Thanks to Alicia for this beautiful guest post about her experience with anger in recovery.
Chronicles of Anger
“Let’s talk about anger,” my therapist said.
“Oh,” I shrugged, “I don’t really have any. I’m not really an angry person.”
“Really? You don’t have anger?”
“Not really… what I’m really worried about is…”
And on went the conversation. I had always felt relieved that I wasn’t an angry person. Anger seemed like such a beast to deal with, and I felt for the women in my trauma support group who seemed to have a steady stream of steam leaking from the top of their heads.
“I’m grateful I haven’t had much anger.” I really believed myself when I said that to my therapists, friends and sponsors. I was grateful anger was something OTHER women dealt with. I didn’t fully understand anger, but I knew if I’d experienced it on a regular basis, I would absolutely hate myself. Growing up, I’d been taught that expressing anger wasn’t appropriate. No one ever said that, but every time I got angry -as a girl with three older brothers would -I was told to settle down. I watched others around me express anger, and it scared me. I saw people throw things, yell and swear… it terrified me. I lived in dread of anger. In my mind, it was a personality type, not an emotion. While some ladies really battled anger, I battled other things: anxiety, chronic inflammation, stomach issues. I figured we all had our own reactions to betrayal trauma.
Naturally, I was relieved that the anger spilling out of my friends in support group had evaded me.
Or so I thought…
After I’d been working hard recovery for 6 years, my health became fragile. My inflammation kicked into high gear. I had my tonsils out, my gall bladder out.
“Inflammation,” every doctor said. I visited specialists, therapists, general practitioners, energy healers, chiropractors, massage therapists. Each one helped, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that until I healed what was going on inside, I was only running around putting band-aids on symptoms.
I began to notice an unsettling pattern in my life. Though I occasionally felt low levels of anger, I felt frequent high levels of resentment and victimization. I felt like a victim of my husband’s addiction, his disconnection and control issues. No matter how much recovery I worked, how many questions I answered in recovery manuals or projects I did in therapy, I could not shake my resentments. I resented my husband, family members, people I worked with. One day, at the request of my sponsor, I made a list of everyone I held resentments toward. The ending result -pages later -felt suffocating.
I studied the list, thought of the reasons I’d resented each person, and I found one common theme: they had done really offensive, worthy-of-anger things. All of them. My reaction had been the same with each one: victimization and resentment.
Why didn’t I get mad?
The list was filled with opportunities to feel anger, but I hadn’t. Or had I? It occurred to me that perhaps I had felt anger, but I’d stuffed it carefully down until it morphed into victimization, resentment, and -unfortunately -inflammation.
Months later, something happened. I can’t remember what it was- honestly I can’t -but I remember feeling angry. It was a thrilling, vexing sort of moment.
I wanted to DO something with the anger before it had a chance to morph into my Dysfunctional Resentment Cycle. But what?
I literally googled it.
Google has a lot to offer.
A few minutes later, I was on my yoga mat doing a “Yoga For When You’re Angry” routine. It was twenty short minutes and gave me some relief, but I couldn’t deny the steam I felt leaking from my every pore.
Right next to my yoga mat was a sturdy decorative pillow that had fallen from my couch.
So I punched it.
Just like I “shouldn’t.” Right? Punching things and loosing my cool was BAD, right? Who DOES that?
I was desperate! Surely desperate times call for desperate measures? I didn’t let myself think about it because I’d overthink it or worse… back out completely.
My fist landed on the pillow. Over. Over. Over and over. Heat rose through my torso, and something began to unleash inside of me. My punches grew wild, unrestrained. For 5 entire seconds, I allowed the anger to rip open my soul.
But it couldn’t last. That is, I wouldn’t let it last. The amount of anger that began billowing up absolutely terrified me. I quit punching, brushed the hair from my face, caught my breath, and walked away. I felt marginally better, but I wanted to run and hide from the revelation I’d just had.
Was I an angry person?
As it turns out, there aren’t really angry people out there. There are people who feel anger. Some people feel anger more than others, but anger is an emotion -not a personality.
A few weeks later, I let some anger out by running and beating a tree with some thick, dead branches I’d ripped off. I let the wild, unrestrained anger linger longer that time.
“It terrifies me,” I told my counselor at our next session, “The amount of anger that comes out as I run and beat and cry.”
“So you’re saying… you DO have anger?” She asked, knowingly.
“A lot, I think,” I said.
“Well, now we can get somewhere.”
She prescribed a letter writing process that I’m terrified to face, but exploring this new level of self-honesty gives me encouraging hope. My body and mind deserve the freedom that comes with self-integrity.
And my soul deserves the freedom that comes from forgiveness.
Alicia is a coun
try girl out of Arizona who loves to write, cook, drink herbal tea and hire other people to clean her house. She
has many interests and dabbles in anything she can get her hands on, and her family is always along for the ride. She’s been married for 12 years, has three children and more pets than she wants to admit.
She’s been working a 12-step program for almost 6 years, and has been working the SA Lifeline model with a sponsor for the last 3.