You have likely heard the expression “the good old days.” People often use this phrase when they are thinking about an idealized version of the past. When it comes to substance use disorder (SUD), glorifying the past can have detrimental effects on your recovery progress.
What Does Glorifying the Past Look Like?
People with SUD may glorify the past by romanticizing or idealizing their experiences with drugs and alcohol. This could include talking about past substance use with nostalgia or exaggerating the positive aspects of the past. For example, they may say things like, “I had some of my best times when using drugs” or “I miss being high.” By glorifying the past, people tend to ignore or minimize the negative repercussions that occurred from substance use.
Glorifying the past when struggling with SUD has two hallmarks. First, it often involves telling positive stories about substance use. For example, someone might talk about a wild party they attended while high and refer to it as “the best night ever.” Second, glorifying the past usually betrays a longing for the pleasure of substance use. This may include discussing how drugs made you feel invincible or gave you an elevated sense of well-being. Discussing the feelings of missing the effects also fall into this category.
Why Does Glorifying the Past Matter?
Glorifying the past with SUD is problematic for several reasons. Most importantly, it can serve as a motivator for relapse. When someone talks about their past drug use in an optimistic light, it might spark cravings for that feeling again. This has the potential to lead them back into using drugs or alcohol.
Often, glorifying past behaviors creates an illusion of nostalgia. This can make it seem like using substances was better than it was. Past glorification can lead to feelings of regret or disappointment when one realizes how inadequate those practices are.
Glorifying the past can prevent someone from fully accepting their recovery. When someone romanticizes their past substance use, it may make them feel like they are missing out on something by staying sober. This makes it harder for them to stay committed to sobriety. It may lead to feelings of resentment toward the new freedom they’ve achieved at Dream Recovery.
How to Avoid Glorifying the Past
If you find yourself reminiscing about substance use, there are several techniques you can use to counteract these feelings. Use the following techniques to look at the past in a realistic light that encourages your sobriety.
#1. Remember the Negative Consequences
It is important to remember the negative outcomes of substance use and reflect on where it leads you today. Remind yourself of times when substance abuse caused harm to yourself or others, damaged relationships, and put your health in jeopardy. Doing this helps reframe your thinking and reminds you why you decided to get sober in the first place. If you are court-ordered to seek treatment services, think about how the use of substances has led you to legal complications.
Dream Recovery often encourages our clients to look at the positive aspects of their life, rather than reflect on the negative. However, this is a situation where dwelling on the negative effects can be beneficial. While there were positive moments from substance use in the past, chasing that high will only dig you into a deeper hole.
#2. Surround Yourself With Positive Influences
The people you surround yourself with can have a strong impact on your mindset. Surround yourself with people who support and understand your sobriety and goals. Attend support group meetings, connect with a sponsor, and utilize your therapist at Dream Recovery. By doing this, you can create an understanding community of like-minded individuals who will motivate and encourage you to stay on track.
#3. Practice Gratitude for Your Progress
Focus on the benefits that have come your way since you started treatment and refrained from substance use. Reinforce feelings of gratitude by taking time each day to reflect on all the good things in your life since sobriety. You may find that you have improved your relationships, improved your health, and developed a clear state of mind. By focusing on these positive aspects and not glorifying the past, you will shift your perspective and prevent glorifying it in the future.
#4. Create New Positive Experiences
Instead of trying to recreate the same memories you had while using drugs or alcohol, create new ones. Find new hobbies, explore different foods, or discover new places. These will be memories that don’t involve substance use and help you lead a more fulfilling life in sobriety. When you can find joy in recovery, you are reminding your body that you don’t need substances to live a life of pleasure and meaning. This is a big step toward building a life you won’t want to escape.
#5. Stay Committed to Recovery
This includes being honest about the adverse outcomes of past substance use. It also means accepting that there is no such thing as a “good” experience when it comes to drugs or alcohol.
By being honest with yourself, you can identify your current dissatisfaction and address it without turning back to alcohol or drugs. Keep your commitment to recovery strong by reframing your thoughts around substance use.
#6. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of being present at the moment and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can become more aware of when you’re glorifying the past and redirect your thoughts toward something positive. Mindfulness can help you to cope with stress and negative emotions more effectively, decreasing the likelihood that relapse will occur.
#7. Set Realistic Expectations
Finally, it is essential to set realistic expectations for your recovery. Sobriety is a journey, and there will be ups and downs along the way. Don’t expect happiness all of the time. By setting realistic expectations, you can avoid feeling disappointed or frustrated along the way.
The next time you catch yourself glorifying the past with substance use, take a moment to reflect on the negative consequences that came with it. Remember that the “good times” were often fleeting and came at a cost to your physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. Focus on the present and the positive steps you’ve taken toward recovery. By avoiding the glorification of past drug use, you can embrace a healthier and happier future. To learn more about what it means to glorify the past, why it is important to refrain from it, and the techniques you can use to overcome this mindset, reach out to Dream Recovery at (657) 216-7218.