Anger Management in Sobriety

Thomas P. Hollander, Ph.D.


Angry feelings is one of the greatest challenges for recovering alcoholics and addicts. Relapse is often related to the inability to constructively handle anger. Mismanged anger poses a threat to recovery for the newcomer and the oldtimer. Sometimes the greatest threat is to relationships.

Positive Steps in Dealing With Anger

Recognize Angry Feelings:

How do you know when you are angry?
How does your anger show?
Do you deny your anger and hide it?
Do you own your anger and go with it?

List Your Anger Signs:

Head, stomach and back aches
Rapid speech
Yelling and screaming
Sarcasm or cynicism
Denial or rationalization about your behavior
Revenge fantasies
Thoughts about drinking or using drugs
Arguing with others
Becoming silent or withholding
Avoiding Others
Becoming Violent
Compulsive eating, spending, cleaning, or sex

Identify The Cause:

What is the situation?
Who is involved?
Is this the first time or is this a pattern?
What other feelings are you experiencing?
Are you too stressed? Tired? Hungry? Lonely? Scared?

Decide How To Behave:

Reason with your angry self-talk.
Change thoughts. From: "I'm angry at you because you..." To: "It's unfortunate this happened, but it's not worth the price I pay."

Do physical activity.

Walk or jog. Begin some physically demanding work.
Talk directly the person involved.
Use a calm and asssertive tone.
Practice listening.
Don't interrupt.
If you're too angry, practice first with a third party.
Avoid behavior that will make the situation worse:
Artificial stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.
Ranting and raving.
Compulsive behavior with food, money or sex.

Prevention and Preparation:

Meditation can help balance the nervous system, and contribute to less stressful anger management.
Daily attention to diet and exercise will improve focus and concentration.
Keep a log of your anger work, including triggers, behavior and future planning.
Chart your progress and be generous with self-praise when you change your behavior.

Only you can decide on the best method to use at this time to handle your anger. Of the alternatives your have, which seem the best? What are the possible outcomes if you try a particular alternative? What will you do if this alternative doesn't work? Write in a journal. Discuss it with a friend or spinsor. Bring it to your recovery or therapy group. Seek professional help when needed. And remember, anger is not a dirty word. It is a part of being human!



Author Thomas P. Hollander, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in Addictive Disorders. He maintains a private practice in Del Mar, CA. and can be reached at 619-755-5826.

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