One obstacle to recovery is something called “euphoric recall.” Euphoric recall is the term given to remembering what it felt like to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. When we remember the highs, we want to experience them again. Drugs and alcohol fool the addict’s brain into thinking drugs are necessary for survival, so we often crave drugs the same way we crave food or sex, especially in early recovery.
Euphoric recall is the reason we always want to get high just one more time. We remember how happy and carefree we felt under the influence. We especially remember the way it affected us when the drugs were first kicking in. If we think in detail of the effects of drugs and alcohol had on our bodies, the actual sensation of the drugs taking hold, it can be possible to work ourselves into a frenzied craving. Nostalgia for drug and alcohol use leads to obsession.
For example, I was a big pill-popper. The best part was right after I took the pills and was waiting for them to kick in. I knew I was going to feel great soon, so my mood was always lifted in anticipation of the high. When I think about those 30 or so minutes, I crave to feel it again. The craving can become overwhelming. I simply can’t allow myself to dwell on those memories for too long.
This is where we absolutely must practice something called “thought stopping” if we want to get clean and sober. Thought stopping is not allowing ourselves to indulge upon our memories of drug and alcohol-induced euphoria, no matter how irresistible they might be. This can be an uncomfortable concept. I am telling you what you should and shouldn’t be thinking. We’re accustomed to having complete sovereignty over our own thoughts, without consequence. What happens inside our heads affects no one, so long as it stays there, right? You might be asking yourself, why can’t I think about what I want to? As long as I’m staying clean, it doesn’t matter if I’m thinking about drugs and alcohol. But you won’t be merely thinking about it… you’ll find yourself obsessing over drugs and alcohol if you entertain these thoughts for too long. And then it’s only a matter of time before you act out on those urges. While you always will have sovereignty over your own thoughts, if you want to recover, you need to realize that thoughts do indeed have consequences.
So, what do we do when we find ourselves romanticizing the highs we used to experience? We must find a way to distract ourselves. Call someone, go to a meeting, read a book, listen to music, watch some TV, pray, or meditate. You absolutely must find a way to stop euphoric recall. The longer you indulge in those memories, the more you’ll crave returning to active addiction. As I wrote in a previous blog post in coping with cravings, try attaching pain to drug use. Every time you remember the high, remember something you lost from your addiction. This will train your mind to associate drug use not just with good times, but with bad ones, so we can actually learn from our mistakes.
Euphoric recall is an unavoidable sensation to every drug addict and alcoholic in recovery. But with practicing some thought stopping, and finding new ways to focus our attention elsewhere, it doesn’t have to lead to relapse. Like cravings, euphoric recall with fade with time in continued recovery.