Friday, April 8, 2011


"I'm new to Al-Anon, (about a year) and I'm getting wierded out because I never thought of myself as an angry person but I'm getting angrier all the time. Now when I look at my partner, that's all I can feel, p_____d right off at her for still drinking, and me for staying with her. What's going on?"
I came into Al-Anon an angry person; it wasn't even slightly underground in my case. I woke up angry, went to sleep angry, and muddled and stomped through my days with my level of anger intensifying to a boil, and decreasing to a simmer, but the burner was always turned to "on." Anger was my main coping mechanism, instilled in me when I was a very young child, through years of extreme physical battering and abuse. When my anger became too much to bear, I could shut myself down, much like flicking a switch, with a mantra of "It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter," repeated a few times, and then - blessed numbness.
Others come into Al-Anon feeling distressed and upset, but not particularly angry. I've heard members speak of bewilderment and confusion - where is all this anger coming from? Why can I no longer control my feelings?
I think the operative word is "control." We may feel as though we are losing control, frightened at the strength of the emotion, or the thoughts which arise.
This is perfectly normal.
When we have been hiding our feelings even from ourselves, and denying reality, it is no easy matter to begin the slow process of hauling it all out into the light and trying to take a dispassionate look at just what is there. I have heard many members share about a similar slow building of anger, as they continued to come to meetings. When feelings have been blunted through denial, the re-awakening can be agonising. No strength of feeling is lost through being stored, and when the coping mechanisms fail at last, and the emotions burst through the wall of numbness, a complete emotional breakdown can be the result.
We come into Al-Anon at various stages of various processes, but the one thing we have in common, is our need to be validated, to feel heard. And the one person by whom we need to be heard most, is not the alcoholic, but ourselves.
Al-Anon meetings are a safe place to speak, and to hear. A part of us will recognise this, whether our conscious mind can or does, and that part will begin to loosen the bonds holding our denial so tightly tied. That can be the catalyst for change, if we are willing and able to sit through those awful, painful feelings, and allow ourselves to feel them. Recovery is not always a sunny cheerful place - we may arrive at that destination finally, but the journey requires a willingness to suffer just a little bit more. If we've been frozen up in our feelings, then the suffering is going to be considerable.
Behind my great anger was pain - the pain of a child, and that of an adult, all the stages of my life's sorrows, disappointments, and griefs, all shoved behind the backdrop of rage, and left to molder unspoken and unrecognised. When I began to sort them, I'd pick one up and it would rush through me like adrenalin dumped into the bloodstream, and it would have been too much to bear, had I tried to do that by myself. I needed the comfort of my sponsor, and my Higher Power. I needed someone who could reassure me when I faltered, that it would get better, that this was necessary, that I would come out the other side of my first Step Four changed, and it would be good. And it was, but I had to take that on faith, I couldn't believe it.
Anger is a normal part of recovery; if we are not accustomed to allowing ourselves this feeling, it may be frightening. Get a sponsor, use your phone list, call someone with whom you can "reason things out." If you are not comfortable sharing details, that's fine, too - you can say, "I'm feeling really angry today, and I'm uncomfortable with it." That's information enough to be going on with, you can get comfort merely from hearing youself say it aloud. Treat yourself with loving kindness, and don't get into the whole "I should be doing this, I shouldn't be doing this" cycle, which drives us crazy, by making us feel even worse about ourselves, while accomplishing nothing helpful.

Remember the golden rule of recovery: "Treat yourself wih the same care and attention you've been lavishing upon everyone else on the planet."


  1. First I want to say thank you for your blog. I am new to al-anon and have been reading alot of your past posts and have learned so much and gotten so much comfort from them.

    Also, todays post made me cry because I thought I was the only one who could possibly have this amount of rage and anger inside of me and I kind of knew it had to be a culmination of years of "stuff" because it is like a monster has burst forth from my very soul. I can no longer stand even myself where I used to think I was a really good, kind person, so now on my knees and in the darkest of despair, with the help of blogs like this and the support of al-anon, I can begin to heal.

    Thank you so much.

  2. Thank you for this post. I needed it today.

  3. I can see how far I have come in recovery. I am not consumed by anger any more. What a relief!

  4. Good words. I'm practicing this too.