The Missing Peace will be a significant breakthrough that will offer a lasting effect and help men and women deal with the part of recovery that has been misunderstood, misquoted, and just plain missing. The Missing Peace will answer the most often asked questions: “What do I do with my anger?” or “Is it really okay to express it?” and “Can I do so without hurting myself and others without risk of relapse?” The answer is “Yes, yes, yes!” Let’s learn how to say yes to appropriately expressed anger and yes to peace.
I am a recovering alcoholic who was raised in an extended family of alcoholics and drug addicts. I’ve been in recovery for twenty years, but not without a few slips. I have counseled alcoholics and addicts for twenty years. I have also listened to and worked with the people who love them, live with them, can’t live without them, work with them, play with them and are exhausted by them. I have trained hundreds of therapists and counselors how to safely facilitate the appropriate expression of anger. Everyone wants a solution to the anger problem, but many psychologists and therapists are unable to provide one. This book provides the pieces that have been missing from many alcoholics’ and addicts’ recovery programs and thus find the peace we all want in our lives.
For years I tried to erase my anger and achieve this elusive thing called Peace through meditation, prayer and intellect, but these were never intended to make anger go away. They were just ways to bypass my feelings not only of anger, but sadness, grief, loneliness, fear and even love. Much later I learned feelings are meant to be felt, not bypassed or ignored. I tried to convince others and myself that I was above such feelings and didn’t really have them or need them. I was too smart and educated to be angry. As proof, I tried to write sensitive poetry and taught religious studies and meditation at the college level—all the while drinking and drugging and medicating to keep my feelings under wraps and peace at bay. I was wrapped a little too tightly for mine and others’ comfort and safety. I hit my bottom in 1985 and began to learn how to express those long-ago and current pent-up emotions. I wrote my first book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man, which chronicled my personal journey from being “a head on a stick,” as I used to refer to myself, to a man who began to try and heal all that had gone unfelt for so long. I began the long, arduous journey, the extremely long one—the eighteen inches from my head to my heart. What I found along the way was a great deal of sadness,a whole lot of unexpressed anger and ultimately a peace greater than anything I’d ever known. By learning how to release my rage and anger and get it out of my body, I found I no longer needed to medicate it with alcohol or drugs. I finally came home to my body and began to experience the serenity that accompanies being comfortable in your own skin.
All 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 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 them. So they swallowed their anger, stuffed it into their bodies like they were gunny sacks or body bags. Everyone denied its existence or rationalized it away. Some smiled, stabbed people in the back, sabotaged relationships, manipulated, sought revenge, controlled, forgave prematurely, played nice, 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 AA, 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 it doesn’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. Afterwards 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 that 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 two hundred percent of ourselves. It can extricate us from unjust or unholy wars, oust presidents, and help us get M.A.D.D. 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 due to the fact that no one taught us how to express it without hurting others or ourselves. No one can avoid it one hundred 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 they’ve been dead 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 the butt of humanity. 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 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 they’d like to leave. By now most know that family members tend to assume certain roles: “The Peace Makers,” 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 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 Scape Goat,” who carries the sins of the family on its 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 a frustrated parent 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 that has the problem then perhaps it will help them.
John Lee, best-selling author of The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man, has written nineteen books, including his latest release The Half-Lived Life. He has been featured on Oprah, 20/20, Barbara Walter’s The View, CNN, PBS, and NPR. John Lee has consulted and trained prestigious institutions in the clinical environment including The Betty Ford Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic, Guy’s Hospital (England), The Hanley Center (FL), South Pacific Hospital (Australia), and numerous others. John’s work in recovery, codependency, and adult children has positioned him as a leader in the field of addiction.
John Lee M.A. works with people all over the world by phone sessions (678- 494-1296) and Skype (john.lee1951 or johnlee6767). For a limited time there is available a 100% FREE, no-obligation phone consultation for anyone who is interested in doing private work with John. You can chat with John via phone or webcam. The calls are FREE and completely confidential.