The subject of anger has been on my mind lately. At an AA meeting I attended recently, it was the topic of discussion, and so many great points were brought up.
Anger is one of the stages of grief. And in recovery, we are in a grieving process of sorts. My counselor describes it as having lost your best friend, i.e. the substance you were abusing. And you are grieving that life, even though it was a negative one. First you’re in denial that you even have a problem, but then you give in and get the help you need.
Then comes the anger. For some people, there’s resentment toward the people that put them into treatment. For others it’s anger directed inward, anger at yourself for having let your habit get this far. For me it was a little bit of both of those, and also some anger at having to be watched all the time. Monitored closely lest I slip up again. And these days, I get angry when my husband gets concerned about a situation I think he need not concern himself with. I feel like he’s overreacting sometimes.
At the meeting, we discussed anger as an emotion. What it really means, how it can manifest, and if it’s really worth it. Some people spoke about how easy anger comes to us, and it feels really good to vent our frustrations in the moment, but later we regret what we did or said. One person said, “anger is a cheap emotion, easy and readily available.” We need to start using some of the more difficult emotions if we are to make any progress.
Others talked about how anger is a cover for what we are really feeling. Anger is easier to feel and to admit to than sadness, weakness, guilt, shame or self-doubt. We use our anger to cover up those other feelings, to seem strong and in control. And we use anger to avoid feeling those other feelings they’re hard to deal with, and anger comes so easily.
So, it makes sense that the next stages of grief are bargaining and depression. After we’ve gotten over all that anger, and we just don’t have any more to give, we start to feel the real feelings associated with recovery. Having used a substance for so long to help us not have to feel any feelings at all, it can be extremely difficult to cope with the feelings that come with recovery. It’s important to reach out to your therapist or counselor, and your 12-step or other recovery groups to get through the rough times.
Anger comes so easily to most people, it’s right at the surface of all of our emotions. But, for positive emotional growth, we need to learn to suppress our anger a bit, and find more productive ways of dealing with the tough situations life throws at us. And after a while, the tough stuff will slide off like water off a duck’s back.
The next time you feel anger rising up within you, take a moment to analyze what you’re really feeling, and face those feelings head on. Try to cope with the situation in a more positive and productive way. You’ll feel much better for it in the end.