Although addiction develops for many reasons, it’s fairly common to use drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with anger. If you’ve been turning to substance abuse to deal with anger issues, learning how to manage your anger in healthy ways is vital to a lasting recovery.
Temporarily Remove Yourself from the Situation
Hitting, shoving, pushing, kicking, or other acts of physical aggression are never acceptable responses to anger. If you are worried that you will become violent, the safest course of action is to simply remove yourself from the situation. Going someplace quiet and private will give you a chance to calm down.
Removing yourself from the situation is also a good strategy to try if you tend to be verbally aggressive. While you can always apologize after the fact, leaving before you say something that you’ll regret can help preserve the trust you’re working to rebuild in your relationships with family and friends.
Consider the Other Person’s Perspective
Often, situations that make us angry are the result of misunderstandings and miscommunication. For example, you may be furious at a friend who was an hour late for your lunch date without realizing that she was at a doctor’s appointment with her sick child. While she should have called to say she was running late, it’s understandable that she’d be forgetful because she was worried about her child’s health. She wasn’t deliberately trying to upset you.
If you feel yourself rushing to make snap judgments, stop and take a deep breath. Ask yourself if you truly have all the information necessary to make an objective evaluation of the situation. Be wary of unfounded assumptions.
Express Your Feelings
When your anger gets the best of you, others may see you as childish and unreasonable. Expressing your feelings verbally is the best way to get respect from others. (If you are worried you might say something that you’ll later regret, it’s fine to write a letter to the person who has upset you.)
Use “I” statements to explain how the situation made you feel without placing blame or judgment on the other person. If you know what would make you feel less angry, state how you feel the problem could be resolved.
Use Humor to Diffuse Tension
Laughter has been scientifically proven to ease stress and tension—making it a great way to diffuse an anger-inducing situation. A gentle joke about unrealistic expectations or a situation made difficult by factors outside of everyone’s control can lighten the mood and keep you focused on finding a way to solve your problem.
Please note that using humor does not mean resorting to sarcasm. Without the proper tone, sarcasm can come across as insulting and only serve to add fuel to the fire.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and stress-relieving hobbies will reduce your angry outbursts while helping you to manage any drug or alcohol cravings you are experiencing. When you’re leading a wellness-focused lifestyle, your mind is clearer and you’re less likely to overreact to small annoyances.
When you feel yourself becoming angry, yoga, meditation, writing in a journal, and listening to soothing music are a few examples of self-care practices that can help you feel more emotionally balanced. Even if you can only spare 10-15 minutes, taking the time to center your thoughts can help keep your temper in check.
Make the Decision to Forgive
When you’re constantly angry, the person you are harming the most is yourself. Holding on to anger can cause unpleasant physical symptoms such as anxiety, headache, muscle tension, high blood pressure, teeth grinding, trouble sleeping, flushing, and ringing in the ears. Over time, it can suppress your immune system, lead to a heart attack or stroke, and put you at risk of relapse.
Making the decision to forgive—even if someone has yet to express remorse for their actions—frees you from the toxic effects of anger. It releases negative energy and allows you to focus on building the best possible life for yourself.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
If despite your best efforts, you are still finding it difficult to keep your anger in check, you should discuss your feelings with your treatment team. Anger, particularly in men with substance abuse issues, is often a sign of untreated depression. Counseling and/or antidepressant medication may be necessary.
At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, our residential addiction treatment program helps men and women learn to build lives free from the burdens of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Located on 25 acres near Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, our facility provides a peaceful and serene location for your recovery journey.