How I was healed from anger and abuse – and found peace

How I was healed from anger and abuse – and found peace

How I was healed from anger and abuse – and found peace

Rehab and therapy helped Kortney Olson overcome addiction and trauma. This is how she handles her anger issues today as the CEO of a multi-million dollar company.

Kortney Olson01

James O’Gorman/Courtesy of Kortney Olson

We all get angry – for a number of reasons. After all, there are many types of anger. But sometimes all-consuming anger can change your life. Just ask Kortney Olson, 39, a former armwrestling champion, founder of empowering athleisure line GRRRL, and author of Crushing It: How I Smashed Diet Culture Addiction and the Patriarchy. She’s packed a lifetime of experiences into her four decades.

“By the age of 21, I had been raped, diagnosed with an eating disorder and depression, and a full-blown drug addict and alcoholic,” says Olson. Her immense anger led to her lashing out and even being arrested.

But with the help of rehab and therapy, she worked on her anger issues. And she started to heal. Now Olson is the CEO of a multi-million dollar company sportswear company that celebrates body positivity. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic Instagram Followers applaud her message of strength, inclusivity, recovery from addiction and reclaiming what it means to be a woman.

Here she tells her inspirational story. (And here’s why controlling your anger can help you live longer.)

eating disorder

When I was growing up, I was taller than any of my classmates. By the time I reached junior high, I became super body conscious and started counting calories. As the daughter of divorced parents and an alcoholic mother, it was the only thing I could control.

A year before I started middle school, I found inspiration in the form of a tiny supermodel. I had flipped through the pages of Fashion and photos of Kate Moss found. I thought: I want to look like this.

Back then, food was the only thing I could control. Although I was in pretty good shape on the outside—4.0 GPA, student body president, cheerleader, hotter on the saxophone than Bill Clinton—on the inside I suffered from severe body dysmorphia. In high school I dealt with anorexia and bulimia. By my senior year, I was certain I had found the holy grail of weight loss when I was introduced to Speed ​​after DJing our Sadie Hawkins dance. (One side effect of the drug is weight loss.)

Drug addiction and sexual assault

I was to be the first female President of the United States. That has been my ambition since elementary school.

After getting high on meth my senior year, I was devastated that I pissed off all my scholarships. At the time I was so determined to lose weight that I didn’t care. But when the addiction got out of control and I was missing classes and unable to speak in coherent sentences, my favorite high school Catholic tutor called me over.

To avoid my father interfering, I agreed to take a boxing class. This guy, tutored by a former heroin junkie and former Golden Gloves boxing champion, was supposed to be my savior. Lacking the tools to navigate red flags, I ended up alone with this man watching boxing matches on video at his home.

I should be his last world champion fighter before he retires. But instead I was one of the last women he drugged and raped.


When I started college, I started drinking on a daily basis. Unable to let go of the image of being a world-class girl in gloves, I slid into anger and self-loathing. Soon I had my first drink of the day at 10am

The drinking was driven by ego, and then the anger began to flow. Whether it was an 80-year-old woman hobbling down the street in a walker or three grown men in a bar, I challenged anyone who gave me the wrong look to fight. And when nobody was fighting me, I was kicking holes in the wall, pushing over refrigerators, smashing lamps, or knocking over people’s lawn decorations.

Not only did I become violent, I also became sexual. From the grocer to my 50-year-old professor to the innocent lesbian friend who has a deep crush, I’ve slept with everyone and everyone.

get arrested

Because I was cute, charismatic, and a criminal justice major, I could talk my way out of a paper bag. Being white and female probably helped too.

The only time I was ever arrested was after my first DUI at age 19. I had consumed three times the legal limit in alcohol. I also had three other sober roommates in the car. Even though I was arrested, I persuaded the officer to release me to one of my sober roommates.

(Overwhelmed by Anger? Try These 24 Things to Calm Your Mind.)

begin to heal

After my sophomore year, I decided to take a break from college and moved back in with my dad. But with no awareness that I was an alcoholic and an addict – and without any program – I went back to meth.

After many close arrests and deaths, threesomes and muggings, kidney infections and cases of conjunctivitis, I realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I finally went to rehab.

Go to rehab

Going into rehab at 21 helped me release my anger. It was the first time I had spoken to anyone about my rape. By talking to a therapist, I was able to see that it wasn’t my fault. That was the first step in helping me overcome my anger.

Rehab was also the first place I was introduced to the 12-step program of recovery. Although it still took me several tries to get clean and sober after rehab, this introduction to the steps was the catalyst that sparked a new awareness of my childhood trauma, which of course was the source of my anger.

I stayed clean and sober for 90 days before the process started all over again – along with the anger and anger. Eventually, after learning that I was a co-defendant and had four counts of felony hanging over my head, I quit drinking and using methamphetamines for good.

By this point, I had been in and out of 12-step recovery meetings and working through the steps. Unlike my previous lows, which were physical and mental, this time it was spiritual.

Strategies for dealing with anger

In my experience, the best tool for dealing with anger—in my case, a reaction to suppressed trauma—was to put pen to paper. Spending time processing all of my resentments, which were mostly the cornerstone of my anger, was imperative. Without problem awareness there is no problem to be solved.

Most of the time people use substances – or shopping, gambling, sex, eating – as patches. And for most of us, the easiest way to not look at our own stuff is to look at other people’s. That’s why it’s so easy for people to judge other people.

You can’t manage what you can’t see. So, by doing this inner personal work, we can analyze our own character flaws, which we have often acquired in response to feeling hurt, fearful, powerless, or threatened. We can build our own character by reaching out to people we have harmed and asking for forgiveness, as well as forgiving those who have harmed us. There’s no reason to walk around with excess baggage.

Aside from this inventory work, I always make sure to cover the basics of getting enough sleep, eating enough food, and avoiding loneliness — which has been almost impossible in this pandemic.

practice assertiveness

One of the other tools that has helped me tremendously in dealing with anger is practicing assertiveness. As a philanthropist, I often feel guilty when I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. So I would find myself saying “yes” when I wanted to say “no”.

The trick with assertiveness is that it’s like a muscle – the more you use it, the lighter it gets. Just like the first time I did a bicep curl. The weight felt heavy and unwieldy. But after a few sessions and repeating the movement, it started to feel like second nature.

After figuring out what assertiveness is, I would practice saying no at every opportunity. The person at the mall who offers me a free sample. The cashier at the grocery store asks me if I want to apply for a club card. And even the charities are calling and looking for donations.

At first I felt like I was being incredibly rude. But the thought of being talked into buying an overpriced miracle lotion made from Dead Sea miracle corals—and getting angry because I would never use it—was enough for me to overcome my perception.

anger comes back

Luckily I didn’t have any anger relapses. As long as I’m sober, I can work through my resentments on the spot. And because I’ve taken a thorough inventory of my life, there’s nothing left to come up and surprise me.

Anger is similar to black mold. In the dark it will fester and grow. But as soon as we shine a light on it, dismantle it and pull it apart, we stop growing and start cleaning the walls.

Next: Why anger can actually make you happier.

– As Nadine Jolie Courtney was told

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