The Dangers of Romancing the Bottle

Published On 06-April-2020
By Tim Wood

Addiction and recovery is a path filled with a multitude of highs and lows. While recovery is ultimately about discovering and maintaining a better life for yourself, it can be haunted and hindered by past memories or experiences.

As time goes by, we forget the bad memories. Similarly to any love relationship, we tend to focus on the positive memories that brought us joy and pleasure. The same can happen to an alcoholic that is currently in recovery.

It is all too easy to forget the bad memories and focus on the good experiences instead. This is called "romancing the bottle" or "romancing the drink," and comes hand-in-hand with reminiscing about the "good times" that were had when alcohol was a prominent part of their life.

This behaviour can be a highway back to addiction, so it's crucial to recognize when you are romancing the bottle in order to prevent slipping back into alcohol abuse.

Instead, remember how much pain it brought you. Like many romantic relationships, remember the lies, the hurt, the sleepless nights, the emotional turmoil.

Remember why you started rehab in the first place - and the fact that you are most probably looking back at your alcohol-fuelled days through rose-tinted spectacles.

How an Alcoholic Might Start Romancing the Drink

It's easy to get caught up in nostalgia. Even alcoholics have a way of reminiscing the past, and how beautiful it used to be. Chasing that past is dangerous, and it can lead to a relapse in addiction.

Alcoholics think that having a drink can bring those memories back to life; most often though, they find that the bottom of the glass doesn't bring the answer to the problem.

When an alcoholic thinks of those times of mild drunkenness, these memories tend to be the happiest memories. So they start to drink again to relive those sought-after times.

The problem arises when that state of mild drunkenness is not enough, and the drinks start accumulating one after the other. This behaviour can quickly lead towards a downward spiral, causing relapse into bad habits, and the need for rehab again.

Why Memories of Addiction are Dangerous

Everyone has memories - even if they are hazy and disorientated through the screen of addiction. These memories are both positive and negative,  but as well know, the human psyche is a glutton for swaying towards the positive memories and longing for days gone by.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. But for an alcoholic, it's extremely dangerous. Being too caught up in the past is never a good thing, especially when that past is full of bad memories and associated with such damaging habits.

But they often find that it's impossible to experience those memories with "just one more drink". What is done is done, and we can almost never relive those memories of the fun we had with alcohol. It's a slippery slope for alcoholics that can go downhill very fast.

Never Forget the Pain Alcohol Caused

When an alcoholic hits rock bottom, this often makes them determined to swim out of the ocean of negativity and stop drinking. When bad experiences influence an individual too much, this can drive them towards recovery.

But after a while, once the alcoholic is on rehab, they forget these bad memories. Instead, they start reminiscing the past and the good memories of their alcohol consumption. As they say, "time heals", even for the hardest of our problems.

Think of it similarly to when a loved one dies: people need a lot of time to collect themselves and build their lives back to normal. But over time, we forget the bad memories and focus on the positives - and how much we miss them.

An alcoholic can quickly forget the past and the bad things that alcohol brought to their lives. Instead, they focus on all the good nights partying, the new friends they made, the great stories to tell and maybe how they danced the night away. 

10 Reasons You Might Begin Romancing the Bottle Again

Here are the 10 of the most common reasons why we begin romancing the bottle again and relapse.

  • HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. All of these states can lead to relapse. Focus on eliminating or at least, minimizing these factors as much as you can. This might mean sticking to a strict schedule and some good company
  • Negative Emotions. Negative emotions, such as guilt, sadness, anger, or loneliness can be triggers for alcohol abuse and bottle romancing
  • Excess Stress. Too much stress is never good and is especially not good if you're recovering from alcohol addiction
  • Overconfidence During Addiction. If you get too cocky with your addiction, then you can easily experience romancing the bottle. Stay humble and focus on your recovery instead
  • Isolation. If you lose contact with people, you also lose valuable support
  • Exposure to Alcohol. Exposure to places where there's an abundance of alcohol and where it's readily available is not good. You might not resist the temptation, and just a drop of the alcohol can lead you back on the road of addiction
  • Exploring Good Memories. Don't forget how much pain alcohol brought to you, even when you start to get life back into your control again. There were some nice memories, but the bad memories are probably more prominent
  • Celebrating Promotion or Job. It might be tempting to celebrate with a few drinks, but that can cause addiction to come back again quickly
  • Relationship Problems. It's a common fact that relationship problems can cause negative emotions. That in itself can trigger the addiction again
  • Depression and Anxiety. Taking care of your mental illness is crucial during recovery. Drugs for treatment can cause adverse conditions and can lead to alcoholism again

Avoiding the Romance

It's completely normal for the good feelings to start cropping up during recovery. But there are a few things that can help you stay on the right path, and avoid romancing the bottle.

Firstly, accept the positive memories of your life; don't feel guilty or embarrassed about them. But it's also important not to become nostalgic, and remember the bad memories that come with it.

Songs can be a particular trigger of the romance. Try to stay away from the songs that remind you of the "good old days." For many, particular fragrances or colognes can trigger memories of nights out so be careful when you apply these.

Remember to stay in contact with friends and family, and share your thoughts and feelings about the problem. Most importantly, be honest with yourself. If the 'good memories' get too much, don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family or your counsellors to talk through how and why they are on your mind.

Signs You're Heading Towards Relapse

Below we have listed some of the most common signs that indicate you or a loved one is romancing the bottle. As this regression is the first step towards relapse, be aware of the following signs:

  • Difficulty dealing with emotions
  • Inability to manage life's downs, as well as the ups
  • Loss of commitment to recovery
  • Hanging out with drinking friends from the past
  • A change in behaviour
  • A feeling of a loss of control
  • Isolation and avoiding people

Reminiscing or Reflecting - a Big Difference

There's a difference between reminiscing and reflecting; but then again, it's a difference that can have significant implications for your addiction.

Reflecting past memories means thinking deeply about them from a neutral perspective. Positive and negative emotions might crop up, but it's vital to stay neutral and unpack these memories thoroughly.

Reflection is part of your personal progression and it's what makes us realise and learn from our mistakes. Coming to terms with your past behaviours and actions is responsible and shows levels of emotional stability and accountability.

Reminiscing, on the other hand, means interpreting these memories in an overly positive manner. It's an easy mistake to make, and it's a big red flag when we start to reminisce about past memories.

Reminiscing relates to indulging or taking pleasure out of remembering past events. It means applying a form of nostalgia to previous drink-related memories and can include missing old buddies who you used to drink with, reminiscing on the old pubs or bars where you hung out, or reminiscing with fondness fun events that happened with drinking alcohol.

Staying focused and neutrally reflecting on these memories is a big part of staying sober. There is a reason you entered recovery: those memories are not worth risking your life to relieve.

Ready to get help?

If you are struggling with nostalgia for the drinking days, or feel like you are romancing the bottle, contact us now on 0800 111 41 08


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