What is anger?
Anger is a normal, healthy emotional response to situations in which you feel threatened, unfairly treated, or violated. Strong emotions like anger, fear, or anxiety shouldn’t be seen as negative feelings because every emotion you feel is related to your well-being. For example, loneliness is a feeling that brings people together. Guilt helps to keep order and restrain you from behaviors that could hurt others. Fear signals danger. Anger is not inherently destructive; it can be very useful, helping you with many functions, including survival and regulating the social culture. Anger can cause you to communicate things that should be said, and it can motivate you to make big changes. Don’t fear your anger—learn to express it in healthy ways.
How can you express your anger in healthy ways?
1. Remember that you are responsible for your own feelings. You got angry— no person or place made you angry.
2. Don’t wait and let anger build up to resentment. Be direct. Avoid sarcasm and innuendo. Use honest, expressive language instead of name-calling, put-downs, and physical attacks.
3. Get to know yourself better. Identify events and behaviors that trigger your anger. Finding your own “hot buttons” will help you deal with anger when they’re pushed.
4. Take care of your needs. Know when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). Putting yourself on a regular schedule for meals, exercise, and rest will help keep you balanced and connected, which will make you less likely to react to life’s challenges with anger.
5. Deal with frustrating issues as soon as possible, not after hours, days, or weeks of stewing about them.
You might have anger issues if
- You are often impatient.
- Others seem to always do things the wrong way.
- You feel that to do something right, you’ll have to do it yourself.
- You feel consistent pressure to prove yourself.
- You complain a lot.
- You’re often frustrated.
- It’s hard for you to “go with the flow.”
- You’re often disrespectful of those with less power than yourself.
- You consistently have outbursts of temper.
- You feel your needs are often minimized or ignored.
How does anger affect addiction?
Anger plays a major role in addiction because unresolved anger, or resentment, can disrupt your life and leave you spiritually void. You may think that other people, places, and things make you angry. You think that these external factors cause your feelings of anger. Blaming others enables you to hold on to resentment and avoid having to make changes in yourself. It lets you deceive yourself into thinking you’re morally superior: “I’m good, you’re bad.”
When you were actively addicted, you may have resented things you couldn’t control. Things never happened quickly enough. The world seemed to be against you. You wanted life at your convenience. You may have used anger to cover feelings of grief, hurt, loss, or fear.
It’s important to realize that the feeling of anger is not the real issue. It’s unresolved anger that is the real problem. If you allow your anger to go unresolved, you will be prone to relapse and may eventually return to use. To protect your ongoing recovery and live a healthy life, you will need to remind yourself that you are responsible for how you feel—not other people, places, things, or situations.
How can you deal with unresolved anger?
Make sure that you’ve worked Step Four: perform an adequate assessment of all of your assets and liabilities. This requires you to take a hard look at who you’ve been, who you are, and who you’d like to be in the future. Taking time to complete this moral inventory will allow you to take stock of your personality traits and examine them honestly and fearlessly.
If you are like many recovering people, you carry a lot of anger and resentment toward yourself and others for things that happened in the past—especially when you were using drugs and/or alcohol. But replaying past images of bad times will only damage you further. When you live in anger and resentment, the past will continue to control who you are today. A personal inventory will help release you from the unhealthy anger and resentment that are blocking you from your Higher Power. You may have done things out of anger or resentment that you regret. Putting these things down on paper can help release the guilt, shame, and resentment you hold inside.
An inability to cope with anger in a constructive way can make you turn to alcohol or other drugs in order to cope. If anger is blocking you from spirituality, address the problem quickly or it can compromise your recovery, not to mention your health and happiness.
Page 64 of the Big Book explains the following:
“Though our decision [Step Three] was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.”
Completing a personal inventory will help you
1. Learn honesty
2. Eliminate the power the past has over your life
3. Learn humility
4. Lay groundwork for further Steps
After you complete your personal inventory in Step Four, you’ll take further action in Steps Five through Ten to make amends where needed. You’ll need to ask yourself, “Am I truly ready for my character defects to be removed?” Prayer and meditation will help you answer this question.
Recovery Action Step
Keep a journal for several days and describe times that you got angry. Share these answers with your sponsor or recovery group. They can help you make a positive plan to deal with triggers.
1. Describe the event or situation.
2. Identify triggers or “hot buttons.” For example, do slow drivers or people who cut in front of you in line make you crazy?
3. Describe how you acted in response to the situation. Did you get angry and exchange harsh words? Did you give dirty looks and tap your foot? Did you say things that you wish you could take back?
4. List three other ways you could have responded to the situation that would result in a more positive outcome.