September 17, 2013

Euphoric Recall in Addiction: A “Built in Forgetter”


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As crazy as it may sound, we all have the ability to “forget where we came from” with regards to active addiction. This is true even when addiction came at great cost to us, and those we love, and may have required treatment in a Boston rehab.  This ability to forget where came from may be the #1 reason alcoholics and addicts congregate together in order to stay well –  to remind themselves of why they are “here” and to reinforce that “our primary purpose is to stay clean and sober, and to help others to achieve the same.”

One would think that after experiencing the devastation and loss of addiction, or spending time in a Boston rehab, the addict would be scared straight from ever returning to such a world.  But the illness of addiction is not so simple and straightforward, and the disease of perception that resides within is one that is notoriously cunning and baffling.

Within the human mind, and especially within the addicted mind, is a condition that is known as “euphoric recall”.  In this state, the mind recollects events that have happened within our lifetime in a way that instinctively protects us from re-experiencing grief and trauma.  Rather than remembering the bad times, we are reminded of the good.

Many addicts with long-term sobriety will describe this by saying, “the further away that I got from my last drink or drug, the closer I was to my next.”  Euphoric recall acts upon our mind like a “built-in forgetter”.  Weeks, months and years pass by, and we remain sober.  We begin to wonder if we were ever really as bad as we thought we were.  Perhaps we weren’t truly addicted.  Perhaps it was just a phase…the spoils and excesses of youth.

But even after years of sobriety, those who fit the criteria as dependent or addicted tend to pick up with their drinking and drugging with an equal or greater severity than where they left off, regardless of how long they have been abstinent.  As we know it, addiction remains a chronic and incurable disease.  Time spent away from active use doesn’t kill the condition.  But continued abstinence does keep it in a state of remission.

As we progress through sobriety, our needs and our values change.  We are confronted with new challenges, new opportunities, and new responsibilities as our lives continue on.  But one thing is certain — no matter what changes we inevitably experience, we always have to take ample time to confront our disease, or it will come back to bite us.

Recovery for the addict means getting the chance to live a happy and healthy life. Remembering “where we came from”, and why we needed recovery in the first place keeps our chances of doing this alive and well.

Written by right-turn

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