Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Anger Destroys

A fellow I knew died around 20 years ago from the effects of drugs and alcohol. At least that's what the autopsy report said.

But I really believe that a lot of what killed him was not substances, but rather his anger. And had I been asked for my input on the report that's what I would've said: that his anger killed him. Every time I was around him and he was halfway sober he was angry. The only thing that seemed to soothe his anger was alcohol, methamphetamines, and once in a while a little bit of marijuana.

And I'm not hundred percent sure of what he was angry about. But I know a lot of it was directed at his ex-wives. Even though he had been divorced from both of them for many years one of his topics of conversation was how poorly they treated him. What bitches they were. How he had never been able to trust women since his divorces. Somehow it was difficult for him to move on with his life after the perceived wrong that they had done him.

When I would suggest that perhaps he would feel better if he would forgive them he would look at me like I was crazy. And say something like he would rather kill them. And when I would suggest that he would feel a lot better if he could realize that both of those relationships were behind him he would examine me from across the table as though I was the one with the problem because I didn't commiserate with him.

One of my strong beliefs is that most so-called bad things that happen to us – while they may be painful – are forgivable. And that they need to be forgiven for our own mental and physical health. Because there is a large body of research out there that shows that anger is toxic.

Usually, around TLC, we find a percentage of people who carry anger with them. And, of course, one way to get rid of our anger is to cover it up with drugs or alcohol. But the problem with getting rid of anger that way is that it is only temporary. We discover very soon – usually when we sober up – that the anger is still there festering in our mind like a cancer eating away at us.

Often in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous we hear people speak about the only way that they were able to get rid of their anger or resentment was to pray for the other person. And it works. In fact that remedy comes right out of the big book and is there for anybody to use and practice in their daily lives.

I have found that when we go through our lives extending kindness and good feelings towards others, that's usually what we get back from them. I remember from the early days of my addiction that my anger always got me in trouble. Being kind to others never got me in trouble and has actually opened many doors for me.

Look at it this way: we only have so many days on this planet and why would we want to waste them on someone who is no longer even in our lives? In the case of being angry at an ex-spouse, we can all look back and remember when we first met this person and they were the most wonderful human being we had ever met. But once we depart from them, all of a sudden they are the source of all our misery and problems.

But the reality is our problems in life are not caused by the problems themselves but in the we we perceive them. We can view the bad situations that happened to us as an educational experience and move on with our lives. Or, we can blame the other person and waste our precious time on this planet, time that we cannot replace, on being full of anger and misery.

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