Living Sober – Dealing With Anger

Anger in all its aspects is a universal human problem . But it poses a special threat to alcoholics : Our own anger can kill us . Recovered alcoholics almost unanimously agree that hostility , grudges , or resentments often make us want to drink , so we need to be vigilant against such feelings . We have found much more satisfying ways than drinking for dealing with them . But we’ll get to those later .

First , here is a look at some of the shapes and colors anger seems at times to arrive in : intolerance snobbishness tension distrust contempt rigidity sarcasm anxiety envy cynicism self – pity suspicion hatred discontent malice jealousy.

Various A.A . members have , when sober , been able to trace all those feelings to some underlying anger . During our drinking days , many of us spent little time thinking such things out . We were more likely to brood about them , or to overreact , especially after we heightened such feelings by taking another drink .

Perhaps fear should be on that list , too , because many of us believe anger is frequently an outgrowth of fear . We’re not always sure what we’re afraid of ; sometimes , it is just a vague , generalized , nameless fear . And it can give rise to an equally generalized anger , which may suddenly focus on something or someone .

Feelings of frustration might give birth to anger . As a class , problem drinkers are not famous for a high tolerance level when faced with frustration , real or imaginary . A drink used to be our favorite solvent for such an indigestible emotion .

Interestingly , several of the methods already discussed for avoiding a drink have also worked splendidly for getting over the inner discomfort we suffer when angry . For instance , when we begin to simmer inside , it sometimes helps a great deal to take a few bites of something good to eat , or a glass of a nonalcoholic beverage . It’s also remarkably effective , when we begin to get teed off at something , to pick up the phone and talk about it to our sponsor or to other recovered alcoholics . And it pays to pause and consider whether or not we may be overtired .

We’ve found Repeatedly , simply pondering “ Live and Let Live ” cools our temper .

Or we may shift quickly to an activity that has nothing to do with the source of our anger — work it off with some lively exercise — lose it in listening to our favorite music .

For many of us , contemplating the ideas of the Serenity Prayer blows away our hostility. Often , whatever we are mad about turns out to be something we cannot possibly control or change ( traffic jams , the weather , long supermarket lines , for example ) , so the sensible , mature thing to do is just accept it , rather than boil inside fruitlessly or turn to alcohol .

Another effective remedy for anger is the “ as if ” idea . We decide how a mature , truly well – balanced person would ideally handle a resentment like ours , then act as if we were that person . Have a go at it a few times . It works , too .

And for many of us , so does the professional guidance of a good counselor of some sort , a psychiatrist or other physician , or a clergyman .

We can also find an outlet in harmless physical action . The exercise already mentioned , deep breathing , a hot soak , and ( in private ) pounding a chair or a cushion and yelling have all relieved anger for lots of people .

Simply repressing , glossing over , or damming up anger rarely seems advisable . Instead , we try to learn not to act on it , but to do something about it . If we don’t , we increase enormously our chances of drinking .

As laymen who know simply our own experience , we recovered alcoholics have no laboratory knowledge or scientific theories about these matters . But few people who have ever had a hangover could forget how unreasonably irritable it makes you feel . Sometimes , we took it out on family members , fellow workers , friends , or strangers who certainly had not earned our displeasure . That tendency can hang around awhile after we start staying sober , the way wraiths of stale smoke do in a closed – up barroom , reminding us of drinking days — until we do a good mental housecleaning .

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