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Most who are successful in their recovery will readily admit that whenever they addressed their anger and resentment-in whatever form it took and for whatever reason it was there-that was when they really turned the corner. Of course there are the few who somehow stopped drinking or using and stayed angry. What are they called? Dry drunks? But the numbers of people who relapse due to resentment far outweighs them. You simply better your odds tremendously by getting rid of it. Anger that lingers becomes resentment. Someone once said, "Carrying resentment for someone who offended me is like me drinking poison and expecting you to die." In other words, I'm the one who suffers, not you. In kindergarten, many were led to touch noses with the person who made you mad. Resentment will have none of that. "No, I want to stay mad." There's only one problem with that. It guarantees that you will never be happy. You simply cannot be angry and happy at the same time. Now some people have negotiated a compromise here. "What do you mean? Of course you can." But they are actually in a state of downgraded happiness. But to the addict or alcoholic, you cannot afford to compromise. And that's your dilemma. However, it takes only a little thought to realize that, "If I let go of my anger, I guess I would be happier overall." And that's the point. In the next article, let's discuss real and practical ways to manage anger in a healthy way.
In the world of recovery "talk," a lot of clichés and concepts are thrown around. To stay sober, you need to:
"Change people, places, and things."
"Live life on life's terms."
"Take life one day at a time."
"Be true to yourself."
"Realize that your happiness is the most important thing in the world."
"Let go and let God."
And we even have a blog entitled, "Change your thoughts, change your life."
I'm not denying that any of these are true. But something in this list is not addressed. Is it an oversight, or do people often omit it on purpose? I'm talking about anger. Many who are trying to leave their addiction behind forget to leave their anger there with it. For some, anger has been, is, and always will be a tool they are ready to use whenever the situation calls for it, which is usually more often than not. For others, they don't necessarily show their anger outwardly, but inside they hold onto resentments from the past. And why not? "Of course I'm angry for what happened to me." But regardless of where it hides-in your hands, on your face, or in your back pocket-anger is like a metal chain that will certainly keep you tied to a lifetime of unhappiness. Anger will make it so you can only walk so far away from your addiction before it starts calling to you again: "I know how to relieve this anger: drink or use." Is it any wonder thatAlcoholics Anonymous, when referring to taking a self-inventory to see what could be causing people to relapse, states, "Resentment is the number one offender?"
Joseph Luciani, Ph.D. makes a strong point about how to change these self-defeating habits in his book Self Coaching-The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression: "Learn to develop the psychological muscle necessary to overcome the knee-jerk habits of insecurity that have been ruining and ruling your life. Why not recognize that the friction you feel is a clue that you've drifted away from your natural and spontaneous center, your capacity for genuine happiness?" When you can question the immediate, insecure response you can start to change your thoughts.
Luciani identifies insecure thinking as a source of much of our anxiety and depression. Knowing that, I can learn to recognize insecure traps, such as mind-reading or black and white thinking, and simply not allow myself to think them. Although these may seem to protect me from harm, they actually create insecurity. Guess what one of the top reasons is that people use drugs or drink? For most that seems impossible. "Stop my thinking? Good luck." True, at first, it is an act of faith. But once you try it and experience even a few moments of peace that you created by refusing insecure thinking, you'll want to try it again…and again…until that becomes a habit-a habit you'll want to keep.
I always tell my clients, "The 'position' of mind-reader has been eliminated, and we're also not taking any volunteers." So let me ask you, "What number am I thinking of right now?" A thousand bucks says you're wrong.
Stephen McReynolds, Th.M., CAC-II