Remembering the good times…
We all do it, when we look back, we always seem to remember the good times; and those tough times (although remembered) don’t seem as vivid as those happy memories and good experiences. Parents remember those first few toddling steps with greater intensity than those sleepless nights, and we remember the friends and excitement of high school more than we do the social insecurity. It's human nature, and for the most part, it's a good thing. But for recovering addicts or alcoholics, this kind of nostalgic thinking gets us into trouble.
Relapse can happen for any number of reasons, but at the root of a lot of slips are a combination of overconfidence ("I've got this thing beaten now…a few drinks won’t hurt me anymore") and reminiscent thinking. Remembering all of the good times we had while drinking, all of the fun and laughs, and minimizing the negatives. Truly a dangerous mental combination for anyone in recovery!
If you quit drinking or drugging, you did it for a reason, probably a pretty good one. People don’t, as a rule, quit drinking or drugging until the negatives start to outweigh the positives, and outweigh them by a lot.
And while it's true that getting drunk or high with friends, hitting the club or a sharing a bottle of good wine with dinner were sometimes very enjoyable, for those of us with substance abuse problems, there were terrors lurking beneath the surface, and we do well to remember these. Most of us don’t quit until we feel the pains of our addiction. We all have our personal reasons for making a change and change isn’t easy, it usually takes some pretty strong motivation to overcome our using inertia.
What made you stop? Now write it down.
Seriously, if you are in recovery, write down what made you decide you needed to stop. Make a list of the harms that your drinking or drugging was causing, the things that finally forced you to concede of a need for abstinence. And whenever the past starts calling, whenever those good times start to outweigh the pains in your mind's eye, take a look at your list - and remember.
Here's my list:
1…People were obviously losing respect for me, to my face, and that was very painful - especially painful because I knew that they were right to think less of me.
2…I was 60 pounds overweight, looked 10 years older than I was and every day I endured a terrible hangover. I was on pace for an early grave.
3…I was useless for my family; too hung-over in the day to play with my kids, to busy getting drunk at night to help out.
4…My business was suffering. I didn’t have the energy to make it better.
5…My kids were starting to notice what their dad was.
And there's more of course, but that's enough for me. I've got it written down, and whenever I start thinking of the past through rose colored glasses, I just have a quick read of my list (I've got it in my wallet!) and I remember. It's uplifting too! Remembering the truth about how bad things were makes me truly grateful for how things are now – and it keeps me very motivated to never go back to what I was, and what I did.
Don’t fall into the trap. Make a list (and check it twice!) - You are better off now than you were when you were drinking or drugging. Don't get fooled - stay sober, and stay happy.