Why are Addicts Always so Angry?
Anger and addiction go together like peanut butter and sardines, Christmas and menorahs, and a suit with sneakers.
Okay, those are some off-the-wall comparisons, but for good reason! Anger and addiction go together…but they shouldn’t!
I’ll explain exactly what I’m talking about below. First, though, here’s a bit of background – I found this insightful Psych Central article the other day. In it, Christine Hammond explores the intersection of anger and addictive behavior. Something we can all relate to, right?
I agree with her take on how anger fuels addiction, but think some solution is needed. Don’t you?
So, find my thoughts on how anger fans the flames of addiction and, more importantly, how to beat both anger and addiction below!
Anger & Addiction
It’s no secret that addicts and alcoholics are angry people. I say that as a man who’s lived both sides of the addiction coin – active drug use and years in recovery.
Guess what? I was angry in active addiction and angry in sobriety. My levels of anger cooled off considerably once I put down the drink and drugs, but they were still there.
Because anger and addiction are irrevocably intertwined. See, addicts and alcoholics don’t get loaded because we’re bad people – though we’ve certainly been known to do some bad things – we get loaded because we’re suffering from an emotional and mental disease.
On both fronts, mental and emotional, we struggle with anger and other character defects.
Sometimes this anger is directed at others. Phrases like how could you do that to me? Don’t you know what I’ve been through? If you lived me life, well, you’d get high too are all common refrains I used in active addiction.
Sometimes this anger is directed inwards. Thoughts like I’m a failure. I’m worthless and always mess everything up. I’m drunk again? What happened? bounced around my head on a daily basis.
You want to know the cool thing about inwardly and outwardly directed anger? It’s actually just a symptom of a larger problem or issue.
I walked around angry for years of my life because A) I couldn’t accept not being in control of other peoples’ lives and B) I couldn’t accept not being in control of my own life.
After I ended up in like my 5 millionth rehab, a counselor pointed this out to me. My initial reaction to this jewel of wisdom was – drumroll please – anger!
After taking a minute to think about it, really think about it, I realized she was right. I was angry because, ultimately, I was powerless over much of what happens in this world.
Years, and a few thousand dollars of therapy, later…and I’m still powerless! The difference between today and back then? Today I accept my powerlessness. Today I embrace it and guess what?
I’m a lot less angry!
Beating Anger is also Beating Addiction
And this brings us to my grand point – my thesis if you want to get academic about it – anger kept me getting high for longer than I would have otherwise gotten high.
Don’t get me wrong, anger wasn’t the only emotional issue I dealt with and it certainly wasn’t the only reason I turned to drugs and alcohol. Still, if I’d been able to conquer my anger earlier – I’d also have gotten sober earlier.
Think about all the toxic stuff tied to anger. There’s self-pity, resentment, fear, jealously, and loneliness…just to name a few! That list could be increased by, oh, about 10 trillion.
Some of those, like resentments, are a byproduct of anger. Others, like fear, are tied into anger and fuel each other in a destructive fire of bad decisions.
So, how do we get rid of anger? How did I, a hopeless alcoholic and addict, beat anger and beat drugging and drinking?
The answer’s actually incredibly simple…but not easy!
Want to Stop Being So Angry? Just Do This!
I stopped being so angry once…I let it go!
That’s the most generic advice ever, right? It’s also the most truthful advice I can offer about anger. If you want to stop being so angry, then stop being so angry!
There were a few specific things I did to help speed this process along. After all, getting over anger can take a lifetime. Anything that can help cut down on some of these wasted years is certainly a plus.
To help let go of anger, I did the following:
- Started going to intensive therapy – like twice a week intensive
- Listened to what my therapist said. If she suggested I write a gratitude list or read a certain bit of cheesy, inspirational literature – I did
- Attempt meditation and not the sitting cross-legged on the floor stuff, but sitting quietly with a prayer or saying and reflecting on just it means
- Attended some anger management workshops and reached out to a community of recovering “rageoholics”
- Started breathing exercises – even if I thought they were useless, I did them anyway
- Took a long, hard look at my past and accepted where I was to blame in specific situations and resentments
After doing those…my anger wasn’t that hard to let go of. Ultimately, I have a choice. I can choose to be right – which often involves being angry – or I can choose to be happy.
I know what I choose. What about you?