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 convinces 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. It is both common and problematic for you as you move forward in your recovery. Everyone has experienced some level of euphoric recall where you seem to 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 suspected was even more unreliable than the car you just bought. When confronted with reality, most people do not change their position or opinion. They do something even more mystifying; they justify their original decisions. 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 a pleasant and free dinner with friends, or remembering an exhilarating sexual experience are all pleasurable. Amazingly enough, this can be even more pleasant than the real event. 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. The danger here is that this progression could eventually undermine forward motion, amplify the benefits of using, and minimize the penalties of relapse. This cycle can keep you trapped without you even realizing the danger you are in.
Battling Euphoric Recall
1. Take responsibility and own up to the lingering and difficult consequences that inevitably follow any substance use disorder. Looking backward in time to a previous breakup, past sexual abuse, examples of unfair treatment, abusive parents, depression, anxiety, poverty, and too much TV can all help you understand why you are where you are. But it does little to move you forward to where you want to be. 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. Treatment personnel and sober friends who have been there before can help you identify and steer clear of potential pitfalls. Additionally, they will help you see the euphoria emerge in your presentation of your past. Look for someone who knows your history well enough to see where you have neglected 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 a valuable method to 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. Reading ahead is also the best way to reinforce the clear headed, realistic, and positive choices you have been making recently. 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!