Euphoric recall is a term used to describe the tendency to remember only the positive parts of past experiences while forgetting or minimizing the negative aspects, consequences, or difficulties associated with the same event. The incredible twisting and warping of reality convince you that the bad wasn’t so bad and the good was out-of-this-world fantastic.
Don’t Drink That!
Romanticizing the past minimizes the complications and discomforts associated with substance use disorders. Everyone has experienced some level of euphoric recall where you embellish the positives and overlook the negatives. You might do this when buying a car you suspected could be unreliable, or dating someone who you presumed was even more unreliable than the car you just bought. When confronted with reality, most people do not change their opinion. They do something even more mystifying; they justify their original decision. This is especially prominent in substance use disorders where one is capable of mentally drinking poisoned Kool-Aid, convincing oneself it tastes good while overlooking the imminent death at the bottom of the glass.
How It Works
Keep in mind that thinking about the pleasant times is in fact pleasant. Recalling a recent win in a game of cards or sporting event, having an enjoyable and free dinner with friends, or remembering an exhilarating sexual experience are all pleasurable. Why? Because the same part of the brain that is stimulated during a pleasant experience is also activated in recall. This biochemical process allows us to exaggerate the positive, justify the costs, and minimize the consequences, leaving only the sanitized memory fragments behind.
Battling Euphoric Recall
1. Take responsibility and own up to the lingering and difficult consequences that inevitably follow any substance use disorder. Be willing to move on and build a new future rather than keep justifying the past. In this process, throw away the rose colored and the poop colored glasses. Make a rock-solid commitment to viewing the truth with clear vision.
2. Develop a supportive environment. Choose someone who will hold you accountable without finding fault and adding shame. They will help you see the glamourized presentation of your past. Look for someone who knows your history well enough to see where you have rationalized or minimized a few important details (such as DUIs, jail time, the pain of withdrawal, a divorce, lost income, and reputation damage) due to a substance abuse disorder.
3. Skip ahead a few pages and see what lies ahead in this chapter and the next. Playing the tape forward can be help you evaluate the consequences of using again. Reading ahead informs you of the potential heartbreak of a loved one, the damaged relationship of a child, the further loss of income, and the discouraged tone of a probation officer. This information can be used to make positive, conscious choices rather than being led away by the clever marketing campaign conducted by Euphoric Recall. With time, your choices will be increasingly less influenced by euphoric recall and wishful thinking, and more inclined to reflect reality and the truth.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!