Chris Newcomb, M.Div.
"You wouldn't like me when I am angry". These famous words were uttered every Friday night by 'Bill Bixby' the scientist who, when pressed by stress, would undergo severe biological changes and morph into The Incredible Hulk. I would watch the show at the end of the week full of excitement waiting to see which character was going to tick Mr. Bixby off and turn him into Lou Ferrigno (see below)!
Anger, it seems, can get the best of us. While most of us don't turn into green, muscular beasts every time we feel a little miffed, many people don't know how to deal with their anger and say or do things they later regret. Why is anger so tricky?
Anger is a secondary emotion to pain. When I stub my toe, I get angry because my toe hurts. The most important question to ask myself, although very obvious, when I'm angry is "Why am I angry?". This inquiry will lead me to dig deeper into my feelings to name the hurt that is causing the anger in the first place.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, the standard wisdom regarding such matters is to not let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired (a.k.a. H.A.L.T.) because this exposes you to a higher risk for relapse. Notice that while it is ridiculous that Bill Bixby turned into a hulking, green freak when he got angry, he does give a warning every time before it happens saying, 'You wouldn't like me when I'm angry'. It was his way of acknowledging his potential anger and the reactions that happen when it is unleashed. He knew it was dangerous. And knew that most people don't like angry people which is why he gave the warning. The reality is most people don't like angry people and most of us don't like ourselves when we get angry.
That's why paying attention to our emotions is vital in recovery. Whether you are a recreational substance abuser or someone who got addicted via legitimate chronic pain, anger is a powerful emotion with powerful consequences. It is ok to be angry. To be angry is to be human. What we do with our anger is the most important point. Robbing a bank? Not ok. Punching someone when it is not in self-defense? Not ok. Calling a co-worker every name in the book? Nope. You can't do that either. Not if you want to keep your job, that is!
The next time you feel anger consider conducting this little experiment: ask yourself as soon as you realize you are angry the following questions, "Why am I angry? Who or what is hurting me?". For example:
Me: "Wow, I am really angry. Why am I angry? Who or what is hurting me?
Me: Oh, I am angry because my football team is not playing well and I am loosing money in fantasy football. Not only that, but the guys make fun of me and I feel like a loser because I picked the wrong players for my team. I hate being ridiculed but I don't want to seem like a wuss by asking them to stop picking on me."
I don't play fantasy football. If I did, it's highly likely the above scenario would be true. While it seems a bit silly, it is important to recognize what hurts us. That is the way to dissipate the anger. That is the way to stay sober and avoid relapse. And finally, that is also the way to keep us from becoming....well....Lou Ferrigno in green paint!
At The Coleman Institute, we are happy to help people who need to get clean off of drugs and/or alcohol. Some of them are very angry. We are very happy to see them transform their anger and become happy and whole.
If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1-877-773-3869. We're here to help!