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4 Tips for Managing Your Anger in Addiction Recovery

By Kayla Scoumis

Anger Does Not Have to Be Dangerous

Anger is one of the most misunderstood emotions. We vilify it and often see it as something negative. In some ways, this is for a good reason. Anger can cause people to do some crazy things, and it can be a main driver for using substances.

So, take a moment to think about anger’s role in your life. Have you ever done or said something out of anger that you now regret? Were you ever fueled by anger to drink or to use drugs?

For some people, anger has been a destructive force, while others have been the target of someone else’s anger and aggression. For many, anger has resulted in a mixture of both. Anger can be dangerous, but it does not have to be. Continue reading to uncover effective ways you can manage your anger. Then, send us your questions via the comments section at the end of the page.

What is Anger, Really?

When it comes down to it, anger is simply an emotion. That’s it!

Q: So, what’s the problem then?
A: The problem arises when angry feelings manifest as aggression or self-destructive behavior.

Anger is just like happiness, sadness, excitement, embarrassment…any other feeling. Everyone experiences anger, probably on a regular basis. The sensation can range from mild frustration to intense rage, depending on the individual and the situation.

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Furthermore, feeling anger is very healthy. Anger, like any emotion, is the mind giving a cue on how to react to the world. To experience anger means you are human.

Above all, anger is a habit. It can become a routinely response and a predictable pattern of action in certain situations. When displayed frequently and aggressively, it can become a maladaptive habit that may need therapy to get under control.

4 Anger Management Tips

You can break your habit by growing awareness about the triggers for your anger and the negative consequences that follow as a result. In addition, you need to develop a set of strategies to effectively manage your anger. Here are a few tips to manage your anger in a more productive way:

1. Practice deep breathing exercises.

This could be:

  • counting up to certain numbers, such as 20-50-100.
  • focusing intently on your breathing
  • deliberately breathing in and out at a certain pace

Implementing a simple intervention when you begin to notice angry feelings can help halt them from intensifying.

2. Utilize personal mantras or soothing self-talk.

When you begin to feel angry, start self-soothing through mantras or positive affirmation. Repeating something like:

“You are calm.”
“Just breathe, you’re okay!”
“Everything is okay.”
“This, too, shall pass.”

…the repetitions and the affirmations themselves can help instill a sense of peacefulness and prevent aggressive outbursts.

3. Challenge any self-defeating thoughts.

Take note of your cognitive cues when you’re feeling angry. What are some of the things going through your mind? Can any of it possibly be challenged or altered to create a healthier mindset? Then, try to reframe an anger-causing circumstance to adopt a more positive, less distressing view. Sometimes, it helps to work with a professional psychologist to both identify and change the underlying thoughts that drive your behavior.

4. Regularly engage in hobbies and self-care.

This is more of a long-term coping mechanism, and that’s what makes it important. By regularly engaging in activities you find soothing and enjoyable, you are more likely to feel less stressed. A lowered state of stress can mean feeling less reactive to anger-inducing situations. Your mental health is like a car. If you don’t take care of it, eventually it will clunk out on the highway. If you perform regular maintenance, it is more likely you’ll have smoother sailing.

The Conflict Resolution Model for People in Addiction Recovery

Often, addiction recovery brings past injustices to light. From an anger management perspective, acting assertively is the most productive and healthy way to deal with a person who has violated your rights, thus causing feelings of anger. Acting assertively means that you can still stand up for your rights, but in a way that is respectful of other individuals.

At the core of assertiveness is the message that my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are just as important as yours.

The Conflict Resolution Model is one method you can use to act assertively. It involves the following 5 easy to remember steps:

STEP 1: Identify the Problem. First, you need to pinpoint and isolate the specific problem that is causing the interpersonal conflict. . For example, if a friend is joking about a sensitive topic, or a friend has not paid back money owed to you).

STEP 2: Identify the Feelings. Second, you need to identify and understand the feelings associated with the conflict.Are youfrustrated, hurt, or annoyed?.

STEP 3: Identify the Specific Impact. This step aims to help you identify the specific impact or consequences of the problem that is causing the conflict . Do you feel hurt and disrespected, or are you are not getting back the loaned money that you need? The more specific the impact, the better..

STEP 4: Deciding Whether To Resolve the Conflict. When you are faced with a conflict or a problem that is causing you anger, you are in a position to make a choice. Once you understand the conflict, its causes, and its consequences you need to decide whether you will resolve it or let it go. In other words, is the conflict worth the dedicated time and effort?

STEP 5: Addressing and Resolving the Conflict. If you decide that you will work to solve the problematic issue, it’s time to start proactively working on it. Describe how you perceive the conflict, express your feelings about it, and discuss how it can be resolved.

Anger Management Questions

There are dozens of suggestions for how to cope with anger outside of aggression—and certainly outside of substance use. Research and try as many as possible; maybe consider reaching out to a mental health professional. The more tools you have, the more prepared you are to deal with anger in a healthful, productive way.

If you have anything you’d like to ask or add regarding anger management in addiction recovery, please feel free to post in the comments section at the end of the page. We value our readers input and do our best to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.

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About the Author:Kayla Scoumis is the clinical coordinator at Adams Recovery Center, a separate-gender drug and alcohol program located in Ohio and offering residential, intensive outpatient, and individual counseling services. Scoumis and her ARC colleagues are the authors of Accept, Reflect, Commit: Your First Steps to Addiction Recovery, due to be released September 12, 2017.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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