Addiction Recovery and the Nostalgia Trap

It’s part of human nature to sometimes feel wistful – looking back at the past through rose-tinted glasses and wishing we could go back. Although fond memories are an essential part of the human experience on God’s earth, they can be extremely dangerous to someone in addiction recovery

What Is Nostalgia?

Even if you’re not too familiar with the word, you’ll definitely know the feeling. Nostalgia is typically defined as a longing for some time in the past. Rather than a simple memory, nostalgia tends to paint a warmer picture of times gone by, often distorting past situations and idealizing them. Remember things as better than they were is an almost universal trap we all fall into but, for many of us, it’s typically harmless.

Why Is It Dangerous During Addiction Recovery?

When it comes to addiction recovery, however, nostalgia can be extremely dangerous. Many former addicts find themselves falling into the trap of looking back favorably on their old addiction days. This is especially common during the actual recovery process before they begin to truly get clean – the warmth and familiarity of their substance of choice appears even more appealing with they’re suffering through withdrawal. When it comes to nostalgia, bad memories often exist in a blind spot, which makes it difficult to remind the addict, or former addict, of some of the steep downsides of their addictions.

Avoiding Nostalgia and Making New Memories

But how can you avoid nostalgia during addiction recovery if it’s such a regular fact of life? It can certainly be hard work, but with the right mindset, the right support network, and the guidance of God, a recovering addict can refocus on what really matters in their new life.

Forming new memories is an important factor in combating nostalgia for the days past. The first and most obvious way to do this is to try new things. From taking up exercise to combat withdrawal and temptation, to going all out with skydiving, or just joining a local church group to socialize, any new hobby or experience offers a way to make new memories.

A more challenging but potentially longer-lasting way to tackle nostalgia is to return to familiar places from those addiction days, but use it as an opportunity to make new memories. Obviously, we don’t suggest hanging around where drugs or substances were bought or taken – but places that were associated those times visited with supportive friends and family can be a great way of confronting and overwriting memories of those days. The key thing to remember is to always go with support – friends and loved ones who don’t want to see you fall back into old habits.

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Recovery: Our Process

At Adult & Teen Challenge, we have been guiding students through addiction recovery for over 60 years. We offer a Christ-centered approach, helping our students discover and triumph over the underlying causes of their addiction and find the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact us today.