Why Do Recovering Addicts Tend to Be Quick to Anger and Irritation?

Updated on August 05, 2019
N.G. asks from Fayetteville, AR
7 answers

I have one in my life where any issue sets her off. She’s 60 and very argumentative but can then be charming on a dime. It’s exhausting

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So What Happened?

B, thank you so much for that analogy. That seems to be it!!!!! ETA: I never said what the relationship is because that is not significant to the issue. But, I spoke to her sponsor finally this weekend and she agreed that anger is a common reaction and to not buy into arguments.

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answers from Norfolk on

You need to understand how addiction works.
They have a dependency and their body craves the addictive substance to function - it provides the body with what they need to relax them, make them feel good.
Getting use to doing without that addictive substance is like having a constant itch on your nerves that you can't scratch.
Eventually that dependence will go away and they will feel better.
But until then they are going though heck and they don't have a lot of patience.

Just cut her some slack and encourage her - tell her you think she's doing a wonderful thing and she'll eventually feel so much better.
She's using arguing to try to distract her from feeling miserable.
You can just not engage in any arguing.
If she says anything to pick a fight - you just say 'Ok' and let it go.
Don't take any argumentative thing she says personally - it's the addiction talking and you don't care about anything it has to say.

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answers from Boston on

I think it helps to see addiction like any other chronic illness: chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, depression, trauma and PTSD. Addiction can happen because of any on of those things, or some of those things can be the result of using narcotics or other substances. Would you be understanding of someone in terrible back pain and realize that they have crappy days and say mean stuff? Would you be sympathetic to the returning soldier who has seen unspeakable things and lashes out?

I also think you've made a generalization that recovering addicts "tend to be" anything at all. How many do you know? How many have you worked with or studied? It may be that the few you have known have also had anger and irritation, but that doesn't mean there's a direct cause/effect.

In any case, your friend is struggling with more than you can imagine. Either let it go, or spend less time with her, at least when she's feeling poorly. You could also get into a support group like Al-Anon to learn from others in your situation how to cope, and what to say/not say.

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answers from Portland on

B explains it really well from what I know.

Here's another thought - people who tend to have personalities where they are prone to anxiety/depression etc. in the first place - can become addicts. Not all of course, and they often have other stuff going on, and it can run in families.

There's an addict in my husband's family for example. On that side, the family suffers from some mental illness, we're talking anxiety and depression - but it's not the typical kind from my experience. They lash out, feel like victims, blame others, then are kind .. pattern. It's toxic. They have all been addicted to something.

Just as example, think of the smoker who needs a cigarette, who gets antsy because they need a smoke break. Most just become jittery. The odd one becomes testy and irritable and takes it out on others. Those are the ones who will regardless (personality). It just seems worse because add in the dependency.

That's just been my experience. May not be the case with your person.

Again, I would show patience and understanding but definitely don't 'take' it. You can walk away and have boundaries and it's a good thing for all concerned to let them know it's not ok.

ETA: Diane makes a really good point. It's not fair to generalize, and I don't mean to. I just read an article on opioid use and how it's more common nowadays to die from opioid/pain medication overdose than a car accident (think I read that in the latest Oprah magazine). It does no good and isn't fair to be judgmental .. it is an illness or a health condition and we need to view it as such - if we're ever going to be helpful and supportive and change things going forward. I need to remember that too.

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answers from New York on

I'd be curious to know if she is "self-recovering" or using a program. Folks who just stop using are known as "dry drunks" and will continue to exhibit anti-social behaviors because they haven't received the needed treatment that shows them why they became addicts, to take responsibility for their actions, and to make amends to those they have hurt. They are basically addicts who currently aren't using.

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answers from Washington DC on

because their bodies and minds are recovering from an addiction.

it's not a freakin' cakewalk.

yes, it can be difficult to live with and inconvenience their loved ones at times.

but it beats the hell out of having them addicted, no?


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answers from Washington DC on

Maybe she drank/used drugs to self medicate because of the anger within her?

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answers from Chicago on

Not sure how you are connecting anger/irritation to an addict in recovery.
There are a lot of reasons people are quickly anger and/or irritable that have nothing to with addiction.
Maybe it’s you or something you are doing?
Why not ask that person?
Internet does not have the power to read minds......

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