– Be Creative: Turn your anger into art. Paint a picture, write a book. Express yourself in a non-violent way.
Finally, it’s important not to let anger get in the way of your recovery. It can do a lot of damage to your mind and body, causing everything from relapse-inducing stress, and anxiety to high blood pressure. The calmer you are, the more likely you are to stay drug free.
You made the decision to stop letting drugs get the better of you. Now make the same decision for anger.