We alcoholics are very good at romanticising about the glory days of drinking. After a month of sobriety it’s so easy to forget the hangovers, the financial stress, the bad decisions and guilt. What we prefer to do is dream about the days when drinking was fun. We fondly recall those Christmas sessions where we would eat and be merry all through the day and nothing bad happened. Or how about watching our favourite sports team with a “few” beers – that was so much fun! For me, I still find myself occasionally smiling as I think back on my Friday after work drinking sessions that were epic. At one point in my life, alcohol was actually a positive part of my life.
For those that can drink responsibly, I do envy them. I’d love to be able to have the occasional session with the guys watching a game. Or to have a couple of wines with my parents when we get together a few times a year. But I know that doesn’t work for me. I’ve accepted it and 99% of the time I’m happy about that decision. But when I start reminiscing I need to act fast and shut that thinking down. The emotional part of your brain is powerful and will overcome the sensible logical side of your brain easily.
How I deal with happy drinking memories
In the early days of sobriety I had to cut the mental cues out of my life completely as I was weak. For me, watching sports games with friends had to stop. I simply had too many good memories from that pass-time. To deal with Friday’s, I always had something organised for straight after work at the start of the weekend. For me, it was trail running. I ran hard and I ran long. By the time I got back home, all those positive thoughts of Friday drinks had turned into positive thoughts about how far I’d run. Also, the distance running had created endorphins that made me feel awesome anyway. I didn’t need alcohol.
When you think fondly of past drinking, it also helps to keep it real. Think a little harder and try to relive some of the bad things that resulted from your past bad habit. Were you a chronic midnight text message fiend who would wake the next day and dive for the phone in fear of what you’d done? Relive that feeling. Really think about how you felt in the morning. Play the tape forward from the “fun drinking” and focus in on the end result. Combining this thinking with the distractions I mentioned above has really helped me overcome impulsive drinking that resulted from romanticising drinking.