Anger in Recovery
A substantial portion of addiction treatment is spent learning strategies, such as anger management, to prevent relapse. Relapse poses a significant threat to people recovering from a substance addiction. According to statistics, 40-60 percent of people recovering from addiction will experience relapse after treatment. These numbers are similar to relapse rates for other chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes.
Relapse statistics do not predict your future. They do, however, underscore why relapse prevention is so important, and why one of the key components of relapse prevention is effective anger management.
Anger and the Stages of Relapse
Addiction specialists break down relapse into three progressive stages: the emotional stage, the mental stage and the physical stage.
The emotional stage occurs when the recovering individual experiences negative emotions like anger or sadness for a period of time. Isolation, not expressing emotions and not going to meetings are also signs of emotional relapse.
Left unchecked, these negative emotions can lead to the mental stage of relapse. Mental relapse is when a person begins to think about using substances again and romanticizing memories of using. Cravings begin, and they often stop avoiding high-risk situations.
Physical relapse is when the individual finally takes a drink or uses drugs again.
Unchecked anger poses a significant threat to recovery and can actually lead a person back to substance abuse and derail their commitment to sober living.
Addiction Isn’t the Only Problem
If you’re someone who struggles with anger, you can use what you learned in addiction treatment to manage this emotion. Knowing that anger can lead to relapse, you should work with your therapist to find ways to cope with anger in healthy ways.
When you’re working on anger management, first realize that unchecked anger is itself a problem and not merely a reaction to a problem. Viewing unrestrained anger as an issue in its own right will help you to more effectively use solutions for managing it.
Anger Management Tips
People cope with anger in different ways. What’s important for anyone but vital for someone recovering from addiction is to cope with that anger in healthy ways before it can lead to negative consequences. One way to alleviate anger is to give yourself time to get your emotions under control by temporarily removing yourself from the situation that has made you angry. When attempting to process a situation or problem that has made you angry, take a walk, practice a breathing exercise or go to the gym if you have time. The key is to cope with the situation from a place of calm.
Other ways to manage emotions include working on an anger management strategy with a therapist, talking things over with friends or a supportive family member, writing down your thoughts, practicing meditation and looking for positive solutions to the issue that has angered you.
Effective anger management takes practice. If you feel that anger is getting the better of you, it’s important to contact your counselor or therapist for support. You don’t have to let negative emotions like anger cause you to relapse. Through effective anger management, you can continue to ward off relapse and protect your commitment to sober living.