Getting stung by a bee. Having a car run over your big toe. Falling out of an airplane. There’s many a thing in this world that can be detrimental to us if we allow them, yet in the same breath, we can’t avoid life for these reasons. Nobody wants to be the boy in the plastic bubble simply wondering about the understandings life has to offer. Most of us would rather walk out that door and face the good and evils the world has to offer as we resist and succumb to life’s experiences. Through this process, we make a lot of mistakes. For us addicts and alcoholics like myself, we make a lot a lot a lot of mistakes- most of which we repeat over and over without learning a thing. THAT IS until we hit our lowest points- the rock bottom. Some of us are fortunate enough to make it onto the rescue boats of recovery, but sadly some figuratively watch the women and children go first but decide to go down with ship even though there were extra seats.
So when entering recovery the saying goes, “If we do not catalog the past, then we are doomed to repeat the future.” So we have to acknowledge the life we lived, but at what point does it start to be more harmful than helpful? Our alcoholic thinking loves to glorify the experiences and turn them into war stories often. We know that what we were doing was ruining every aspect of our lives, but despite that, we still reminisce about the scarce good times and laughs that were provided. Why??
In the beginning of our usage, it was all fun and games. The good times were rolling and none of the premonitions were bombarding yet. If only it stayed that way for longer. Once it all falls into hell in a hand basket, it’s either time to except hell or grow past it. So we get clean and enter recovery and start over. Most of us commence this at a very low point in our lives and it’s natural for addicts and alcoholics to look for things that make them feel good. I mean, who doesn’t like to feel good? It’s kind of a silly question. Ideally, though, we find people in recovery who are doing the next right thing and we latch onto them. This is where things can get tricky.
In Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, we are told to find sober supports and begin working the 12 steps. Through these steps, we’re supposed to be recounting the past and trying to understand why things turned out the way they did- in a nutshell at least. It’s through these discussions that war stories emerge. We start telling tales of what we did and what we went through, but our addiction convinces us of how much fun we had doing them. That’s what our alcoholic thinking does. Trying to learn from the past gets us sidetracked into missing the past. We miss and ignore what we were supposed to learn, and in a different sense, we miss what the excitement our use brought us. It’s like that of a relationship with an ex. That person became an ex for a reason, but we ignore those thoughts and focus on the “good aspects” of that relationship. Telling war stories can set people back from a good head space and put their mindset into relapse. Relapsing always starts in the mind before the physical act of getting high or drunk happens.
There’s a thin line when attempting to bring up the past of a person who is trying to improve their future and the discussions that unfold. It can be a delicate topic, specifically for those in early recovery. There’s a reason it’s called “war stories” even though it has to do with this mental disease rather than that of actually going into combat. Addiction is our terrorist- our enemy. As blatantly obvious as this is to us, it’s like we develop Stockholm Syndrome and begin to side with our captors. Addiction kills loved ones and ruins so much, but through war stories, we tend to remember addiction as a friend once upon a time. Well, we remember the fun in usage but we quickly disregard all the misery that created our alcoholism and addiction.
Then there’s the way of looking at war stories in the fact that they create their own PTSD for the addicts and alcoholics. There are many forms of trauma and they don’t have to relate to being in the service at all. Often times, people bury things and try to forget about them as they move forward with their new lives. Therapy, of course, is the recommended outlet, but bringing up traumatic experiences without the right setting or outlet is enough to take us back to the booze or glass stem we used to love sucking on.
That all being said, it’s vital to remember that it’s all about how you handle every situation you find yourself in. War stories can be harmful, but if they are discussed in the right manner, then there is always growth and knowledge that can be attained from it. There is a difference between storytelling and war stories. Storytelling is about truth and understanding. War stories are clouded with pissing contests and harking back to criminal activity. As long as we can draw that line in the sand, we know when the stopping point is and can better ourselves while reliving some of the memories.
Don’t Be Drafted Back Into Misery
War stories can be harmful, but if you don’t make it out the war of addiction/alcoholism, there won’t be any stories to tell. This disease of chemical dependency never loses its strength, so it’s on us to become stronger than it. It’s on us to learn from those mistakes and make it out alive and well. If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency and are ready for help, please call 1-800-481-8457 or visit oarcstaging.wpengine.com. We are ready to give you any suggestions possible and set you, your loved one, or any other addiction-battling troops on a path of freedom and joy away from the shackles of our alcoholic thinking.