3 Strategies for Dealing With Anger in Recovery

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry

with the right person and to the right degree and at the right

Time and for the right purpose, and in the right way

– that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

– Aristotle

It’s practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry.”

– Joe Moore, U.S. celebrity

People get angry over all sorts of events, situations, and happenings, but what is fundamentally important is this.

Anger is personal.

Addiction recovery is also personal – about as personal as it goes for those who’ve never trodden that path. However, a successful recovery from substance addiction and anger don’t mix. One of them will eventually overcome the other. You could say they are two sides of the same coin, with that coin being you – the addict.

In many cases, anger (and it’s usually unresolved anger, at that) will have been the catalyst, the trigger that led from use to misuse to abuse, and then to the last stop – full-blown addiction. Therefore, the ultimate success of any addiction recovery journey has to look to resolve the underlying anger that the vast majority of addicts feel – they felt the anger from the start of the addiction, and, as their addiction spiralled further and further down, that anger intensified, usually uncontrollably. The cruel, cruel circle of substance addiction.

Dealing with anger in recovery is like the recovery process itself – far, far from easy. However, successful recoveries (and their are simply millions upon millions of these) are dependent on anger resolution. Before we get to our “3 (Excellent) Strategies for Dealing with Anger in Recovery,” let’s first define anger, real anger:


Anger:                        (noun) a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility

(verb) fill (someone) with anger; provoke anger in

We all know anger, and have felt its depth and emotional power. If you’re about to begin addiction recovery, or are travelling that road as this advice is being written, then you need to read, acknowledge, and act upon what follows (and I, personally, wish you well on your journey, having been on that road myself, and where I now sit writing this):

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, Slowly (Oh, and I’m Joking)

I’m certainly not suggesting here that counting from 1 to 10 is the easy solution to the management of your anger issues, because, quite frankly, it’s not. However, the idea of a repetitive focus is a proven method of self-calming. In fact, many people don’t bother with numbers, preferring instead to choose a personal mantra – a favorite phrase or saying – to repeat, while their brain re-adjusts to the angry emotions they are feeling.

Furthermore, and taking this idea of repetitive focus into the wider topic of relaxation, this way of calming yourself is a practical method of enabling relaxation at times when relaxing may not be at the forefront of your mind, for one reason or another. Good relaxation is exceptionally important in a successful recovery from addiction.

Healthy Distraction

Another method for choosing calm over anger is the use of healthy distractions (for me, this means walking the dog, a frantic workout (learned from the time I spent as a resident in a drug rehab in Boise, Idaho), a couple of hours with my PS4, or the latest movie on Netflix with the family). Simple, healthy distractions turn your mind away from angry emotions to something that makes you feel good.

Anger Replacement

Having feel-good distractions is just one method of replacing anger with something else. However, that doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all. The best anger replacement therapy you can do is to “Be Productive.” Being productive (and having a sense of achievement in something that is really important to you) is a sure-fire way to kick any anger into touch.

In fact, it will clearly demonstrate to you how the anger-inducing events that so riled you up are really not as important as you first think. Achieving your goals and aspirations (and, for someone in addiction recovery, that is becoming clean and sober, and staying that way) is the best way to show anger for what it is – a passing feeling that will only stay with you if you allow it to do so.

Underlying Anger Resolution…

Dealing with your current anger, and even dealing temporarily with any underlying anger, is only half of the solution. These 3 strategies provided here – repetitive focus, healthy distractions, and anger replacement with productivity – will help you deal with the anger you are facing effectively.

However, the resolution of your underlying anger issues is pretty paramount, as mentioned in this article’s introduction, in the ultimate success of any recovery from addiction. If there is no resolution, such anger will lie in wait, and can act as a trigger to potential relapse. Please, therefore, resolve and triumph over this historic anger, either by 1-to-1 and/or group therapy sessions, working the 12 Steps with NA or AA, or family therapy. I wish you well!

Do you have any experiences of anger you’d like to share with other readers? If so, please drop a comment below. Oh, and lastly, never forget that if all else fails, you can always look at a penguin…




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