How War Stories Can Damage Your Recovery

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Imagine this: You miss the bus home after work, so now you have to walk back. You stroll a couple blocks toward your destination only to pass this cool little happenin’ bar that you used to frequent a bit. Being that you’re sober and in recovery now, this shouldn’t bother you. You have no business here, keep moving. Yet something in the back of your mind tells you to poke your head in there. “What harm could it do?” That’s the voice of alcoholism.    

You see many of the locals. Many of the same faces you used to get sloshed with, doing the same thing they’ve always been doing. Doing the same things you were always doing; getting as blackout drunk as possible. Somebody sees you and asks you to join. You politely decline. The first “no” is always the easiest. Somebody else walks up and they both start badgering you. They start reminding you of what it was like and how much fun y’all used to have. They begin telling war stories, tempting you ever more slightly. You smell the suds. The faint stench of alcohol breath. You can even smell the mixed nuts in the bowl on the counter. The last thing you remember is downing your 8th shot as you black out into oblivion.

Back to reality. Sound slightly familiar? It isn’t before long that many of us succumb to the willpower of our alcoholism when placed in situations like this. There are all sorts of triggers and dangers lurking about ready to threaten our sobriety if we allow it. It could be a familiar face, a place, even a smell sometimes that brings us back into that moment and awakens a voice. The disease of alcoholism has a very powerful and influential voice, one that will lead us right back to where we left it all. Doing things that aren’t conducive or even just telling a few war stories can and will absolutely damage your recovery without realizing it.


Trojan Horse War Stories

Think about it, most messes we get ourselves into start off so innocently. Nobody woke up one day and decided they wanted to be a junkie or an alcoholic, but seemingly one day they woke and were. Relapse happens much of the same way regrettably. The disease of alcoholism exhibits itself slowly over time, infiltrating every aspect of things before eventually imploding. This can be before, during, or after sobriety. Sounds like a really high trained green beret. Your alcoholism is John Rambo. We have to be all eyes and ears to make it out alive into sobriety.

Should our lucky stars bless us enough to reach sobriety, know that it’s a never ending job to be kept up with. We can go to Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meetings, have a sponsor, be doing everything right, but it will be the smallest inconveniences that allow the pipe or bottle to touch our lips. Sometimes it’s from trying to do the right thing and just not being prepared for it. War stories can damage your recovery because they have to be a part of your recovery. Recovery takes a lot of recalling the past so not to repeat it.

It’s through these discussions that war stories emerge. Our alcoholic thinking loves to glorify the experiences of our past. Others will tell stories innocently, but we will ruminate of what once was. We’ll convince ourselves this whole sobriety thing was a mistake. 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. It’s the full circle conundrum of trying to learn from the past but getting us sidetracked into missing the past.


War- What is it Good For?

Absolutely nothing! There’s a very fine line between discussing the past to improve your future versus romanticising how high you were that one time. It’s important that in the beginning of sobriety you distinguish those differences before you hear anything you don’t want to hear. It may seem silly, but words can pierce the mind like a hot knife through butter. It can be a very delicate situation for those in early recovery.

There’s a reason we call them “war stories” too. Now for any veterans out there, it is NOTHING like PTSD, but it is best related to the idea of such. Telling war stories in recovery is like the PTSD of alcoholism. So are the other triggers, faces, and places that bring us back to our moments of debauchery. It is these kind of things like war stories that damage your recovery by:

  • Clouding Judgement
  • Helping You Lose Your Composure
  • Second Guessing Sobriety
  • Producing Old/Alcoholic Thinking  
  • Producing Old/Alcoholic Results

Being prepared for the unexpected is how you stop war stories from damaging your recovery.


Allow Recovery to Damage Your War Stories

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. Don’t use inappropriate settings to bring up traumatic experiences. Use your best judgement with the audiences you keep.

War stories can damage your recovery, but if discussed in the right manner there is always growth to be obtained. There is a difference between storytelling and war storying. Storytelling is about truth and understanding. War storying is clouded with pissing contests and harking back to a criminal mentality. 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. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, please give us a call today- we can help, 877-871-3356.


Just Believe Recovery is a fully licensed, Joint Commission accredited, comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment center located in Carbondale, Pennsylvania

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