Looking back on the past is a common practice that can even be an enjoyable way of reliving pleasant memories or other moments of happiness. However, this practice can be damaging if the memories that are revisited are harmful ones and too much time is spent focused on them. For someone in recovery, this type of reminiscing can be especially damaging because romanticizing past drug or alcohol use can end up leading to a real-life relapse.
What it means to “romance” drug and alcohol use.
A person who was in a romantic relationship will tend to remember only the best moments of that relationship and the pleasant feelings associated with them. Even if their old partner has their share of flaws and there were many conflicts, the memories of the relationship will tend to gloss over all of that. The same occurs for someone who is “romancing” their past drug or alcohol use.
All the pain and chaos caused by their past substance abuse is pushed aside in order to focus on the times when drinking or using drugs was fun. Usually, this will involve remembering the early stages of their addiction when the individual was more in control and comfortable. It’s very easy for a person to minimize or even make themselves forget all the times when addiction wasn’t so fun.
When romancing substance abuse becomes dangerous.
Reminiscing in itself is not a bad thing to do. The key to doing it is being sure not to indulge in old memories to the point where you lose touch with reality and what really happened in the past. Many people in recovery reminisce from time to time and still remain committed to their recovery. The activity becomes dangerous when they begin to indulge in memories and gloss over all the self-destruction that their substance abuse caused.
Soon, they may begin to wonder if using drugs or drinking was really all that bad. They may also begin wondering if they are depriving themselves of a pleasurable activity by remaining in recovery. This is usually one of the final stages before a relapse occurs.
Romancing past drug or alcohol use normally happens when a person feels stuck in recovery. They may feel bored or unsatisfied with their life in sobriety. Oftentimes, they are experiencing problems that they aren’t equipped to handle. They may begin to reminisce about the way drinking or drugs allowed them to escape their feelings or problems.
How to avoid the dangers of romancing substance abuse.
Luckily there are many methods for dealing with this behavior and many ways to get help. One important thing to remember is that romancing past drug or alcohol use is very common and nothing to be ashamed about. Everyone does it from time to time. The important thing to remember is to handle those memories carefully and not indulge in them. Other things you can do include:
-Remember the bad along with the good. try to counter every pleasant memory of drug use with an unpleasant one to remind yourself of how things really were.
-Know what your triggers are. These can be places, people, situations, and even songs from times when using drugs or drinking were fun.
-Talk to someone when memories begin to overwhelm you. A sponsor, therapist, or trusted friend can be a good way to gain perspective.
-Get involved with your recovery community. This will remind you of why you came to recovery in the first place and how important it is to stay involved.
-Recognize it as a warning sign. This could mean that you’re experiencing issues in other areas and need extra guidance.