Anger Versus Loss of Control
People who struggle with a substance abuse disorder often live with a great deal of anger. For that reason, the most effective treatment programs combine substance abuse treatment and anger management techniques. Remember that there is no shame in having anger; but it is important to learn how to deal with it effectively.
Some people carry anger within them before they ever begin abusing a substance. In some cases the person lives in a household where there is ongoing physical or emotional abuse, either to themselves or to someone else in the family. In other cases, the person may suffer from a biochemical behavioral disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Just the way he feels trying to cope with the symptoms of his disorder in today’s challenging world is enough to make him angry. If using his substance of choice is the only way to improve the symptoms, then he becomes even angrier, at himself, for succumbing to use.
The addictive personality expresses anger differently than most other people, and he has a great deal of difficulty in controlling his anger. Often the anger is expressed physically: Since the addict cannot find verbal ways to relieve his anger, he will hit others, pound walls, or kick something. He also becomes impatient with things he dislikes. His patience with situations is diminished, and venting becomes almost compulsive. He will stay away from people or situations that he dislikes, which can be very confusing or upsetting to the people who don’t understand what’s going on with him. Sometimes he exacts revenge, and then he is angry at himself later for doing so.
For all of these reasons, and because we are all taught that it’s not nice or acceptable to express anger, the addict becomes even more frustrated. His emotional maturity is also affected by his addiction, and he fails at his attempts to control his anger.
That’s why combining substance abuse treatment and anger management become such an important part of treatment. The addict may never get over his anger, especially if it comes from a person in his life who has mistreated him. The treatment professional can help him learn to control his anger, however. The addict will learn that it’s okay to be angry, as long as he learns to control himself when he’s angry.
The best substance abuse treatment centers offer a full protocol of therapies aimed at anger control techniques.
- Meditation and stress reduction techniques like yoga can include anything from breathing exercises to guided imagery that a person uses to calm down and boost his mood.
- Movement classes are important. The person who is locked down and closed in because he is hiding his anger inside can gradually learn, by taking a series of movement classes, that just as his body can move and open up, so can his emotions.
- Many rehab centers find ways for the patients to work with animals on some level. Whether family pets are encouraged for inclusion in family visitation, or there is a house cat that all patients help with, or a class that encourages interaction between a person and an animal such as equine therapy, the person learns to trust another being again—even if it’s an animal. Eventually he will move on to trusting people.
The addict will gradually learn ways to remain calm when he’s angry. He will learn how to assess a situation and seek a way to make it better without destructive actions. He has to recognize that the world and the people in it are not all right and not all wrong—there are varying degrees to everything. Sometimes, if he cannot accept or forgive something that has made him angry, he will have to learn that he can’t change it but he can move forward from it. And that can mark the beginning of true change.