Sober and Mad at the World: Dealing with Anger in Early Recovery

Though it’s not my real name, you can call me “Sober and Mad at the World.” The alias fits well, because dealing with anger in early recovery has really been an unexpected challenge.

“My French fries??”

The teenager behind the fast food counter forgot the fries that came with my meal. And I nearly decked him. I’m not kidding; I was ready to pull the kid over the register and pound him.

And at the grocery store? Some lady was blocking the entire soup section with her cart. All I wanted a simple can of chicken noodle. It took every ounce of willpower not to flip her cart over and scream in her face.

Why Do I Feel So Angry?

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m four months sober. I stopped drinking to improve my life. And here I am, ready to punch a hole through every wall and plow over anyone who gets in my way.

And my poor family. I’ve never gotten physical, but the moods they’ve put up with….

The smallest thing can set me off. And even when I’m calm, the anger is boiling just beneath the surface. I feel like Bruce Banner. And I don’t even know what I’m trying to avenge.

I’ve started calling myself “Sober and Mad at the World”

Even when I’m calm, the anger is boiling just beneath the surface. I feel like Bruce Banner. And I don’t even know what I’m trying to avenge.

The Flip Side: Dealing With My Recovering Spouse’s Anger

You can call me “Living With Sober and Mad at the World.” I’m walking on eggshells. I don’t know how much longer I can take it. No matter what I do, he gets mad. Even when I don’t do anything at all.

I’ve never met anyone so angry.

He was never like this before – even when he was drunk! I thought sobering up would make him a better person. And it has, in so many ways. But what’s with all this rage? Where’s it coming from?

I was so happy when he went to rehab. He has been faithful with follow-up meetings and other support. I guess I thought once he stopped drinking our lives could finally be normal.

We could have our happily ever after, but he seems far from happy. And living with such an angry person is making it hard for me to be happy, too.

Is this our new normal? Will he always have a chip on his shoulder that weighs him down and makes relationships this difficult?

I just don’t understand. Is he upset at what his life looks like through sober eyes? How can I help him if I don’t understand what’s going on?

Maybe he doesn’t understand it either…

Anger in Early Recovery: What’s Really Going On?

Here’s the hard truth: Addiction recovery almost always involves anger. It’s something that must be dealt with, just like every other challenge on this path.

The reasons behind the anger vary, but it’s gonna be there. For many, it’s a buildup of all the issues you’ve been running from for years.

You’re suddenly sober. All that baggage you’d been burying with substances suddenly comes to the surface.

The basic truth is: You’re raw. You’ve been through the wringer. It doesn’t take much to aggravate your exposed nerves.

Feelings of exhaustion, feelings of helplessness, feeling unloved or misunderstood, feeling perfectionistic, feeling criticized…the list goes on. It all makes you angry – all the time.

For those living with an angry sober person? It ain’t any easier. You’re forced to look at all the other issues in your relationship. And maybe you’re surprised that sobriety didn’t solve all those problems.

Now you have to find a way to work through everything else. And that includes the sudden appearance of your partner’s mind-blowing anger in early recovery. The problem, however, is that it’s a kind of anger that your loved one might not understand any more than you do.

Here’s the Good News

Take comfort in two bits of good news: Feeling this anger is normal. And, yes, it does get better. This does not have to be your new normal. It’s just the next step. And there are things you can do that will help.

Remember, anger in early recovery can be a good thing, and the emotion itself is not bad. It’s how you handle it that matters. And with that in mind, we checked in on our married couple six months later.

Here’s what they told us:

I poured my anger into exercise. It wore me out and defused the anger. And I wrote. I filled notebook after notebook with random thoughts, rage, and all the rants that filled my mind. I went on long walks in the woods. The sunshine and sounds of nature helped soothe my anger. And let’s not forget probably the hardest thing – I asked for help. Support from my family, my sponsor, my counselor, my meetings…they all helped me through a full year of anger, and it has finally started to fade.
~ “Sober and No Longer Mad at the World”

I realized our relationship had other flaws. And I had baggage of my own I needed to deal with. We’ll always have things we need to work through. Rehab was a great step, but it wasn’t the cure for everything – and that’s okay. This too, shall pass. We won’t have a fairly-tale future, but we do have a future.
~ Living With “Sober and No Longer Mad at the World”

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