Revisiting favorite memories is something that everyone will do from time to time. This is a type of activity that people will tend to do more and more as they get older. Spending a bit of time remembering former glories can be highly beneficial; it can even be used as a type of therapy. It can also be the source of a great deal of pleasure. For some people though, it can be dangerous if they spend too much time focused on the past – especially if it involves memories of engaging in maladaptive behaviors. It is particularly harmful for people in recovery to spend time thinking about happy times as an addict; such memories can be a slippery slope back to addicttion.
Those individuals who are involved in a romantic relationship will tend to be focused on the good things about their partner. The object of their affection may have many faults, but these are ignored because of the intensity of positive feelings. Romancing the drink or drug is when people in recovery begin to remember all the good things about their former addiction. The pain and suffering they experienced as a result of substance abuse is pushed to one side. Now they keep on being drawn back to the nicer times when things felt a bit more comfortable. They may remember the early days of their drug use when they felt in control and had fun. Their imagination will fill in any gaps to make these times appear even more enjoyable then what they actually were.
Humans have an amazing ability to recover from traumatic events. When a loved one dies the pain and grief can feel almost unbearable but things get easier as the months and years pass. As the wise saying goes, time heals all wounds. Those who break away from an addiction to alcohol or drugs will have done so because they were suffering a great deal of pain in their life. They may have hit a rock bottom. where they felt willing to do anything to escape their addiction. Their desperation provides the strength to break away from the substance abuse. As time passes they begin to forget just how bad things were.
People are able to completely turn their life around when they escape addiction. They begin to rebuild their self-esteem and become a more functional member of society. As their life improves the memories of the pain of addiction begin to fade. The individual may even begin to wonder if things really were that bad. This is dangerous thinking because as another saying mentions, “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it”. If people forget the pain of addiction they may kid themselves into believing that they can once again handle these substances.
This type of reminiscing is not a harmless activity. Most people in recovery will experience such memories now and again, but the problem occurs when such memories are indulged in. The individual may begin to ponder if things really were so bad when they were drinking or using. They may wonder if they are just depriving themselves of the one thing that brought their life pleasure.
Romancing the drink is usually one of the final stages in the relapse process. Here the individual has become stuck in recovery, and they are beginning to suffer as a result. The sober life begins to feel unsatisfactory. The individual now remembers how alcohol or drugs once allowed them to escape their problems. This type of thinking powers people out of recovery and back into substance abuse.
There are a number of things that people can do to avoid the dangers associated with these types of memories including:
* These types of memories are common in recovery. They are not something to feel embarrassed or guilty about. It usually does not mean that people are doing anything wrong. The individual may have spent many years abusing these substances so there will be plenty of memories from this time. The important thing is to not devote too much time to these thoughts – it is like handling dynamite.
* If people are remembering the good times of addiction they need to also remind themselves of how bad things became. This is the best way to combat such thinking.
* Songs from the past can trigger memories or drinking alcohol or using drugs. It is probably not practical to avoid such music altogether, but people should be careful around these memory triggers. If they are feeling vulnerable it is best to keep away from this type of music – especially if they are already thinking about their drinking or using days.
* If people are bothered by drinking memories it is a good idea to share this with someone they trust. This could be a therapist or a trusted friend. Those who belong to a 12 step group may want to tell their sponsor or share their concerns at a meeting.
* It is important for the individual in recovery to remember where they’ve come from. One way to do this is to stay involved with the addiction recovery movement. Helping others in recovery is an excellent way to do this.
* If people are spending time reminiscing like this it may be a sign that their recovery is on shaky ground. They will need to take an honest look at their current situation and redouble their efforts in recovery.
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