Learning How to Manage Anger in Recovery

Anyone who has ever had to go through recovery will know how incredibly difficult it is. In fact, many people have said it’s one of the most difficult, probably the most difficult thing they have ever had to go through. There are many reasons for this. Besides having to deal with the inevitable process of withdrawal, you'll also have to put up with uncontrollable cravings for the substance you were addicted to says Johnny K - owner of True Life Recovery detox program in Orange County, California.  

But one of the most difficult things you’ll have to go through is the anger. Many people in recovery find themselves filled with an almost uncontrollable rage. There are many reasons why this happens. The biggest is because of withdrawal. During withdrawal your brain attempts to rebalance itself. The chemicals in your brain are shifting around, and this may result in mood swings, or feelings of extreme anger and rage. There are many other reasons why you may feel anger in recovery. Perhaps you feel anger because you have an addiction problem and ended up in rehab. Or perhaps you wasted so much time and money on drugs. Or  at people who may have exploited you, or your family or whatever. 

There could be dozens of reasons. But the bottom line is that you have to learn how to deal with these feelings. No matter what your reason is for feeling this way, you have to do something about it. Doing this is absolutely crucial to the recovery process. Remember, emotions lead to action. If you’re feeling sad, upset, angry, or even happy, you may be at risk of relapsing. This means you have to learn how to manage these feelings of anger. If you’re struggling with this then here are some ideas which may help:

1. Start Exercising 

Exercise is one of the best ways to rid yourself of negative feelings. Whether it’s running, lifting weights, or doing something as simple as push-ups in your room, all forms of exercise will help you feel less anger. Exercise also provides you with goals which aid recovery. For example, maybe you’ve decided to start jogging. You could set a goal to run a certain distance. This goal helps your mind to focus on something other than abusing substances. 

But by far the biggest benefit of exercise is that it releases certain chemicals into your brain. These include things like dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and even the body’s natural opioid oxytocin. Exercise also helps you get rid of the chemicals that lead to stress and anxiety. Ultimately, exercise is one of the best ways to manage anger, feel better, and speed up recovery. 

Something else which may help are team sports. Playing team sports gives you a chance to exercise and socialize at the same time. You’ll feel better, meet new people, and develop the healthy habits which help with recovery. 

2. Meditate And Do Yoga

Another great way to manage anger is with meditation and yoga. There are dozens of different ways to meditate. The most simple is to sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply for a period of time. This can be as short as a minute or two or all the way up to an hour. All you have to do is sit there and breathe deeply. Concentrate on the sensation of your breath flowing in and out of your body and let go of everything. 

If thoughts come into your mind simply let them drift away. Try to do this at least once a day. After repeated practice you’ll find this routine helps you become mindful of your emotions and quickly calm down no matter how angry you feel. You’ll also find that you develop a feeling of peace and relaxation which lasts throughout the day. 

It also helps to combine meditation with yoga. According to researchers at the Harvard Medical School, yoga has dozens of benefits. These include the ability to provide natural anxiety relief, lower your levels of stress, and also help with problems like depression. Basically, yoga is a magic pill for managing anger, and it is something you should definitely be doing. 

3. Explore Art Therapy 

Making art can have many positive benefits. Various studies have shown that art therapy can lower aggression and improve self-esteem. There are literally hundreds of ways to utilize art as therapy. For example, you can draw, paint, make sculptures out of clay, put together collages, take photographs, create a self-portrait, build a vision board, start a scrapbook. The options are endless and only limited by your creativity. Writing is also a form of art therapy. This can include things like writing stories or even keeping a dream journal. You can also keep a diary or journal. This brings us to the next point.

4. Keep a Journal 

This is probably one of the best things you can do. It’s important to get your feelings of anger and hatred out onto paper. Get yourself a journal and write in it every day. Write down what you’re feeling, thinking, and what’s going on in your life. Doing this should help you feel better. Keeping a journal may also help you without what’s troubling you and what to do about it. Finally, journaling is a good way to record the progress you’re making. This will help when you’re feeling unmotivated. Looking back over how far you’ve come can provide the strength to carry on with recovery. 

5. See a Psychiatrist 

If the feelings of anger persist and nothing works then maybe you should consider seeing a psychiatrist. A qualified counsellor provides you with someone to talk to. You can vent your feelings, and this should help you feel better. A counsellor will also help you get to the bottom of your issues and figure out what’s bothering you. 

Most importantly, the reason why you should see a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist is because they can prescribe you with medication. Things like diazepam (Valium) can help you calm down and feel better. That being said, this should be an absolute last resort. Always remember that medication is not the answer, and you should always experiment with natural methods first. 

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