Anger and Addiction
Our addictions can cause us to have all kinds of emotional responses, many of which are self-defeating, that harm us rather than serve us, that contribute to our destructive patterns rather than helping us to overturn them. One of these common emotional responses is the anger we feel. We’re angry with our addictions, with the people in our lives, and perhaps most importantly, with ourselves. We can even feel angry with the world. We resent our addictions and all the destruction and turmoil they’ve caused in our lives. We’re angry with the other people in our lives, often our parents and caretakers, who we feel let us down and who we blame for our addictions. We’re angry with ourselves for being addicted in the first place, for bringing so much pain to ourselves and our loved ones. And we’re angry with the world, for being such a depressing, unjust place, for exacerbating our pain, and for being the thing we sometimes most try to escape with our drugs of choice.
When we feel angry towards our addictions and when we can look at that anger objectively, we often feel justified in our anger. Our addictions have completely overturned our lives and everything in them. They’ve ruined our careers. They’ve taken loved ones away from us, either because they were addicts themselves and lost their lives to overdose or suicide, or because our relationships were too badly damaged by our addictions that they couldn’t withstand them. We’ve experienced people close to us decide they could no longer keep us in their lives because we were hurting them too much. They could no longer sit by and watch us self-destruct, taking everything and everyone around us down with us. They could no longer put up with how hurtful we were towards them. We’re angry with our addictions for causing us so much turmoil and distress, both our inner turmoil and the interpersonal conflict of our relationships. We’re angry that our addictions have seemingly ruined our lives and were so overpowering that we had no recourse against them. We felt powerless against them. Sometimes when we feel powerless and out of control, when we feel like we’re being forced to do something against our will, that can make us feel resentful and angry. The same is true with the controlling, overpowering force of our addictions.
Sometimes we’re angry with the other people in our lives because we feel they caused, enabled our perpetuated our addictions. Maybe our parents or other caretakers were addicts themselves, and we witnessed their painful addictive cycles as children. We feel they not only passed down their addictions to us but also taught us, trained us, conditioned us to become addicts. We blame them for the onset of addiction within us. We’re angry with them for neglecting, abandoning and abusing us. We’re angry with the family members, partners and friends who we feel enabled our addictions and did nothing to stop us from getting worse. They didn’t make us get help. They didn’t stop us from using. Perhaps they too were addicts and contributed to our addictiveness by buying us drugs, or facilitating our use. We’re angry with the people who’ve chosen to distance themselves from us. We feel abandoned, judged and rejected by people who were important to us, and this hurts us so much we’re angry with them.
Perhaps the people we’re most angry with are ourselves. We’re angry with all of the unhealthy and even dangerous choices we’ve made, all the ways in which we’ve endangered ourselves and the people in our lives due to our addictions. We’ve risked our lives to get high. We’ve driven drunk, risking the lives of everyone on the road. We’ve caused ourselves emotional angst, uneasiness and restlessness. We’ve caused ourselves deep sadness. We’ve incurred laundry lists of regrets. We’re ashamed of ourselves, embarrassed, and disappointed in ourselves. We’re angry with the flaws, imperfections, shortcomings and weaknesses that we believe make us inadequate. We’re angry with all the ways in which we don’t measure up, all the ways we fall short. We’re angry we’ve caused ourselves and others so much pain. We’re frustrated with ourselves for all the ways in which we’ve let ourselves down. We’ve failed ourselves. We’ve sabotaged all of the progress we made in our careers. We’ve sacrificed our hobbies, interests, passions and talents, causing ourselves to feel unfulfilled, empty and defeated. We’ve abandoned and neglected ourselves in all kinds of ways, and this makes us sad, but it also makes us deeply angry with and disappointed in ourselves.
Sometimes we’re not fully conscious of why we’re so angry. We haven’t thought of all the various elements contributing to our anger, we just know we’re consumed with resentment, spite and blinding rage. Our anger can make us reactive with other people, volatile, unpredictable, hostile, even violent. It can make us self-harm, doing things to cause ourselves pain such as physically cutting ourselves, starving ourselves or denying ourselves sleep. We don’t let ourselves relax, thinking we have to work harder and sacrifice more in order to compensate for our failures. We don’t let other people give us gifts or compliments. We reject their praise and admiration, thinking we don’t deserve them. We don’t let them support us or help take care of us. We reject their offers for help. We’re so consumed with anger that we reject love and support even when it’s offered to us.
Sometimes our anger was one of the emotional catalysts for our addictions to develop in the first place. We’re angry about our traumatic experiences, our losses and the wounds we’re carrying. We’re angry with how we were raised. We’re angry with the unfairness and injustice we witness taking place every day in this world. Sometimes it’s our anger we’re most trying to escape when using addictive substances and behaviors to numb our pain.
Addiction recovery entails learning more about our emotions and also coming to terms with them, accepting them and letting ourselves feel them so that we can allow their energy to move through us rather than remaining stagnant within us, causing us years of pain and distress. When we’re ready to heal from addiction, we also must confront our anger so that we can learn everything it has to teach us, so that we can learn to forgive and release our pain, and so that we can heal and find joy and peace in our lives.
At The Beach House, our mission is to provide the resources and environments that help people recover from their addiction and stay on the path of sobriety. Call or Text (310) 564-2761 today for more information.