The Anger Problem
Alcoholics/Addicts and the People who Love Them are Angry
All addicts have experienced unexpressed anger, or expressed it so inappropriately that the people around them have been hurt, irritated, frustrated, angry and even enraged with the disease. Most alcoholics have one thing in common: When they were growing up, anger caused everyone pain in some form or another. Even if they failed math, they learned one equation in their home: anger equals pain. That pain may come in the form of heartaches, abuse, abandonment, isolation, degradation, withdrawal, whippings, beatings and shaming. All of which hurt them or the ones they love. At some point most decided that if they just didn't get angry then no one would get hurt, including themselves. So they swallowed their anger, stuffed it into their bodies like they were gunnysacks or body bags. Everyone denied anger's existence or rationalized it away. Some smiled, stabbed people in the back, sabotaged relationships, manipulated, sought revenge, controlled, forgave prematurely, played nice, and got drunk, stoned, high and numb. Resentments turned into thick bricks and were used to build walls around themselves, but the anger leaked out, in spite of the mortar, harming everyone in the near vicinity. Alcoholics and addicts became resentful, a luxury the alcoholic and addict cannot afford.
One of the key criticisms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Al-Anon is that many participants are full of anger, even after being in recovery for many years. They talk all the time about how their sponsor 'straightened my ass out' or 'called me on my bullshit' or 'confronted me and set me straight.' Confrontation, criticism and put-downs of all kinds seem to be acceptable, but they really make most alcoholics and addicts even angrier, though they've learned to look and act like they aren't. As the Billy Crystal character on Saturday Night Live used to say, 'It's better to look good than to feel good.'
I had been thinking for two or three years about writing this book. One Saturday morning I attended my regular AA meeting. Afterward I went to lunch with a bunch of folks who talked about how angry a certain member was after twenty-seven years of sobriety. I wondered if anyone else noticed our own anger, which took the form of gossiping about that member's inappropriate expression of anger. That was when I realized how badly I needed to write this book, not only for others but for myself as well.
Anger is Just a Feeling
Anger is a feeling. It is one of the primary emotions like sadness, happiness, fear, loneliness and gratitude. It is not inherently negative, though if repressed long enough it can have negative consequences, ranging from headaches, stomachaches, and backaches to more serious things like colitis, insomnia, some say even cancer and heart disease. Repressed anger also hurts others when it takes the form of abuse, violence and mayhem. Yet anger is a natural response to life's unfairness, people's unkindness, and the sounds of leaf blowers and lawn mowers before 9 a.m. on an otherwise beautiful Sunday morning.
Anger is simply energy in the body that can be used to get us out of stuck places—marriages where the husband or wife is abusive, jobs that pay less than minimum wage but expect us to give 200 percent of ourselves. It can extricate us from unjust or unholy wars, oust presidents and help us get MADD about irresponsible drinkers. Intellect alone, without linking itself to anger, will seldom right wrongs. Anger is the energy to be used to get us out of stuck places.
Everyone Gets Angry
Anger is a persistent and universal problem mostly because no one taught us how to express it without hurting others or ourselves. No one can avoid it 100 percent of the time. It is a natural part of the human condition. The people we love the most are the people who most often trigger our anger. We get angry with our kids; our kids get angry with us. Many adults are still angry with their parents—even if the parents have been dead for twenty years. Husbands are angry with their wives for wanting more tenderness than they can muster; wives are angry with their husbands for thinking intimacy is two or three glorious minutes in the bedroom.
This pesky thing called anger just won't go away; it's the annoying little flea that bites humanity's butt. We all wish it were really that small; then it would be easier to squash or hide. All too often anger is the elephant in the living room: obvious and obtrusive—leaving a big mess to clean up after—yet no one talks about it.
Where Does it all Begin?
Like most things, anger begins in childhood. Children come into this world with a broad range of emotions ready to be felt—until someone tells them that they don't feel what they feel. 'You're not angry.' 'Don't be mad.' 'You don't have anything to be angry about—you have it so much better than the children in Africa .' Children experience early on that showing anger results in punishment. A client of mine, Jason, was told at age six that if he got angry his mother would 'take me to the police station, turn me in and tell them to keep me.'
Most families have one or two people who are allowed to get angry—usually these individuals do so in the most intimidating or abusive manner. For example, most families have the stormy one, the seething one, the silent one, the destructive one, the rebellious one, the overachiever, the 'right' one and the 'wrong' one, the one who leaves and the one who stays no matter how much that one would like to leave. Most people in recovery know that family members tend to assume certain roles: the 'peacemakers,' who are really more like referees and have very little if any peace in their own lives; the 'hero,' whose job it is to save the family and the family name and he or she is usually worn out by the time they are six from slaying family dragons; the 'lost child,' who never seems to be around and who is arguably the smartest of them all but who can never quite find his or her own way in the world; and finally, the 'scapegoat,' who carries the sins of the family on his or her back and is constantly being slaughtered with everyone's anger and rage.
We all know children don't take after strangers. You've never heard frustrated parents say to their child, 'You are just like the mailman.' What is modeled for children early on is what they rely on later in life. Adults learned verbal, physical and emotional behaviors that are abusive or inappropriate when they were children; they didn't suddenly invent them when they grew up. People who grow up in an alcoholic home almost never see anger expressed in a healthy manner. Consequently, as adults they must unlearn the old behaviors and learn and practice new, healthier ways of expressing anger. The question is where will they go to learn?
If a child is given three crayons with which to color, all his life he will use only those three crayons, thinking there are no other choices. Healthy individuals discover there are more options available. They learn how to use colored pencils and markers, and then graduate to painting on canvas. They must practice with their new tools and give up relying on the old. Only then can they paint their lives the way they want.
Most of the men and women I have worked with have said, 'I thought the way our family was, was the way all families were. I didn't know it could be different. Where do we go to learn?' Some reading this are unsure if they even have an anger problem. Many genuinely live with the assumption that it is their father, wife or child that has the problem. If they are the ones with the problem, then this book will help you; and if it is you who has the problem, then perhaps it will help them.
Anger as Punishment and Revenge
Alcoholics, addicts, and adult children of alcoholics and addicts don't get angry—they get even. One of the reasons adults have such a problem feeling and expressing their anger is because anger has forever been tied to punishment and revenge. People who are punished—instead of disciplined—tend to seek revenge and be angry. And the best way to extract a pound of flesh is to punish the actual or perceived offender. You drink—I'll show you—I won't sleep with you. If you overreact—I'll get you back—I'll have an affair.
A few years ago I was in the Asheville airport waiting to catch a flight back to Austin . I was standing close to an elderly woman who was sitting hunched over in a wheelchair in front of her sixty-something-year-old daughter and son. She was silently weeping and the son looked down at her and said in a voice loud enough for all around him to hear, 'Momma, we told you if you cried we wouldn't let you come back to visit anymore.' Do you hear the rage and revenge in his statement? 'That's right, Mother. We told you that you can't cry,' said the daughter. Can't you just imagine that fifty-something years ago this mother probably said to her children, in some public place, 'If you don't stop this crying, I'm never going to. . . .'? She punished them with a threat. They waited fifty years for revenge, and no one is consciously being malicious.
The Difference between Discipline and Punishment
Unfortunately, children are punished and they become, using Alice Miller's words, 'Prisoners of Childhood,' the original title of her important book, later named The Drama of the Gifted Child. Punishment makes children, adults, criminals and animals untrusting at the least, and full of rage at the most. It is capricious—not well-thought-out and not stated before the fact. Where punishment is handed out, you might as well hand out the alcohol and drugs to make those punished forget that they have no choice and that others have extreme amounts of power over them.
One time I asked a room full of counselors, educators and law enforcers if they could tell me exactly what would happen to someone caught in their state driving while under the influence. A couple of them said, 'They would go to jail.' Another one said, 'They would lose their license to drive.' Two or three said they would have to pay a fine. But several said, 'It would depend on who they are, who they know, if they could afford a high-priced attorney and, sadly, what color they are. A poor person of color, who doesn't know anyone, is punished differently than someone who is white and has lots of money or connections.' Hear the meanness in this? How enraged is someone going to be?
Now, here is what makes people less angry: discipline.
Discipline is almost angelic compared to demonic punishment. Here's why. Punishment is after the fact or the offense. Discipline is before the act or offense. Punishment takes away healthy choice making. Discipline teaches how to make healthy and mature choices. Punishment says here are the consequences I, or we, feel like handing out today. Discipline says know beforehand what the consequences of your actions will be no matter how we do or don't feel today.
If my home state of Georgia had huge billboards on every road into the state saying exactly what the consequences would be for driving under the influence, say—YOU WILL LOSE YOUR LICENSE. YOU WILL GO TO JAIL. YOU WILL PAY $10,999 IN FINES. AND, WE WILL CUT OFF YOUR BIG TOE—many folks would 'think before they drink.' Or they'd think, 'Damn, if they're going to be so clear, I'll just go to Alabama where the law is still ambiguous as hell and take my chances over there.'
It is the same with children and adolescents who are disciplined rather than punished. They just don't tend to be as angry and have to get even later with their guards—I mean parents and teachers—because they were told what would happen beforehand. One time my stepdaughter, who was about thirteen at the time, came in one warm summer evening very late, having been with her girlfriends chatting and forgetting about the time. As soon as she came through the door she looked at me in disgust and said, 'I know, I'm busted for staying out so late.' The anger at being punished many times by her real father was on her face as she prepared to get more. 'Did I tell you what would happen before you went out if you weren't in by 9 p.m.?' She looked at me like I was asking her a trick question. She sighed heavily as all teenagers do. 'No, you didn't.' 'Well, that's my job—to tell you beforehand the consequences so you can make choices. So, no, you're not busted. However, if you decide to stay out late again tomorrow night, you won't attend the sleepover this weekend with your girlfriends.' I'll never forget what she said: 'That sounds fair.' And it was.
Punishment takes no time and is fast and very often furious. Discipline takes time and forethought. Punishment creates rage, resentment and the need for revenge and retribution. Discipline creates a sense of well-being and a feeling that one is cared for. All the young and older children I've seen and spoken with and all the adults have incredibly angry stories about being punished; almost none have stories of being disciplined.
Here's a little sidebar to all of this. The only institution that at least tries to practice discipline is—would you believe?—the military. They have huge books of rules and regulations: If you go AWOL—this, this and this will happen. If you disregard a direct order—this, this and this will happen. It is spelled out beforehand. You can actually look up what is going to happen should you violate the rules.
The bottom line: if you want to produce less angry children who become less angry adolescents who will then become less angry adults who feel safe, loved and valued in this world, learn to discipline instead of punish. May I suggest a useful book: Positive Discipline: A–Z, by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott and H. Stephen Glenn. Angry adults need to drink and drug to forget how punishment caused them not to feel safe, loved and valued in this world. Punishment just royally pisses off everyone, and then out roll the resentments, and out rolls the beer and whiskey barrels that are, at first, a barrel of fun and laughter, but eventually become containers of poison that kill families, friendships, opportunities and relationships of all kinds.
How to Know If You Have an Anger Problem
1. People often say you are angry—especially the people who know you well.
2. When you get angry, it's always someone else's fault. (The kids are being too noisy, your spouse is late again, the boss didn't appreciate the work you did, etc.)
3. People tell you to lighten up, relax, take it easy, have a drink or try a Valium.
4. You drink alcoholically, take drugs, or engage in addictive or dangerous behaviors.
5. You become angry while driving; this includes pointing at another driver with the middle finger or cutting off another car.
6. You hit your children, your spouse or animals. Hitting can be accomplished with many different weapons, not just the hands. Whether you use your hands, abusive words or a belt, get immediate professional help.
7. You have a rigid body structure; your neck and shoulders are tight and sore.
8. You have ulcers, insomnia, high blood pressure or frequent tension headaches.
9. You always have to win arguments or get in the last word.
10. You find yourself sleeping in a different bed than your spouse.
11. You act out of anger without stopping to think how your words or actions will affect other people.
12. You have multiple divorces.
13. When someone makes you angry, you emotionally withdraw or give him or her the silent treatment.
14. When someone hurts you, you become obsessed with hurting him or her back. You may even take pride in your ability to get even.
15. Forgiveness is almost impossible.
16. You never say you are sorry, except in a sarcastic voice.
17. Reading this list makes you angry.
Misleading Information about Anger
Many psychologists and counselors are confused about this most misunderstood emotion. One of the main reasons for this gross misunderstanding is the fact that these learned men and women are still confusing anger with rage. Once we stop using these words interchangeably, then anger will no longer be the crazy uncle in the family of feelings and thus will no longer need to be avoided.
Expressing Anger Creates More Anger
Some well-intentioned psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and spiritual leaders claim that letting out our anger creates and perpetuates more anger. This is true only if the person is a continuous rageaholic, which the majority of people are not. Most people in this country are repressives who may rage sporadically. Most of these well-intentioned critics are afraid of anger, both their own and other people's, so they have a vested interest in their clients suppressing their anger. If a grieving man cries gallons of tears, it doesn't make him cry even more. He weeps until the water in his grief well is dry, and then he stops. A woman doesn't avoid laughing at a joke because she is afraid she'll never stop laughing! When allowed to run its natural course, every emotion has an end. If I release a pound of pent-up anger at my alcoholic father, then I don't have to release that same pound again; I'll go on to feel and release the next pound of anger until it is all gone.
Expressing Anger Is Dangerous
Some people who are anger-phobic claim getting angry increases the blood pressure and strains the heart. In twenty years of facilitating the appropriate release of anger for thousands of people, I've never seen anyone die from high blood pressure or stroke at an anger workshop. However, I bet you have known someone who died full of anger, and you were sure their high blood pressure and heart disease were caused by all those years of pent-up emotions. I'm not a physician, but I can tell you that for the years I have practiced the methods discussed in this book, I've seen thousands of people express and release their anger, then celebrate as their blood pressure went down. They slept better, medicated less often, ground their teeth less, had fewer nightmares, and felt and expressed love more readily. Indeed, they felt much better for finally being allowed to express their feelings and get them out of their bodies.
Anger Is a Chameleon
Most genuinely compassionate psychologists believe anger is a secondary emotion and, therefore, not even real. What we are really feeling, they tell us, is not anger at all, but fear or sadness, depending on the therapist's personal history and training. Remember, therapists are people too, people who learned that anger equals pain, just like you and I did. They may encourage you to 'understand' your anger or 'go for the feeling that anger is covering up.' At best, they tell you 'to say more about this.' Most will not tell you to feel it and express it—unless they have done some anger work themselves. Unless they have experienced and expressed their own anger, they will tend to tell you to 'dance with it,' forget it, move on or get over it. These are all intellectual ways of avoiding anger, which we will discuss shortly. Only a handful of professionals will tell you to face it, feel it, express it and release it.
Anger Is a Deadly Sin
Some religious counselors consider anger one of the 'seven deadly sins.' Now that should make you wary—anger is 'deadly' and a 'sin'! They conveniently ignore the instances in the New Testament where Jesus gets angry, such as the time when he encounters the moneychangers in his holy temple. He doesn't sit down with these scalawags, try to 'interface' with them or mirror back to them what they are saying, and ask them to do the same. He kicks their butts, turns over some tables and cracks a whip. If Jesus never sinned, then anger is not a sin. What some religious people do with their anger, however, is a whole different ballgame. Do you remember when basketball wasn't an angry contact sport? How about that time you went to a hockey game and a fight broke out?
Forgive and Forget
Another misconception often pervasive among religious groups is that people must instantly offer forgiveness when someone harms them. It's a lofty goal, but beyond the capacity of the average mortal. For many, forgiveness can only be given after the feelings of anger, hurt and injustice have been addressed and worked through. Otherwise, the person can only offer premature forgiveness, a superficial remedy that never deals with the real problem.
The Bible says to turn the other cheek if someone slaps us, but it doesn't tell us what to do after being slapped twice. I believe it is okay to get angry and move out of the slapper's range. After all, sometimes anger's purpose is to get us out of threatening or unsafe places.
Do a Step on It
I position this section squarely between the religious and intellectual sections because it is a combination of both. Old-time Twelve Steppers will tell newcomers to 'turn their anger over,' 'let go and let God,' 'do a step on it,' or 'make a gratitude list.' All of these are great things to say when appropriate, but often these phrases are code for 'don't feel your feelings—especially anger.' Most recovering alcoholics and addicts are as afraid of anger as anyone else is. They too have been taught that anger equals pain.
An Avoidable Evil
The intellectual person tries to think away his or her feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, fear or anxiety. Most of these people are so cut off from their bodies they wouldn't know a feeling if it bit them on the butt. I should know since I was a classic pseudo-intellectual escape artist. I was always flying up into my head so I wouldn't have to feel. When people asked me what I was feeling, I'd invariably tell them what I was thinking.
Intellectuals think they are too smart to stoop to the level of being angry, because emotions are primitive and illogical. They believe anger is an avoidable evil and should be omitted from any rational relationship.
Caution: Danger Zone
Bill was a client who had been married and divorced four times. When his wives were angry he used to say to them, 'Now just calm down. We can discuss this like two intelligent people. If you don't calm down right now, I'm out of here.' What was wrong with Bill trying to calm them down so they could discuss the matter? The ex-wives just wanted to feel their feelings and express them—it's called communicating. Bill interpreted their normal expressions of anger as a threat, because he associated anger with being hurt. In order to feel safe, he tried to shut down their anger. Bill was six feet tall and weighed two hundred pounds, but when someone near him got angry, he felt as small and helpless as he had when he was a small boy.
Most alcoholics and addicts learned at an early age not to show their feelings. Many men and women are embarrassed by their emotions and avoid displaying them in public at all costs. If they happen to cry in public, they immediately apologize or run for the bathroom until they regain control. Many of the men I've worked with over the last twenty years have said things like my last client, Bob: 'I haven't cried publicly since I was seven years old.' Bob is now sixty-five. Many men have bought the lie, 'Big boys don't cry.' I didn't cry in front of people until I was thirty-three.
Nice Girls Don't Get Angry
Many women are afraid to display anger because they were told: 'It's not nice, ' 'It's not pretty,' 'It's not polite,' 'Angry people are ugly,' and 'Good girls don't get angry.' They have been called 'ballbusters' and 'bitches.' Women have just as much right to their anger as anyone. I repeat, women have lots of reasons to be angry. Hell, they weren't counted as a full person with the right to vote until 1920, and they still get paid two-thirds of what men do for the same jobs.
Alcoholism/addiction, among other things, is rage acted out by people who have been angry for a long time and who have been encouraged not to feel it, threatened not to feel it and, thus, are afraid to feel it. Most alcoholics and addicts have a lot of anger about how different they are, things are, situations are and people are, as opposed to the way they want themselves, others and situations to be. There is a huge space between what we want to be and what is, and that space is filled with alcohol and drugs, people and processes. That space between the way it is and the way we would like for it to be could be filled instead with anger, grief, acceptance and then love. However, most of us, as has been said, were not taught how to express our anger, or how to 'accept' people, places and things as they are. So we drink and drug in lieu of this acceptance, and we may get very pissed off.
The Many Faces of Anger
Anger has more faces than Eve and more personalities than Sybil. Anger smiles at us while seething; it looks nice, forgiving and even sanctified. Anger's face is smeared with the hideous makeup of sarcasm. Out of anger's mouth come racist and sexist jokes and cruel put-downs. Anger is two-faced, tells stories and tales, and gossips behind our backs. Ultimately, our face betrays who we really are and that we are all angry to some degree.
What Addicts do with their Anger
Alcoholics drink away their anger, at least temporarily. If we put enough 'spirits' in the body, we can make ourselves forget we have a spirit. We can make ourselves forget what we have done to our own bodies, what was done to our bodies and what we have done to other people's bodies, not to mention to our souls and their souls. But the pain doesn't go away; it just lies in wait like a crouching tiger but it's really a dangerous hidden dragon. We might be on an airplane when a father yells at his crying child, and we get so angry we want to go tell this terrible parent to jump without a parachute. Hearing that angry parent triggers our emotional memory. Alcoholics will avoid the emotions by asking the flight attendant for some bottles of Jack Daniel's or Smirnoff to tide them over until the baby stops crying, the plane lands, or we get too drunk and numb to care.
Sadly, alcoholics and addicts go to great extremes to comfort and numb themselves—drinking until their feelings fade into the distance, putting substances into their veins until sadness, anger and fear subside—all to keep the pain of their lives at bay.
And what about those folks who don't do crack, smack, dope or blow? How do they avoid their feelings? They fall in love with those who have the disease, marry them and become addicted to them and their bizarre behaviors.
The Angry Spouse, Child and Others who Live with Addicts
Everyone who lives with or loves an alcoholic or addict is a little insane. They have to be for a variety of reasons. If you read the Big Book of AA, you see many reasons why:
1. 'Our homes have been battlegrounds many an evening.'
2. 'We seldom had friends at our homes, never knowing how or when the men in the house would appear. . . . We came to live almost alone.'
3. 'There was never financial security. Positions were always in jeopardy or gone. An armored car would not have brought the pay envelopes home.'
4. 'Sometimes there were other women.'
5. 'We have tried to hold the love of our children for their father. We have told small tots that father was sick. . . .'
6. 'They struck the children, kicked out door panels, smashed treasured crockery, and ripped the keys out of pianos.'
7. 'In desperation, we have even got tight ourselves—the drunk to end all drunks.'
8. 'Usually we did not leave. We stayed on and on.'
9. 'For a while they would be their old sweet selves, only to dash the new structure of affection to pieces once more.'
10. 'A body badly burned by alcohol does not recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.'
These quotes were taken from the chapter 'To Wives and The Family Afterward,' but as we all know now, not only women have to suffer these things. Men have to live with alcoholic/addict wives, girlfriends and same sex partners as well. Whether they believe it or not, have a choice though the children do not. In the chapter 'The Family Afterward' . . . in the Big Book, a 'the sober mates doctor said to us, 'Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.'' This important, life-changing book goes on to say, 'The alcoholic may find it hard to re-establish friendly relations with his children. Their young minds were impressionable while he was drinking. Without saying so, they may cordially [this is an understatement—my words] hate him for what he has done to them and their mother.' This 'hate' may go on for years given the statistical fact that conservative estimates say that 50 percent of all adult children of alcoholics will either become alcoholics or addicts or marry one. More realistic studies say 80 percent.
There are many more reasons for loved ones to be angry that are not really discussed in the Big Book. The highs and lows of alcoholics and addicts keep everyone off balance and uncertain. One minute the addict is echoing the words of addict/guitarist Jimi Hendrix— 'Excuse me while I kiss the sky.' The next addicts are down so low that they feel they will never get up again and agree with the Allman Brothers, ' . . . tied to a whipping post . . . Good Lord I feel like I'm dying.'
With the highs and lows comes the inevitable incongruent behavior. They say one thing and do another. An alcoholic's or addict's words and actions almost never match. Unfortunately, those that were raised in a home of addiction become attracted and involved with people who never seem to follow through. We seem to be driven to be with people who seem 'familiar.' After all, the word familiar comes from the same root word as family.
So children of addicts live with the lies and the broken promises. They see the affairs and they watch those they love slowly kill themselves, all the while never feeling safe. They watch their father's or mother's health deteriorate with liver failure, high blood pressure, overdose and coma. They say, 'I'll never be like them . . . I'll never be like them . . . Oh, my God, I'm just like them,' or 'I have married one of them.' Those who love alcoholics are under constant tension and stress and then develop unhealthy ways to cope with it—usually involving some of the same things their parents or partners use to deal with the repressed rage, anger, sadness and other feelings they are too afraid to feel and express.
Here are a few other ways people avoid anger.
They work seventy or eighty hours a week. The few hours they aren't working they are so tired they can't feel a thing from their heads down to their toes. This kind of addiction can be particularly appealing since it is endorsed by our Protestant, or perhaps simply put, our 'American Dream' work ethic.
Nicotine is the most lethal legal drug on the market today. While not as many smoke away, chew away or sniff away their feelings as they did fifty years ago, many still do. They take a feeling that lives in their chests and put a pack or two a day in there. It's like taking a syringe full of Novocain and sticking it right into the lungs and heart. They won't feel much of anything, until they are dying of cancer. If you are old enough, you might recall seeing people in the movies or on television right after making love reach over to the nightstand for their cigarettes and light up. It looked so relaxing, so cool, so like the thing to do—didn't it? Making love is one of the best feelings a man or woman can have. It is a way to open to the love that surrounds us and enfolds us. However, this love may open our bodies to what feels like too much intimacy, or to memories of other not so pleasant feelings, so we numb it back down to its usual state.
Caffeine is even more available to the public. Starbucks has seen to this, with a caffeine mainlining center on every corner (which I love, by the way). Give us a double shot of espresso and we're not going to feel much of anything for a while. It's legal, tastes good and is socially acceptable—what more could a recovering addict like myself want from a drug? If you should visit any AA meeting in any part of the world you will see a coffee cup strapped to people's sides, at the ready to medicate any feeling that might come up during a meeting. Lovers of addicts and alcoholics love caffeine too, for exactly the same reasons.
Sugar is the other legal 'number' of feelings, and a drug that we Americans eat by the tons. Everything we eat has sugar in it—ketchup, soup, and the obvious pastries, cookies and candy—and alcoholics live for this stuff, as do many who don't qualify. Sugar takes the blues away temporarily and then drops us further down the depression scale an hour later. Sugar goes into the mouth and satisfies temporarily with the sweetness that living with an alcoholic or addict certainly doesn't provide. We start early. Our parents gave us sugar to comfort, console, pacify and babysit us—in lieu of attention, tenderness and affection—because many of them were too tired from workaholism or from paying attention to the alcoholic or addict, which is a full-time job just by itself.
Sex is legal in most states, with the possible exception of my home state, Alabama . Sex addiction is rampant in this country and can numb a feeling in a New York minute. Just like other addicts, sexaholics escape their histories, their present and their future by acting out their obsessions. There are also the love addicts, relationship addicts and flaming co-dependents who depend on pleasing people into thinking well of them to the point of exhaustion. All are angry, sad, scared, lonely, hurting folks, and if nothing else, they are angry at their diseases and all these manifestations of numbing feelings have to be dealt with sooner or later. But in the meantime, what do we do with our anger when the alcohol and addictions stop working and when a feeling of anger comes out in spite of all our best efforts? When traditions and teachings, religions and brains fail to numb our bodies? Anger is expressed inappropriately. We do this by employing one of four styles of rage.
©2007. John Lee. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Missing Peace Solving the Anger Problem for Alcoholics, Addicts and Those Who Love Them . No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.