When we first come into the program, the only thing we really know for sure is where we came from, and what got us here. I have heard speakers that would come into treatment, and tell us about all of the horrible things they had done before they got sober too. It always made me feel antsy and anxious. Although reliving the bad times reminds us where we have been in our addiction, war stories in sobriety can actually cause more harm in the long run.
Meant to Relate, Not to Relive
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that when we are working with a newcomer, it might be beneficial to describe some of the trauma of our past, in order to relate with them. For many people who are not yet sober or who are just becoming sober, they may not think themselves as a real alcoholic or addict. The purpose of retelling war stories is to allow the newcomer to identify their own previous behavior to that of someone who has recovered.
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That being said, once the newcomer has admitted their powerlessness, the war stories should cease, and the focus should be put more on recovery. The purpose being that once said newcomer has a little time in sobriety, their own message of hope might inspire an entirely new newcomer, and so on and so forth.
Granted, once we all get a little time under our belt and work our steps, we begin to be able to look back at our old life with acceptance. Sometimes you will hear a speaker tell a funny anecdote of how foolish they used to be. They can laugh about it, and so can we, but in the end, they close their story with a message of hope, and how they got to the point they are at now.
Why are War Stories in Sobriety Harmful?
Plain and simply, for some people, the wounds may still be too fresh. If someone, two weeks into sobriety, walks into a meeting and only hears tales of old horror stories, they are going to doubt that this program works. It is going to almost romanticize drinking and drugging, and a lot of times, that person will walk out of the meeting feeling worse than they did before.
We suffer from addiction, cunning, baffling, and powerful. Even if the horror stories we hear are extremely gruesome and unappealing, our addictions are so powerful that we can twist the message into an invitation to do it again. Or, we can think, “Well I was never THAT bad, maybe I’m not really an alcoholic/addict.”
Early Days of Sobriety
For most of us, we have a hard enough time staying sober in the early days of our recovery. We begin to only remember the good times we have had in our drinking and drugging days, and forget how we hurt ourselves and others. On the other hand, we can remember all of the bad stuff, and feel such guilt that we only want to get high. Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, know that it will stop. All we have to do is take action in our program.
Protect the New Sobriety from the Old Addiction
Okay so now that we know war stories are harmful to sobriety, let’s find out what we can do when we find ourselves reliving them.
- First of all, talk to your sponsor. Tell them how you are feeling, and ask what you can do.
- Pray to your Higher Power to remove the thoughts from your mind. It sounds silly but it works.
- “Move a muscle, change a thought” if you are sitting in stinking thinking, do something else, go outside, do some chores, go get coffee, go to a meeting.
- Play the Tape. Remember the consequences, imagine what would happen now, and then call a sober support.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself for thinking this way. We all have done it, and it isn’t permanent.
- Thank God for keeping you sober today.
Remember Instead Why You Are Here
When the painful or funny memories come back to you, remember that you are no longer that person. You made a decision to start a new life, and the day will come where you no longer even recognize that person you were.
Today you have the power to choose what you think. You no longer have to suffer the endless loops of painful thoughts that used to run through your mind. You have a way out. Use it.
The 12 steps provide us with tools to combat our old way of living. If we don’t like how we are feeling, we have the opportunity to change it. The best part, we aren’t alone.
Go to a meeting, pay attention. Listen for words of hope. If the meeting sucks and it’s all war stories, raise your hand and share a message of hope and solution! There is nothing wrong with taking over a meeting and putting it back on a positive track. Chances are, someone else felt the same way as you but was too shy to do anything about it.
As members of our fellowship, we have an obligation to uphold a safe place for newcomers to come and get sober. We are responsible for creating an environment of recovery, so that anyone who feels the way we felt, can feel the way we feel now. Everyone who is struggling deserves a chance to recover. We are responsible to share our strength and hope so newcomers will want to stay for their own.
Romancing and sharing war stories is harmful to sobriety, not only my own but for newcomers around me. I vow to try to bring light to the dark places for others and understand that reliving the past may not be the way to do it.
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Freedom From Addiction
If you have found yourself suffering in addiction, you are not alone! If you are ready to change your life and live free of addiction, then FindAddictionRehabs.com can help. We give you the jump start to recovery as well as teach relapse prevention including learning healthy outlets in sobriety . Our program is unique in that it doesn’t just treat the addiction, it treats the whole person. For more information on our program, call 1-877-959-7271 today.