Anger. It's an emotion that we inherit, learn, develop, and manipulate throughout our life.
Is there a psychological set point we are born with?
Why are some people so quick to anger?
Why do some people hold "grudges?"
How are some so graceful in their frustration? Stay calm, clear-headed, and positive.
How does alcohol make it better or worse?
Anger can have various culprits, sometimes rational, others irrational. Triggers such as losing your patience, injustice, and feeling under-appreciated can all spur anger. Also, feelings of grief or memories of traumatic experiences can trigger it.
Each individual has unique anger triggers based on what you expect from yourself and those around you. If you don’t know how to express anger, your frustrations can make you miserable or cause you to explode in an angry outburst. As if that wasn’t complex enough, anger can also result from inherited tendencies or brain chemistry. Furthermore, underlying mental health conditions might influence your trend toward angry outbursts. This is why speaking with a therapist can help identify the root cause of addiction.
My experience with anger I can remember back to 5 years old; I can recall being upstairs in my bedroom while my parents had it out with each other in the basement. I remember sitting by my vent listening to the yelling, the feelings of negativity, pain, and frustration, and sometimes the crashing sound of something breaking.
My parents split when I was around six, and on both sides of that situation, there were numerous occasions of, at least from my point of view as a child, being made to feel as if I was an annoyance, a burden, or just always making mistakes. Can this be a child confusing the message being portrayed? Could it be the stress of these parents was so immense, and their trauma and frustration continued the cycle that was created before them? Did the effects of alcohol consumption and, at various times, drug abuse intensify the anger?
To some degree, yes to all of it, I am sure. I’m not going to jump in my bus, start that shit up and run people over all the time, so let’s continue with how I felt at times throughout my formative years and my adult life.
I have always had this feeling of confidence, with a hint of arrogance, but at the same time, a smidgen of insecurity all rolled into most anger “outbursts” I had. Triggers vary depending on the age range, but common patterns I am learning to recognize, even dating back to them there teenage years. Recovery makes you confront these issues, find the core, the root of the problem, and then you need to put in the work. I know everyone has heard that damn phrase over and over again, but I guess it’s also different for everyone too.
Depending on your issues will depend on what and how you need to focus on them. My stories are mine alone and not meant to be an official “this is all fact, and you need to do this to be better” type statement.
Common patterns included becoming angry instantly, even in some of the most minor situations, in an effort to gain a sort of upper hand in an argument. A display of dominance or alpha-type personality traits was consistent. I sometimes liken it to what could be considered outdated or quite old-school ways of thinking. Ya know, this person cooks, cleans, does kid stuff, and seems to take a sort of backseat to the man of the house. That phrase alone, the man of the house, everything makes me think of my daughters now. Are they not strong enough? Can they not handle as much stress and mental frustration? So I have worked really hard in these early stages of recovery to recognize why and breakdown issues I create or have royally screwed up, so I can try and learn something.
Add in there is so many reasons for someone to get pissed nowadays too. So now think about adding in that inherited anger, neglect, verbal abuse, alcohol abuse, and a male sexually dominant social upbringing. What the hell do I mean by that last one? Think of the movies, TV shows, and even music, I guess, that depict this sense of conquering various sexual activities and then boasting about it. Thankfully, for my daughter's sake, we are seeing quite a shift in all this. There has been a lot of education and probably many guilt-ridden Dads like me that want to break the cycle.
It can be so scary to be sad, mad, confident, insecure, happy, and depressed all within the same day or sometimes simultaneously. I feel I am constantly surrounded by the feelings of disappointment that I have caused others, guilt, and remorse. Mix in some of that shit show shame, and you have a recipe for disaster. This stuff isn’t easy, and I see how people can relapse. I am grateful for my support from my wife; without her, I would be entirely lost. I still have a lot of work to do; we still have a lot of work to do as a people, but it’s progressing, and so will I.
When someone enters recovery from alcohol abuse, they usually struggle with anger problems and emotional regulation. The early months of sobriety can be an emotional rollercoaster filled with many highs and lows; the relationship between alcoholism and anger is a complicated one.
Even though they speak about anger management in most Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step programs and rehab, experiencing these emotions is different once you’re sober. Sometimes, little things like being unable to deal with or express a specific feeling can lead to an angry outburst. As a result, there’s a lot of trial and error throughout your recovery, including finding the best anger-management techniques for you.
The trial and error part and how it affects your life, in my opinion, is maybe one of the MOST important parts of recovery. You can either continue to make these mistakes, have these outbursts, and blame it on recovery, your childhood, or you work, OR you can step up and confront these issues and find a path of evolution and growth that works FOR you. Take advice, listen to people, and read stuff like this, but in the end, it’s got to be for YOU and YOUR way.
The drunk dry syndrome affects people differently. Lack of emotional support, social isolation, disengagement from recovery programs, and not treating co-occurring disorders can contribute to the dry drunk syndrome.
The relationship between recovering alcoholics and anger is so complicated that even things like a lack of healthy coping skills, resentments, toxic relationships, dishonesty, and unhealthy behavioral patterns can contribute. Additionally, even people not struggling with a substance use disorder can experience anger and these other emotions.
Someone who’s experiencing dry drunk syndrome might:
Grasp onto past resentments
Have feelings of inferiority
Struggle with imposter syndrome
Continue to engage in compulsive behaviors or non-substance-related addictions
Turn emotionally or physically abusive
Continue to lie and manipulate
Engage in high-risk behavior
Overreact to minor inconveniences
Reminisce about their substance abuse
Stop attending fellowship meetings, support groups, doctors appointments, and aftercare programs
Feel envious of the recovery of others
Fail to address mental illnesses
Refuse to admit or recognize their anger issues
Finding ways to manage anger throughout your recovery is paramount for long-term sobriety. It’s impossible to show a one-way route to deal with anger, being this a highly personal emotion. Here are some tactics to deal with anger as a recovering alcoholic:
Mindfulness meditation helps people disassociate themselves from their feelings of anger
Regular exercise can help release frustrations
Anger management classes might be beneficial
Assertiveness training can help people understand their tantrums
Speaking with a therapist to rule out underlying mental health conditions
Depression, anger, and addiction are issues that are closely related. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with substance abuse disorders often have co-occurring mental health issues, and vice versa.1 If you or someone you care about is affected by mental health issues and substance abuse, know that addiction treatment can help overcome substance abuse and improve your overall mental health.
Research has also shown that alcohol, drugs, and mental health disorders are strongly intertwined; disorders and behaviors such as depression, aggressiveness, and anger are correlated with a higher likelihood of substance abuse and alcohol abuse.4 A recent study found that alcohol and depression are closely linked, with sadness being a strong predictor of addiction.
Depression and Addiction
Major depressive disorder is a clinical disorder that involves experiencing symptoms of depressed mood and loss of interest for at least two weeks.9 The signs and symptoms of depression include:
Appetite and sleep changes.
Fatigue or low energy.
Feeling chronically sad, empty, or anxious.
Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless.
Feeling hopeless or pessimistic.
Feelings of restlessness.
Having trouble concentrating or remembering things.
Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
Thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Unexplained aches and pains.
Use Relaxation Techniques. Use natural stress reducers that can be immediately employed, such as deep breathing techniques and mindfulness. Both of these activities will swiftly bring about a sense of calm.
Deep breathing involves drawing a slow deep breath to the count of 5, holding the breath for a count of 5, and then exhaling for a count of 5. Repeat this 5-6 times to experience a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.
Mindfulness involves redirecting negative thoughts and addressing the present emotions and sensations being experienced. Doing this without judgment, acknowledging the angry feelings, and accepting them can diffuse the situation and reduce the power of negative emotions.
Distract Yourself. Sometimes just getting some space between you and the triggering situation is enough to take emotions down a bit. If you feel anger bubbling up, grab a book, turn on Netflix, or clean the house. Just removing yourself from the upsetting situation may be enough to put a lid on the anger.
Get Some Exercise. Physical exertion is a superb solution for regulating emotions. Not only will the endorphins quickly cancel out the negative thoughts and anger by lifting mood, but also the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine will help reduce stress.
Take a Pause. If you find yourself quick to anger, try taking a brief pause before expressing your angry feelings. That short space allows you to reflect a bit on the situation and calm yourself down, and it can help avert an angry outburst. Better yet, do a little deep breathing during that short pause.
Redirect the Energy. When negative energy threatens to upend your peace, try channeling it into productive actions. Build something. Cook something. Fix something. Do something constructive to help sop up that negative energy, and then have something positive to show for it.
While in the heat of the moment, it may seem like anger is the inevitable and justified response to a situation. However, by practicing these five anger management tips, you can make fundamental changes in the way you respond to a triggering event, diffusing the situation and achieving a more positive outcome.
-These words and or opinions expressed are solely of the author