Everyone experiences anger at one point or another. Most people experience and express it appropriately. However, when it comes to recovering alcoholics and anger, this relationship is a bit more turbulent. In general, expressing appropriate emotions is a skill that addicts struggle with early in their recovery. Nevertheless, it is important to realize to support your ongoing recovery and long term sobriety, learning how to identify, deal, and control anger is paramount.
What is Anger?
Let’s start with the basics. Anger is an emotion that varies from person to person and adapts to different situations. There’s a cognitive, behavioral, and physical reaction to it that happens all at once. The Oxford Dictionary defines anger as a strong feeling of displeasure, hostility, or annoyance.
But, anger is a highly complex emotion. It can be passive or aggressive. Someone who experiences passive anger may appear calm and have difficulty expressing their feelings.
Causes of Anger
Anger can have various culprits, sometimes rational, others irrational. Triggers such as losing your patience, injustice, feeling under-appreciated can all spur anger feelings. Also, feelings of grief or memories of traumatic experiences can trigger it.
Each individual has unique anger triggers, based on what you expect from yourself and those around you. If you don’t know how to express anger, your frustrations can make you miserable or cause you to explode in an angry outburst.
As if that wasn’t complex enough, anger can also be the result of inherited tendencies or brain chemistry. Furthermore, underlying mental health conditions might play a role in your trend towards angry outbursts. This is why speaking with a therapist can help identify the root cause of addiction.
The Dangers of Anger in Sobriety
Recovering alcoholics are already struggling with many consequences. When you add the element of experiencing anger, these can escalate and affect other areas of their lives. Some of the dangers of hatred in sobriety include:
- Alienating friends and family members
- Risk of heart disease
- Loss of employment
- Risk of becoming a victim of violence
- Risk of engaging in an illegal act
Not to mention, recovering alcoholics that don’t manage anger are at higher risk of relapse.
Recovering Alcoholics and Anger
When an addict enters recovery for alcohol addiction, they usually struggle with anger problems and emotional regulation. The early months of sobriety can be an emotional rollercoaster filled with many highs and lows.
Even though they speak about anger management in most Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step programs and while you’re in rehab, experiencing these emotions once you’re sober is different. Sometimes, little things like not being able to deal or express a specific emotion can lead to an angry outburst. As a result, there’s a lot of trial and error throughout your recovery, and that includes finding the best anger-management techniques for you.
What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?
When you quit drinking and move towards sobriety without focusing on living a healthy lifestyle, you might struggle with what’s sometimes known as “dry drunk syndrome.”
When recovering alcoholics compare their old drinking lifestyle to their sober lifestyle, there can be negative consequences. As a result, addicts experience feelings of discontent, emptiness, and often are full of anguish. They struggle with the idea that their alcoholic lifestyle was more exciting than their new one. Additionally, dry drunks will miss the adrenaline of old behaviors that they do not experience in their new sober self.
In the end, recovery from alcoholism isn’t solely about the absence of substances, but rather a complete overhaul of your lifestyle and behaviors. It’s essential to find new healthy habits that fuel your soul and give you a new purpose.
How Do I Know If I Have Dry Drunk Syndrome?
To start, you’re reading this article, which means you’re curious about your anger. The drunk dry syndrome affects people differently. Lack of emotional support, social isolation, disengagement from recovery programs, not treating co-occurring disorders, can all contribute to dry drunk syndrome.
The relationship between recovering alcoholics and anger is so complicated that even things like lack of healthy coping skills, resentments, toxic relationships, dishonesty, and unhealthy behavioral patterns can all contribute. Additionally, even people not struggling with a substance use disorder can experience anger and these other emotions.
Someone who’s experiencing dry drunk syndrome might:
- Grasp onto past resentments
- Have feelings of inferiority
- Struggle with imposter syndrome
- Continue to engage in compulsive behaviors or non-substance-related addictions
- Turn emotionally or physically abusive
- Continue to lie and manipulate
- Engage in high risky behavior
- Overreact to minor inconveniences
- Reminisce their substance abuse
- Stop attending fellowship meetings, support groups, doctors appointments, and aftercare programs
- Feel envious of others recovery
- Fail to address mental illnesses
- Refuse to admit or recognize their anger issues
If you believe you’re displaying more than one of these behaviors, you might be dealing with a dry drunk syndrome or another co-occurring disorder in your recovery. Consider speaking with an addiction therapist to discuss your feelings and explore the various treatment outlets to find happiness and fulfillment in your sober life.
Anger as a Relapse Trigger
Relapse is prevalent, with almost sixty percent of people having one major episode a year after they complete treatment. But, anger problems are often cited as one of the main culprits of relapse among recovering alcoholics.
When someone continues to build up anger over time, they’re more likely to suffer an explosion. During this time, individuals often can’t reason, which leads them to risky behaviors, such as drinking again.
Once this happens, many end up thinking that their recovery is worthless, and they might decide to no longer care about their recovery. Feelings of anger can be so powerful that they cloud their judgment and second-guess their reasons for being sober.
What’s worse is that picking up a drink again or experiencing a relapse often triggers resentment, guilt, and anger. So, the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Anger is, without a doubt, a step in the relapse process. The problem is when someone gets stuck in this step and ignores the situation. Eventually, they fail to deal with anger and interfere with their recovery progress. When this happens, they’re likely to return to their addiction and have even more difficulty finding recovery once again.
Dealing with Anger as a Recovering Alcoholic
Finding ways to manage anger throughout your recovery is paramount for long term sobriety. It’s impossible to show a one-way route to deal with anger, being this a highly personal emotion. Here are some tactics to deal with anger as a recovering alcoholic:
- Mindfulness meditation helps people disassociate themselves from their feelings of anger
- Regular exercise can be useful in releasing frustrations
- Anger management classes might be beneficial
- Assertiveness training can help people understand their tantrums
- Speaking with a therapist to rule out underlying mental health conditions
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction and anger issues, please know there’s help available. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our therapists recommend aftercare recovery programs to help those new to sobriety understand how to manage their emotions and control their triggers. Contact us to learn more about our programs and speak with our admission specialists to help you start.