Addiction, Anger, and Breathing

“I always hit back when I got mad. Sometimes it was words but sometimes it was physical. I got mad a lot.” This young woman in my Pathways for Change class has been “clean” for 48 days now and is beginning to get a handle on her anger. Imagine how she behaved when her child was taken away because she was using drugs! At our first class, she had a hood pulled over her head, her arms crossed, and her head on the table so no one could see her face. A couple weeks later, she confessed to the class, “I texted my dad that day, ‘This is stupid!'” Eight weeks later? She shared how she uses her breathing when she feels anger taking over. “I take a deep breath, hold it, and keep doing that until I feel like I can say something calmly.” She admits, “I liked beating people up,” so this is a huge behavior change she’s trying to make.

When her father told her that he didn’t believe she had quit doing drugs, she took a big breath, held it, then calmly replied, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but this is my life and I know what I’m doing.” Then she turned and walked away. Everyone in the class cheered! She is working so hard to recover and get her son back. This week, someone commented on her beautiful blue eyes. That matters because she is now looking at us and participating in the discussions. No hood, no head on the table, new friends who understand her urgent need to control anger.

You don’t have to be in recovery to change how you deal with your anger. A first useful step is to take a deep breath, then count to ten (or a hundred) which interrupts your normal “flight or fight” response. It puts you back in charge of your behavior.

by Kathleen Vestal Logan, MS, MA          March 14, 2018

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