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How to Handle Anger in Sobriety


Our rescue dog - Frisco - starts his training program tonight! Um, no that's not a picture of him - just picked it because it's a blog about anger. Here's our dear dog:



When we got Frisco a little over five months ago, he'd been in the shelter for almost six months. That's because he had some signs of aggressive behavior which scared off a lot of potential adopters.

Not me - I looked into Frisco's soulful eyes and saw love hidden behind lots of fear (he just paced in circles when I met him!) Coming from a background of pretty bad abuse, it takes one to know a kindred spirit.

Now, less than six months later, Frisco is thriving - happy, joyful, and free - like me! All it took was patience, love and a safe environment for him to let go of his anger.


There is a lesson there about anger - what does it take to turn anger around? How do you manage anger especially in sobriety where there's no substance to "take the edge off"?

The past two months have been an emotional roller coaster for me. Life has gotten very "lifey" - deaths, weddings, showers, deaths, two exams, starting a new life/business adventure/venture, etc. I knew I was "off the beam" as they say - getting lethargic and feeling a bit down and overwhelmed.


I started skipping one or two meetings, stopped working on Step 4 (will I EVER finish?!), stopped calling sober friends every day or did less service. Like I said, I was "off the beam." It finally came to a head last night when I told a perfect stranger to "shut up!" (long story, but I was wrong in many ways) and then went on a melt-down rant on my husband shortly after.


Anger pushed me right off the beam. What was going on with me?

The way I work with my emotions now is to try to understand what's going on underneath my outbursts - behind the mask. For me, anger usually my go to emotion when I'm feeling stressed, anxious... fearful. Fear - what usually lies beneath my unruly emotions! Anger is a great mask to put on when we feel scared but don't want the world to see our vulnerability.

(The other mask is my clown mask which I use in social settings to let everyone know I'm just fine! - while I cry or scream inside.)

So, my anger was probably (definitely) rooted in fear. What was I afraid of? I made a list:

  • My aunt dying last month - last aunt/uncle gone. Makes me feel old - fear of dying!

  • Exams for two certification courses - School's out! Now what do I do? - fear of success/failure?

  • Found out we're in debt (more than I knew) - fear of finances/debt.

  • The eye doctor told me I'm going to lose my sight soon (second opinion said no) - fear of going blind.

  • Friend's husband died - fear of death (especially my generation dying)

So, all these fears came out sideways into anger and lashing out.


Here's the other thing about anger - lashing out made me feel stronger. I felt self-righteous!


At both times that I yelled, I felt JUSTIFIED! Why? First - the stranger yelled at me first and then my husband forgot to do something that was really, really dumb. Justified? No, not ever. I can't afford the luxury of anger or yelling. I'm an alcoholic and will look for any excuse to drink so I have to work on my emotions!


So, I have to do some inner work. I started today by apologizing to my husband - a sincere apology meaning I'm going to treat him kindly and bite my tongue a lot more going forward. I will change MY behavior, not his (that's called insanity and I try to be sane now a days).

Then I went to a morning meeting and shared what I did (public confession - good for the soul!) I texted a few sober friends and took our dear Frisco for a walk (move a muscle, change a thought/emotion. I'm also talking with my therapist later today and looking for a healthy activity to do this weekend (clean the basement sounds good).


I can't change what I did yesterday, but I did learn from it and that feels good! Every day I try to do better - learn something and grow emotionally and spiritually. What can you do today to make your day/life/self just a bit better than yesterday? It doesn't have to be big - maybe just calling an old friend or relative to see how they're doing.


Or walk your dog :)



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