Revisit Painful Memories to Improve Sobriety
Learning how to revisit painful memories can improve your sobriety by cleaning up negative emotions that no longer serve you. Recalling old wounds may seem scary, traumatizing, and unnecessary to some, but my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. While difficult and unpleasant at the time, the discomfort was outweighed by the relief I felt afterward (Unwanted Trauma Memories - How Do You Get Rid Of Them?). It's important to take certain steps during this process to ensure it has a positive outcome. Here are some tips on how to process painful memories to improve your sobriety in 2016.
Why Revisit Painful Memories?
If you think revisiting old wounds does more harm than good, compare your emotional trauma to a physical wound. Small flesh wounds, scabs, and bruises can heal on their own. However, more significant wounds require proper medical treatment, lest they leave scars or permanent damage to your body which limits your physical capabilities. The same is true of emotional trauma. Minor hurts and pains may fade over time, but if you want to genuinely heal from deep wounds, you cannot ignore them. If you make no effort to process the trauma, your emotional health will be weakened and you are likely to turn to external resources to manage your mental health (Self-Medication Of A Mental Health Problem). This is where the rubber meets the road with sobriety.
If you have a drinking problem like me, your first instinct is to drink when feeling sad, angry, lonely, or tired. Unearthing my past helped me understand my fears and
consequently showed me how to live a happier life in sobriety. By developing healthy tools to manage negative emotions, thoughts, and fears, I have liberated myself from the obsessive desire to drink that once consumed me.
Revisit Painful Memories to Identify Growth Opportunities in Sobriety
Make a list of people, places, or situations that have bothered you in the past. Identifying your addiction triggers is the first part of this process. Enumerate specific actions or words that made you want to drink. From that list, evaluate which of your basic needs is threatened. Emotional health suffers when Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is threatened. For instance, a fear of not being good enough at work may be equally rooted in your need for financial security as well as in self-esteem.
If your list includes embarrassing memories as well as bothersome ones, you may benefit from these tips on forgiving yourself for embarrassing drunken behavior.
After Revisiting Painful Memories, Change What You Do
One of my favorite sayings is, "You can act your way into right thinking, but you can't think your way into the right action." It implies that actions are more helpful in changing your outlook than trying to logically convince yourself that you should think, feel, or believe differently than you already do. This is why simply listing your fears is not enough to overcome them. You need to develop new habits in order to improve your sobriety.
Reflect on your list of painful memories and honestly assess what role you played. Did you instigate a conflict or fail to take a necessary action? In some cases you may see that you could have behaved differently and prevented the problem from occurring altogether. In other circumstances, you have no control over the situation, except how you respond.
What behaviors were detrimental and should you endeavor to change in the future? One lesson I've learned in sobriety is that changing behaviors is neither quick nor easy. There is not a universal method of changing learned behaviors, but these Seven Steps To Changing A Bad Habit are a good start.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fredrik Rubensson.
Doyle, B. (2015, December 31). Revisit Painful Memories to Improve Sobriety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, October 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2015/12/revisiting-painful-memories-to-improve-sobriety
Author: Becky Doyle
I agree Becky; it is important to not only re-visit painful memories but also to process and let go of them. Many of these issues are born in family dysfunction. In many cases this is the foundation for alcoholism, so it is important to deal with the underlying issues.