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Tired of Falling Into Anger Traps

­­Are you holding onto anger towards someone? I have been and  it is a lot of work to continually remind myself why I am angry, how they hurt me, how amazing I am for enduring unfairness. The nursing of wrath is exhausting, which in itself adds another check in the “poor me” column.

I knew that this was not helping my recovery process at all. Facing and releasing resentments is an important component in healing our addictive thinking patterns. Being hurt and angry all the time fuels the need to numb and escape by drinking, so the thirsty brain will lock into destructive patterns in order to subconsciously perpetuate the cycle. I get it. I see it. I worked on it and cleared away many obstacles.

But man, some people just so deserve to be resented! They just keep repeating the same asshat maneuvers; so predictable that often they don’t even have to say anything at all. I can sense their disrespect and I know without hearing it that they’re going to speak badly of me the moment I leave the room. They drop those hints, just trying to poke at me. It never fails. I always leave upset.

Truly toxic relationships need reconsidering, but what about the grey area before toxic? How do we handle the key people in our lives that are upsetting yet vital?

I’ve grown so much as a result of working through recovery, and yet I just kept bumping into this particular situation. After patiently listening to my bitter complaints, a dear friend suggested I see a counselor who could help devise a better approach.

Within a few sessions, I was seeing things in a whole new way. My old habit of “expectation” was a big part of the problem, because I have changed so much and was expecting others to engage with me on my new terms – not just as a non-drinker but also at a new level of honesty, respect and loyalty. The problem is, they aren’t on this journey. They haven’t changed at all, and I know that. So why then would I expect them to be different than they are? Perhaps it was that part of my brain that wants a reason to suffer and an excuse to comfort.

If it’s a mistake to expect them to understand me, should I then just prepare to be wounded? That’s the opposite approach, but that doesn’t make it the antidote. Bracing for someone to hurt us only leads to resentment if they don’t, or sends us looking for slights that didn’t exist.

What has helped me is shifting my expectation to a specific goal: I am here to show kindness. I am here to bring joy. I am here to be respectful. Those things I can control, even if the kindness, joy or respect I bring are not well received or even noticed.

This was all positive but I kept going back to each therapy session with a “yah, but….” which always boiled down to the same question: “It still hurts. How do I learn to live with the pain?”

The answer came as epiphanies do – not in a therapy session but unexpectedly, perhaps as the cumulative result several sessions. I was driving in my car and listening to “The Dr Jenn Show” when I heard something that made my brain PING.

In paraphrase, Dr Jenn told the caller, “When you change how you interact with other people, you change your life profoundly and forever.”

That’s when it hit me – I shouted with joy! I can stop asking how to live with the pain because the purpose of changing my approach is to stop creating pain in the first place.

I don’t control other’s actions, only my own REACTION.

I knew this intellectually but I have never felt the truth of it so powerfully. I get to live the rest of my life free from this burden! I can set it down, step over it, and still engage with people I care about even though our old patterns are messed up.

The small changes I have made in my thinking are coming together to effect giant shifts. Each time another piece lumbers into place I feel relief in areas that I didn’t even realize were hurting.

The future looks bright.

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on November 1, 2014, in Getting Sober and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Hi Jean,

    This is such a big one for me, even today.

    Take my wife for example. I love her to bits, but she has the propensity to anger me more than most people, which I think is probably true of a lot of couples.

    For the longest time – and still sometimes today – I try and get her to change her behaviour so I don’t need to get angry, and then I realised that if I changed my own behaviour (of which I have control) then I notice a change in her.

    If I am soft, then she becomes soft.

    If I lower my tone, then she lowers her tone.

    Still learning the hard way (by screwing these things up) but getting there.

    Nice to know that I am not alone.

    Lee

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  2. Hi, Unpickled! I have read all your posts! Thanks for taking the November challenge. I have been trying to quit drinking since 2006 with no avail. I am a “functioning” alcoholic. Nobody knows. I drink way too much, every day. Once I start I don’t stop. I’ve tried quitting many, many times. Like your earlier, beginning posts…I can’t imagine life without drinking being any fun. Anyway, I decided to stop. I quit 10/31. Had a very boring, weekend. Yesterday was really, really hard. Anyway, I’m not going to drink the month of November in honor of your post challenge & hopefully, a life change for me.! Thank you for caring & posting & sharing your life. It helps!

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    • WOW!!! wow wow wow wow wowwwww! I am so touched. I am holding back tears at this. Okay, together we proceed. Elbows linked and joining us are many others along the way – you will inspire more, I am certain. I want to tell you, tho – I didn’t drink this weekend and it was anything but boring. So take hope – life without alcohol is only boring if you don’t get out there and LIVE! For now, do whatever you need to do in order to break your drinking routine and get through each day. Consider dropping by a recovery group meeting or downloading materials or check out an online meeting for support.If whatever you’ve been trying in the past hasn’t worked, then this time you need to add a little something more, okay?

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      • Thank you Unpickled. I have decide to go to an AA meeting. I am very active, I’m a runner, I knit, I’ve recently taken up hiking. My dream is to take a hike in Colorado next summer – the Rim to Rim tour. I want to get rid of this ball & chain – alcohol. I will. Thank you for responding.

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        • I have been a “functioning” alcohol abuser for several years now, and in the past couple years it’s gotten a lot worse (I’m not a daily drinker, but binge heavily pretty much every weekend, often to the point of total oblivion.) I started calling myself Jekyl and Hyde because there is this horrible other person that comes out, probably due to unresolved anger issues (resentment and bitterness are literally toxic!) I too am very into fitness, hiking, artistic projects..all “non alcoholic” things that probably make it seem to other people that I have things under control. But as you said, alcohol is my ball and chain, holding me back from my goals and enjoying life to the fullest (all those beautiful days lost to hangovers…) Anyway, I definitely hit rock bottom this past weekend, and that’s when I realized that I am actually not in control of my drinking. So I too am starting with getting through November without a single drink, and hoping it will be a lifetime change. I think we all hope that there will be one day we can drink responsibly like other people, and maybe it’s possible, but this blog has reminded me that life without alcohol is really doable and there are others out there like me, struggling with the same thing! We can do it 🙂

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  3. I just got home from having lunch with an old friend who is over 10 years sober and now an addiction counselor. I mustered up the strength to ask her some questions about recovery and AA, etc… and subtly hinted that I’m afraid I have a problem. We talked at length about many things, among them friendships and relationships. Good ones, bad ones, expectations, hurt, anger, resentment, etc. … I am grateful to have her back in my life. As soon as I came home I read this post, which ‘dings’ at the perfect pitch today… THANK YOU for setting an example and giving me the courage to start my own journey of self-helping and healing. I am ready to start sharing my story, as well, and am setting a goal to make it to Day 3 this week.

    Question: when does Day 1 actually start and end?

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    • Hi Bella, how lucky you are to have a sober friend to help you along your way! Don’t be shy about asking her for support – helping others is an important part of many people’s long-term recover.! And just as I love to write this blog and answer comments and emails from readers, I bet your friend will be overjoyed to help you.

      To answer your question, how you choose your recovery date is up to you but it’s basically the first alcohol-free day. My Day 1 was the first day I went from dawn to dusk without a drink (my last drink was the evening of March 19, 2011 so my Day 1 is March 20, 2011). For people who don’t daily drink but who binge to blackout (for example) they may easily get 5 or 6 days but continually stumble when the weekend rolls around. I drank daily and could never get past Day 2 until *the day* I finally quit for good.

      What is your pattern of drinking?

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      • To be honest, i’m still trying to figure out if I have a real permanent problem, or if I should test myself to see if i can really cut back to having a ‘healthy’ relationship with alcohol – (wine mostly). Lately my pattern has been drinking a lot of wine most evenings, usually alone between 6-10ish, and wake up feeling like crap the next day after having about a bottle, give or take. I’ve been under a tremendous amount of physical and emotional stress lately and this has become my stress-relief at the end of each day. I’m devastated at the thought of giving it up entirely, but I have such a bad family history with alcoholism and have seen some scary patterns of my own start to get worse. There’s a part of me that thinks I should give it all up for good, and a part that truly feels I can manage it well with a lot of discipline, effort, and control. As you can see, I’m on the fence still, but I’m truly inspired by your story and your blog. Either way, I’m on a mission and trying hard to make some very positive changes in my life, and focusing on being happier and healthier. Thank you!!!

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  4. “The thirsty brain will lock into destructive patterns to subconsciously perpetuate the cycle”This made my brain ping. I am coming up on 5 years of sobriety on Nov 9. The journey continues every day. The drinking has ceased but the life lessons flow freely. We are all works in progress. It amazes me still how isolated and stuck I had been all those years and I never realized putting the drink down was truly JUST the beginning.What blows my mind is how sometimes the lessons are so simple but the thirsty brain makes them complicated. My brain is far less thirsty but I still need to be open to how I can easily sometimes fall into negative thinking,and negative patterns. Self awareness is key. I am so looking forward to reading you daily!! Great post!!

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  5. So excited that you’re posting all month! Anger and resentment are huge issues for me, too, and I easily fall into the pattern of chewing things over and over again. It’s awful. Recently, I started doing the Work of Byron Katie, a method of inquiry for examining stressful thoughts. It has helped me look at my anger and resentment toward others in a new way and has freed me from destructive thinking patterns. It was actually while doing the Work that I realized how much I’d been lying to myself about drinking. I have been sober for nearly five months and am doing great! The best part has been letting go of the anger I had at myself for drinking.

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  6. I agree, I needed to hear today’s post. I am struggling with getting started on the sober life. Many Day1’s of late,
    so many struggles in all areas of my life, your blog is so helpful. Thank you

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  7. I agree, we can change our reactions.
    What’s harder, though, is to change our expectations. There are some people we can’t easily close out of our lives, whose constant failure to live up to our expectations hurts us.

    These two things are linked… But the smell changes you mention can only move us in the right direction.

    Like

  8. WOW! Somehow you always seem to hit the nail on the head and tell me exactly what I need to hear! Thank you ever so much. I’m on day 40-something and you’ve helped me a great deal. It’s not always easy, but it is doable.

    Like

  9. That’s an awesome blog! Thank you 😉

    Like

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