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Coping With Anger in Recovery

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Addiction recovery is a long process filled with uncertainties and emotions. Processing the changes throughout sobriety can be difficult. Those either just beginning their journey or celebrating their latest sober milestone may still experience prevalent feelings of anger. 

Anger is a normal and human emotion, but there are many ways in which it can compromise one’s hard-earned sobriety. Learning to manage anger in recovery is crucial for your client to maintain a healthy emotional state and navigate stress to sustain a healthy, sober lifestyle. 

Anger Is Normal

Addiction recovery is filled with many emotions, and anger is one of the most common ones your client may experience. For those struggling with addiction, anger can manifest in many different emotions. It can be the emotion most readily expressed to mask other feelings. Fear, pain, and sadness are all difficult for each individual to process, and it will take time for each person to develop their own best outlets for navigating these feelings. Before such outlets are established, these feelings can make an individual uncomfortable, and they may express this as anger. 

Anger in recovery can also be the result of various other feelings or mindsets, including:

  • Perfectionism
  • Feelings of being wronged
  • Impossible or unrealistic goals
  • Feeling unheard or disrespected
  • Coping with criticism
  • Feelings of helplessness

Some degree of anger is to be expected in those navigating their sobriety. When learning to process other emotions to deal with constant triggers, anger is a common emotion. It is also a very intense emotion, and learning to manage it is crucial for retaining a healthy, sober lifestyle. 

The Effects of Anger on Recovery

Anger is not only a common experience throughout the recovery process, but it carries numerous detrimental effects. The intense, overwhelming nature of anger can cause individuals to act rashly against their own goals. An individual may say things they do not mean or act in a way that is detrimental to their sober goals. 

These actions may create schisms between your client and loved ones or cause them to act on a stressor without taking time to think of the safest response. For those who have suffered from addiction, turning to addictive substances can feel like the most “natural” impulse to cope with stress or trying times. Anger can cause an individual to act on this impulse without leaving time for other coping strategies. 

The ability to compromise one’s coping and grounding strategies means that anger is a very volatile emotion. It can be the catalyst to turn back to addictive substances, compromising their sobriety and sober mentality and goals. Because anger is such an intense and dangerous emotion, it is essential to learn to manage anger as a part of one’s recovery journey. 

Coping With Anger

There are many strategies to help your client manage their anger in recovery. While not all strategies will be equally as effective for all people, it is essential to explore as many coping strategies as possible to find the most effective routes for each individual. Having multiple plans in place can provide the necessary skills to manage anger in many different situations, helping to continue prioritizing one’s hard-earned sobriety. 

Prepare for It

Anger is an inevitable, unavoidable feeling. Whether in recovery or not, individuals will experience some degree of anger, irritation, or frustration throughout their lives. There is no way to guarantee a life without frustration, and it is vital to acknowledge it as a shared experience. By accepting that anger is a part of stress and life, one can better prepare to cope with it. 

Practice Breathing and Counting

While considered to be relatively simple strategies, practicing breathing and counting techniques are very effective. Anger is dangerous because it can spark an immediate response, and an individual may find themselves acting before considering the consequences of a particular course of action. By practicing counting to ten regularly while not experiencing anger, the strategy can be more efficiently employed when frustrations arise. 

Likewise, centralized breathing techniques can also give an individual time to think before acting, thus taking away anger’s primary source of potential detriment. Using a 3-6-9 breathing technique can also be helpful, where an individual inhales for three seconds, holds for six seconds, and takes a long exhale for nine seconds. The time and mindfulness involved in this practice can ensure your client’s agency is not compromised due to anger. 

Daily Reinforcement

Using positive daily reinforcement is a powerful tool for managing anger. While it does not address anger in the moment, it can help individuals contextualize their experiences. By regularly thinking about positive elements of one’s life, an individual can reframe their daily perspective positively, mitigating the impact that anger has on the rest of the day. 

Practice Journaling

Journaling is another powerful resource to process anger. Regular use of journals or texting oneself on their phones provides individuals with a standard outlet to express their feelings. By writing out thoughts and stresses, your client can put their anger in a tangible form and thus mitigate angry feelings from building internally before lashing out more destructively. 

Anger is a pervasive and intense emotion, and learning to cope with its effects is crucial for maintaining a healthy mindset and sustaining sobriety. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, located in Santa Ana, CA, we understand the importance of learning to cope with anger early in recovery to help prevent unnecessary stresses or relapse. We can meet you where you are on your recovery journey, with dedicated detox programs, personalized residential care, and ongoing intensive outpatient therapy all readily available to you. Our small, intimate, and personal atmosphere is designed to help create a safe and comfortable space to explore your unique journey with addiction and recovery alongside like-minded peers. Our team of astute professionals is ready to make a recovery plan that is individualized to your needs, goals, and skills. For more information on how we can help you, please call (949) 426-7962 today to begin receiving personalized assistance.  

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