by Marty Brenner

Alcohol and anger share an intimate relationship, one exacerbating the other. Anger is a natural response to pain and many people use alcohol to dull pain. You may consume alcohol so you don’t become angry, or you might grow hostile only after drinking. Certain drinks, like whiskey or vodka, cause you to lose your cool. Recent scientific studies suggest alcoholics are more prone to feelings of annoyance, hostility and frustration when compared with non-alcoholics.

Humans possess unequal parts of reason, emotion and instinct. When you engage in deep, cognizant thinking, you tend to “turn down” emotion and instinct. Conversely, experiencing extreme emotions, like anger, disrupts your ability to think straight. Alcohol also makes it difficult to think properly because of the way liquor impairs your judgment.

Alcohol washes away your inhibitions. When you are sober, you refrain from speaking your mind or behaving in a certain way because you understand the implications of your words and actions. Reason prevents you from telling your boss that she is an insufferable jerk, for example, because you know you have to keep your job to feed your family. You understand that you must bite your lip because the anger you feel towards your boss is insignificant to your fear of poverty. The sober you would you’re your thoughts to yourself whereas the intoxicated you lets it all hang out. In the example, you may have harbored secret resentment for your supervisor for ten sober years, only to let it all out during a momentary discretion at the staff Christmas party. Reasonable thinking is a barrier that prevents you from making terrible choices.

Alcohol disintegrates this barrier. Your erratic thoughts and pent-up emotions break free from their sober constraint. Drinking impairs your judgment and reduces your ability to make sound decisions. When you drink, you lower the protective barriers and allow your emotions and erratic thoughts to spill out, especially if you experience overwhelming anger. Alcohol suppresses reasonable action and incites emotional reactions. You might be a stoic person when you are sober and only get angry when you drink.

Some people believe they don’t become angry because they drink; alcohol is a shovel used to bury emotions. You may go to loud bars, drink excessively and interact with strangers as a way of forgetting about your anger and pain. “Drinking keeps me from getting angry.” Alcohol serves as an emotional release. Releasing your emotions in this way, however, is not effective because you are not dealing with the root cause of your emotions.

Since anger is a normal response to pain, you feel angry when things go poorly in your life. You need to make reasonable choices to move yourself from a place of pain to a location. Unfortunately, alcohol reduces your ability to make clear decision so the things you say and do while drunk usually bring about even more pain and anger. Alcohol also makes you withdraw from society and grow irritable, reinforcing the correlation between anger and alcohol.

Alcohol and anger are pervasive in modern society; both are seen as acceptable and common reactions to the stress and pain of life. On television or in the movies, you will often hear someone say they “need a drink” after a long day or when they are trying to work up the courage to do something scary. Drinking is more socially acceptable than dealing with your problems in a calm and reasonable manner.

Because anger and alcohol abuse often go hand-in-hand, you may need to seek concurrent treatments for each, especially if you are an alcoholic. Medical professionals help you detoxify your body safely, perhaps in a hospital or alcohol treatment facility. Once you are stable, begin anger management therapy. Your therapist helps you express your anger and resolve the issue at the root of your pain without using alcohol.