What do many of the world's greatest movies such as Star Wars, The Wizard Of Oz, Batman, The Matrix, The Lord Of The Rings and Superman have in common with recovery? They are stories about a character finding a hidden reserve of inner strength to deal with adversity.
The other day I was snuggled on my couch, attending a Zoom AA meeting (thanks to Covid-19!).
I personally knew most of the people lined up in the little boxes on my screen, and because of the laid-back manner of this particular meeting, the talk became a little chatty.
One member chatted about a funny story from her past – the day she hid bottles in the crawlspace of her house just to come eye-to-eye with a raccoon.
Most of us couldn’t help but laugh because we have all been there (Well, not the raccoon part, but the hiding bottles in random spots).
Then, out of the blue, one member said, “I miss those days.”
It stunned me, and I barely heard anything else in the meeting. I was worried about her because I knew exactly what she meant: Those days weren’t all that bad.
I, too, have idealized my addictions to the point where I decided I needed to give alcohol another chance –which led to a year and a half more misery in active addiction.
We all have memories of life before recovery, and most of the time, these memories are ones that make us cringe.
I mean, who wants to remember the destruction, the pain, the hell that we lived through?
It’s important to remember this pain at times, as it is a powerful reminder of why we are sober today and how we don’t want to go back there.
However, over time these bad memories may fade. We are happy with our new lives, and when we look at our past, we experience nostalgia.
The good parts totally overshadow the bad parts to the point that we forget about the deadly reality of our addiction.
What is Nostalgia?
Nostalgia is an emotion defined as wistful or excessively sentimental, sometimes abnormal yearning for a return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.
Nostalgia occurs when we idealize or romanticize the past: we minimize the bad, magnify the good, and lose sight that the bad was really bad!
What Causes Nostalgia?
There are many reasons why those of us in Recovery can become nostalgic about the past:
We want to dwell on the positives because it makes the negatives seem less painful.
We experience triggers that take us back to the past, for example, old friends or an old song.
We may miss friends we used to drink or use with.
We may reminisce about a favorite bar or place where we used to hang out.
We form our identity based on our past to try to make sense of it.
We bond with others by talking about the past.
If we are fearful about the present or future, we may look to the past to feel safe.
If we are dissatisfied with our current life, we may look to the past for comfort.
We can experience any or several of these causes for nostalgia.
Nostalgia by itself isn’t necessarily negative, but when we focus too much on the past and romanticize it to be something it was not, it can be dangerous for our recovery.
Nostalgia and Recovery Don’t Mix Well
Nostalgia can be dangerous for those recovering from an addiction.
When in recovery, we are taught to focus on the present. This is foreign to many of us, but we try to live in the moments, day-by-day.
However, now that we have worked through a lot of that pain, our lives generally get better!
When we remember the “old days,” the pain from our addictions is often overshadowed by the fun we had, the so-called comfort we felt from our drug of choice, and soon, we romanticize our pasts.
We think things like that, “It wasn’t so bad” or “Maybe I didn’t give that drink or drug a fair shot.”
Around 40-60% of people relapse, and often people have feelings of nostalgia beforehand. As we know, relapse begins long before we ever take a drink or drug.
Relapse begins in our minds and can start with a seemingly innocent thought. These thoughts are dangerous and should be combated with the truth right away.
How to Combat Nostalgia in Recovery
The first thing you should do is reach out.
Recovery is a “We” process, and no one has to recover alone!
When you think that you should give your addiction another chance because it wasn’t that bad, you’re not thinking clearly. You’re not thinking about the facts.
Call someone else, whether it’s your sponsor, your support friends, or your family members. Ask them to remind you of what you were like in your addiction.
Tell them what you’re thinking. Listen to what they say.
Then, remind yourself of the negative consequences if you drink or drug again. Make a list and include physical symptoms, mental effects, and emotional effects. Be as honest as you can. Add to your list when you think of something else. Read and re-read your list.
Practice mindfulness and stay in the present. You are living a new life and creating new memories.
Ask yourself, what can I do now that I couldn’t do while I was in active addiction?
For example, you could work on a degree you have always wanted, you could learn to play an instrument, you could spend quality time with your family and friends. The options are truly endless.
Ask for Help and Receive It
Asking for help can be hard, especially these days when many of us are at home due to Covid-19.
However, support for Recovery is essential. There’s no way around it; you can’t do it alone.
There’s a realization these days that too many of us spend too long staring at our phone screens. One aspect of this is that there’s now a generation of children who are feeling frequently ignored by their parents.
But it’s also something many people from their 30s onwards know as well. Just that back then when they were children, it was a television screen or a newspaper.
Frequently when growing up, there was something we wanted to say to our parents, because it was important to us – and yet the barrier was there. So we kept what we needed to say buried inside.
That is never healthy. We all need to feel heard and understood.
Anything we love we give time to…
So not being listened to delivers a harsh message, especially to someone who’s growing up and trying to learn how to navigate this vast world they’ve found themselves in. But this can also continue into adult life.
What is the importance of effective listening?
Being listened to builds trust. It shows that the listening person actually cares. That means you can be as honest as you need to be and say what you need to say.
If someone listens properly to you, it means there’s much less chance of them not understanding what you are saying.
When you’re fully listened to it means the listener is building empathy. This is essential when you are looking for solutions (and actually much more helpful than receiving sympathy).
Not being listened to properly leads to negative emotions such as anger and resentment. Someone with good listening skills avoids this happening. That makes for positive rather than negative feelings – and that means more effective communication.
It may be that children who were rarely or never listened to grow up to become successful business leaders.
They may make presentations to hundreds of people; they may have under their leadership several thousand people.
Although these people at work might dutifully listen to them, there’s something that is perhaps still missing. Because this is just for business matters, when it comes to their emotions, the leader may still have never truly been listened to by anyone.
So there are still many emotional issues they need to express.
Keeping them inside like this can lead to many reactions and behaviors. Some of these are things that the person will deeply regret.
To move forward, they really need to let these out to understand and effectively address them. The first part of this is that they need to find someone who’s a good listener.
That someone also needs to be a person who has experience in these matters. Being listened to in this way by someone like this can be wholly transformational.
What are the qualities of good listeners?
They will always be fully there with you in the room. If there is such as noise from the street or in the building it will not have any impact on their listening skills.
They will show this through non-verbal communication that encourages the speaker to carry on. This is such as maintaining eye contact, sitting still, nodding their head, leaning in and not sitting with arms folded across their chest.
Good listeners will be open, relaxed and yet completely attentive. They will make the right facial expressions at the right time that show they are fully listening to you. They will offer a “yes”, or a “go on” at just the right time. It’s a definite skill to be attentive but not to be in the speaker’s face.
Skilled listeners keep an open mind. Even if they don’t like something you say, they can see it from your point of view without judgement. The skill of having unconditional positive regard like this means you’re much more likely to reach the required resolutions.
They will listen to the nuance of your words and can fully realize what you are saying.
While they will be completely interested, they will know how not to interrupt. But also know how to ask the right questions at just the right time.
The best listeners will be looking as they listen. They will be watching for your facial expressions and body language that all too often can reveal something not said.
A good listener will be sincere. You will know that you have the real person there listening to you. That creates trust.
They are neither planning what to say next nor assuming they know what you’re going to say next.
An effective listener will be accepting of what you say. This means you are then more likely to find self-acceptance.
They ask you if you’d welcome advice before giving it. The same goes if they have an experience they’d like to share that might help you. If their request is refused – which is within your rights – a good listener will not appear dismayed in any way.
Ending the conversation
A skilled listener will, at the right moment summarize the most important parts back to you.
This is not just at the end of the conversation, but also as you go along – and only when you’ve completely finished saying all that you need to say at the time.
Reflecting back what you’ve said in this way will let you know they’re listening intently. It will also reveal anything that needs going over more clearly.
There comes a time though when the conversation needs to end, due to time constraints or when the listener realizes it’s enough for now. A good listener is skilled at this without making it feel awkward.
Then, a good listener will realize when their time listening has reached its final moment. Although this means the conversation and their listening will stop, it’s a skill in itself to know when enough positive progress has been achieved.
They will know you have said enough that now you can go it alone again – with the benefit of all that you have gained from the conversations. With a good listener, you should always feel the experience has been beneficial for the long-term.
Here at Tikvah Lake Recovery, we are very good listeners. For more information about how we can help you or anyone you care about, contact our admissions team today.
The average age of marriage today is 30. Compare that with age 21, as it was in the 1960s, and you will see the steep increase.
Why, though? Commitment.
Most people do value long-term relationships and will even date for years, but marriage may seem so daunting – because of its commitment.
It’s true that initiation is a difficult step, making it easy to procrastinate other important things in life.
Whether it be making plans, finally booking a trip, starting a new job, or cleaning the house – the jumpstart is the hardest.
Talk to gym-lovers, and they continuously say the most strenuous part of the gym is getting there. If you can muster up the motivation to get dressed, drive to the gym, and walk to the entrance, the rest of the experience, including the hours of workouts, flows naturally.
Indeed, the hardest part is turning off Netflix and pulling yourself off the couch!
That first call to action takes most energy.
Similarly, the most natural and easiest action for a car engine is to drive 60 mph on a highway. You’d think that starting the car and accelerating from 1 – 5 mph would be the easiest. It’s not.
Turning the keys in the ignition and starting the engine is the hardest work an engine can do. Once it hits 60 mph, running for hours is smooth and easy.
Will Smith famously tells a story about his skydiving experience. His story begins with the night before the big jump. Nervously anticipating plunging out of a plane the next morning, he tosses and turns in bed, his nerves shot, unable to sleep.
He finally drifts off to sleep early in the morning, and as soon as his eyes open, he remembers what’s ahead and feels sick to his stomach, wishing he could stay in bed.
He musters up the courage, though, and gets out of bed to get ready for the jump. Anxious, he approaches the plane and climbs in. The plane takes off – all is ready for the dive. His nerves are so intense at this point that the instructor counts down and then gives him a little push.
The next moment is the most intriguing part of the story. Will Smith describes how he free-falls through the sky, and his anxiety replaced with relaxation and serenity. Peace overcomes him. Then pure bliss!
In retrospect, Will Smith emphasizes that planning, preparation, and precautions cause fear, not the actual event.
When the scary-falling-through-the-sky comes, we think that’s the point when fear should arise, yet in reality, that’s the payoff. That is the point of pure relaxation, bliss, and fulfillment.
The first steps are the hardest and scariest, but in practice, all is good.
Finally, I am reminded of a personal experience I had in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Aside from being famous for being a vacation spot for the Kardashians, Adam Levine, and Harry Styles, Coeur d’Alene is famous for its beautiful lake and mountain range that surrounds it.
I was visiting a friend from the town who took me to go jumping off a cliff into the lake.
He jumped first, and then it was my turn. Standing on the cliff and looking 30 feet below, I thought of ways to get out of this. I counted down from 10. I stopped at three and then counted down from there. Impossible.
If you count down, you will not jump after you hit one. During the counting, your brain has time to switch into a logic mode, developing convincing reasons against what you are about to do.
The only thing that got me off the cliff was to step to the edge and just jump. I didn’t have the time to spend analyzing the view, planning ahead 20 steps, or convincing myself why what, and how.
I just jumped. That worked.
I then had the amazing experience of falling through the air, crashing into the beautiful lake and most importantly, I did it.
The accomplishment is 100% credited to not counting down or thinking about all the what-if’s — just jumping off the cliff and into the experience without protest.
Starting recovery is like any other challenge in life. It is difficult, and it is a commitment, but it is safe and doable.
If my friend hadn’t jumped off the cliff before me, I might have legitimately believed that the lake wasn’t deep enough, or the rocks would permanently damage me. But he jumped first and came out unscathed. That was the motivation I needed.
Many have gone through the recovery journey and accomplished miracles along the way. Because people have gone on before you and lived (and thrived!), the only way for you to proceed is to jump.
Once you’re in and driving a steady 60 mph, the process becomes smoother. Everything worth having in life always requires work, and unfortunately, the most difficult step is not running or walking but standing up to begin.
Fortunately, once you stand up and take a step, the rest of the process is easier.
Tikvah Lake Recovery encourages anyone struggling with alcohol, substance abuse, or any mental health issues to stand up and seek the right program that will provide them with a smooth recovery process.
We are proud that at Tikvah Lake Recovery, our incredible staff work one-on-one daily with each of our guests (with a max of six at a time) to offer our unique expertise, which allows for a successful recovery experience.
All you need to do is get up. Take that first step.