Letting Go of Anger
Everyone gets angry from time-to-time. There is nothing wrong with feeling and expressing anger. However, many people in recovery have trouble recognizing anger and expressing it appropriately.
Anger in Early Recovery
Newcomers to recovery often describe their emotions as raw and intense. If this sounds like you, it gets better. This too shall pass. Much of the intensity of your emotions in early recovery has to do with getting sober. Your body is re-balancing chemicals after a time you were using substances constantly. You’re also not used to feelings. Addiction helped you drown a lot of your negative feelings out.
After a few months sober, you’ll start to see the world differently. The effects of the substances you were ingesting will basically be wearing off. You may find you’re no longer so angry or moody in general.
After you’ve gotten a little sober time under your belt, your emotions will start to stabilize. But some people have trouble managing their anger. Do you blow up easily? Are you constantly feeling frustrated? Have you hit or punched things or threatened people when you were angry?
Are You an “Angry Person? How to Change
If this sounds like you, then you probably need some help with anger management. Lots of people have trouble expressing their anger in a healthy way. Luckily, there are tools available to help you vent successfully:
- Recognize what anger feels like for you. Does your pulse race? Do you feel yourself getting hot? Practice recognizing these symptoms so that you can have a plan to interrupt the anger cycle.
- Practice “defusing” when you’re angry. When you feel yourself snowballing into anger, give yourself five minutes to cool off. That may mean going for a quick box or shadowboxing in another room. It could also mean spending ten minutes or so meditating in a quiet place. Learn what tools help you feel less angry.
- Learn to use nonviolent communication. When you’re upset, don’t blame the other person. Focus on your feelings and use “I” when you’re speaking. For example, “I get scared when you don’t text me back. I sometimes think you’re dead!” is something you may say to your kid. Don’t blame. Instead, search for solutions that will keep you from getting upset in the future.
- Anger is healthy. But don’t let it take over your life or ruin your day. Let yourself be angry for a few minutes. Figure out a healthy way to express that anger. Then let yourself put it aside for later.
If you’re having trouble expressing your anger, ask for tips from your support network, sponsor, or therapist. There are a lot of different ways people cope with their anger. Just make sure you do no harm with your new coping method. (Smashing up somebody’s car is not a way to manage your feelings, for example!)
Consider Sober Living
Sober living is an opportunity to live in a small, peaceful community of others who share the same goals and values. Start your journey in recovery in a structured environment that helps you stay grounded. Call us for more information at 760-216-2077.
We’re all human. We all make mistakes and feel sad, angry, and lonely at times. Part of being human is the ability to handle and process a multitude of emotions. In recovery, you’re learning how to cope with these emotions as well as recognizing them. It’s hard to learn emotional regulation, but it’s a skill to think of as lifelong.
What is Emotional Regulation?
In recovery and the world of mental health, you may hear this term without really understand what it means. Counselors and therapists especially like to talk about how you can regulate emotions.
A basic definition of emotional regulation is an individual’s capacity to both experience emotions and react – or not react – to them.
Feelings are natural and healthy. Everyone has them and has to cope with them in daily life. As a person new to recovery, you may experience your feelings intensely and feel like you have to “do something about them.” The truth is that many people think this way, but reacting may not be the most excellent idea. If you’re angry, and you try to “do something about it,” you’ll probably damage a relationship, put yourself in jeopardy, and feel guilty about your reaction.
Emotion Regulation Helps You Control Your Reactions
Emotional regulation helps put you in control of your actions and reactions. While you can’t change things that other people do, you are entirely in control of your response to them. You may feel awful, but you don’t need to retaliate for your feelings, even if you think that somebody else caused them. You'll need to learn to live through your feelings without using drugs or alcohol.
Your response to emotions can be unhealthy if you don’t try to regulate your emotions. Examples of unhealthy responses include using drugs or alcohol, reacting with violence or self-harm, and lashing out at others. Some of these coping techniques may be almost automatic because you’ve used them for so long.
In recovery, breaking unhealthy patterns is essential. You’ll probably find that these types of reactions to emotions don’t even “work” anymore. Now that you’re no longer numb, when you react poorly to something that hurts or angers you, you’ll find that you don‘t feel better. You probably will feel even worse about yourself and the situation that brought you there.
Creating New Responses to Emotions
When you’re feeling anger, sadness, fear, hurt, or anxiety, there are dozens of ways you can cope with those emotions. Creating new responses may seem a steep hill to climb at first. As you continue to learn new coping skills, healthy reactions will come more naturally.
Instead of using your older coping skills (using drugs and alcohol), try something new, such as:
- Go for a walk
- Go for a bike ride
- Talk to a friend or sponsor
- Go to a 12-step meeting
- Write in your journal
- Watch your favorite TV show
- Read your Big Book
- Do your schoolwork
- Do something fun!
Emotional regulation can take a while to get used to. Your emotional responses may be triggered more when you aren’t getting enough sleep or feel overwhelmed. Taking care of your body as well as your mind is important to helping you cope with your feelings.
Pay attention to when you feel negative emotions and take time to slow down instead of reacting immediately. It will take some work, but it will help you grow as a person. Don’t be so hard on yourself or beat yourself up. If you’re feeling lonely or down, seek out some friends or go to a 12-step meeting. You’ll be able to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
Consider Sober Living
Have you thought about sober living? Many people in recovery find that living with others in recovery is a powerful way to start their new life. Aftercare can also help you back on your feet. We offer the highest sober living standards, structure, sober living culture, and a safe space to get back on your feet. Call us at 760-216-2077.
Do you ever have butterflies in your stomach or feel your pulse quicken when you think of something you’re scared to do? Many people in recovery experience anxiety in recovery, but it may be difficult for you to deal with in your first few years. Let’s take a look at what anxiety is and how you can cope with it in a healthy way.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion that’s perfectly normal, even for people who don’t have a substance use disorder. When you’re feeling afraid of an event or situation, it causes your body to flood with adrenaline. You may shake, feel your face flushing or your stomach tighten, or even feel like you’re breathing too fast or can’t breath enough air. (This last symptom is considered to be an anxiety attack.)
Anxiety is the body’s reaction to what it deciphers as immenent danger. The way the body responds to the fear of this danger is to initiate what is called a “fight of flight” response. This response dates back to our ancestors, who often had to make split-second decisions to survive the many dangers of the world. The body gave them two decisions; fight or flight. This adrenaline rush helped them when they decided between these two things.
Today, your body may activate the fight or flight response even if there isn’t imminen danger. Your mind may then feel like the danger is greater than it is, which can cause a lot of fear even if you’re not in any physical danger.
A lot of people find that their anxiety is less when they share it with others, such as a therapist, sponsor or good friend. If you’re having anxiety attacks, you may want to seek professional help to get your anxiety under control. When anxiety causes you to miss out on things in life, it’s time to get help to get it under control.
Anxiety that doesn’t cause panic attacks can be managed more easily. You may want to role-play situations that make you anxious with a trusted friend or therapist. When you feel anxious, a brisk walk or a long bath may calm your nerves. Getting regular exercise and going to 12-step meetings can help you, too. Find something you love to do and do it when you’re feeling stressed. Often, self-care can be the answer to feeling anxious.
Self-care such as meditation, journaling, exercise or just reading a book can help you stay calm in your daily life. Remember that if you’re anxious, this too shall pass. Using self-care to help this feeling pass more quickly.
Sober Living Can help
A lot of people in sobriety have fears about returning to the “real world” after treatment. Living with other people who have the same goals can help quell your anxiety and gain confidence when you’re new to recovery. Learn more about your sober living options and how we can help by calling us at 760-216-2077.
Feelings – we all have them, and we all struggle with them no matter what stage of life we’re experiencing. In early recovery, however, emotions can be overwhelming and frightening. They may seem to come out of nowhere, and you may wonder if you’ll ever feel normal again.
Are These Feelings Normal?
In short, yes! It’s very normal to struggle with your emotions as you get clean and begin a new path to recovery. Many people recovering from addiction experience a broad range of emotions, from intense sadness and anger to even euphoria. Most of these feelings are fleeting, but that doesn’t stop you from reacting to the intensity. After all, what did you previously do when you had an emotion you viewed as negative? You used your drug of choice, most likely.
In fact, many people in recovery will tell you that they didn’t just use when they were sad or angry. They used when they were bored, scared, happy and just about every other emotion on the spectrum. Using drugs or alcohol suppressed these emotions. So it’s natural that these feelings bubble to the surface when you’re first getting clean.
When Feelings Make You Want to Use
The critical thing to remember is that this too shall pass. Emotions are often a trigger that makes people want to get high, but getting high will throw you back into a cycle that can last much longer than the feeling itself. You will end up feeling worse, and you may not be fortunate enough to make it back into recovery for a long time. Remember the reasons you wanted to get clean in the first place. Recovery is worth it.
You don’t have to use drugs to make these feelings go away. Instead, you have the opportunity in recovery to acknowledge these feelings, examine where they come from, and even take actions (like meditation, reading or other types of self-care) that can help those feelings pass more quickly. Most importantly, you don’t have to feel alone with them when they come to the surface. You can share these feelings with your support network, and they can help you learn to cope in more positive ways.
How Long Will This Last?
Emotional up and downs are a regular part of getting clean and sometimes living life itself. These intense emotions may be a roller coaster for the first month or so of being clean. However, some people may have severe mood swings that last longer than this. If this is the case for you or your loved one, it’s essential to get screened for any underlying mental illnesses.
A competent treatment center can help you navigate the storms of early recovery and can refer you to a therapist or psychiatric professional for assessment if needed.
Getting clean isn’t always easy, but there are many rewards.
Are you looking for a safe and supportive sober living option? Please call us at 760-216-2077 to learn more about your options. We’re here to help you make the best possible decision for yourself or your loved one.