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There are many reasons one may have difficulty dealing with his anger, he may not even understand the reason he’s feeling angry. He might have had unhealthy role models to learn from. Because of his addiction, he may have not learned how to express anger in a productive manner. Addiction can stunt one’s emotional growth and maturity. He might be angry at himself, but project on others.
Learning assertive, non aggressive behavior is necessary in managing anger. Sometimes a recovering addict feels guilty or shameful due to his using, so he feels he doesn’t deserve to have his needs met. This may lead to anger and resentment, so practicing assertive behavior is important.
Assertive behavior includes expressing one’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in a direct way that does not violate another person. Communicating one’s feelings does not have to be aggressive, but expressing them in an apologetic or sheepish way may make others think they can disregard them. Anger can be expressed in a way that everyone knows he is serious, but he doesn’t have to apologize for it.
Passive anger is also dangerous because it’s anger that isn’t being expressed honestly. A passive aggressive person may appear to be friendly and serene on the outside, but tries to create problems around him. He might be manipulative, trying to deliberately aggravate others around him by making others feel guilty about something. He may use self-blame as a way to victimize himself, or sulk. He might turn cold and ignore those around him to get what he wants or punish people.
Sometimes anger is the reason one turned to addiction in the first place, so it’s natural anger follows him into recovery. Now that chemicals are no longer a factor, emotions and anger can be overwhelming. Learning new and effective strategies to cope with these feelings will make recovery much easier.
Anger is also a dangerous trigger for relapse because it may build up until it explodes. When one explodes, he cannot think rationally, so this puts him at risk of returning to drugs or alcohol. Managing anger is imperative so it won’t fester is one’s mind.
Taking a “time out” is a great way of removing one from a hostile situation. Sometimes things cannot be solved immediately, it’s better to take a break than saying something hurtful. Meditation is a wonderful way to manage one’s emotions, it can clear the brain and help relieve anger. Exercise also relieves tension and boosts one’s mood.
Anger is like a prison, but learning to cope with it is freeing. Practicing assertive techniques takes time, but will help one’s recovery become easier, less stressful, and more fulfilling.
Interestingly, anger is a common group therapy topic in drug and alcohol rehab programs because its pervasiveness often drives people to seek addiction help. Often it takes a lot of work, long after one has finished an addiction treatment program. Employing these tools to master one's own anger to avoid relapse and reap the benefits of recovery is an essential challenge.