Painful Memories and Your Sobriety

Painful memories from active addiction can haunt us during our sobriety. And, not just memories from addiction can be troublesome when we’re sober. A great many people who become addicted have had other traumatic experiences, too. In fact, many addicted people first turned to substance use to self-medicate emotional pain caused by troublesome events they couldn’t forget. When we get sober, we can be overwhelmed by those unmedicated memories.

Getting the Right Help

As with any problem, we need the right help to deal with troublesome and painful memories during sobriety, and despite how you may feel, there is always hope and the right help. Getting clear about the trouble you’re having is your first step. Then you’ll be able to communicate well with a professional about the problem and what you need to do about it.

It’s important to identify just what troubles you. You don’t have to ferret out the why’s and how’s of the matter. All you need do is identify your painful feelings and the thoughts that go along with them. This amounts to making a symptom list. Once you’ve done that, you can discuss these issues with a professional who is trained in addiction and mental health issues.

You May Have a Dual Diagnosis Issue

Painful memories, thoughts and feelings during sobriety aren’t uncommon, but they aren’t always just a matter of adjusting to sobriety. Sometimes these symptoms indicate a dual diagnosis problem–a mental health issue that has co-existed along with your substance use. If this is the case, sobriety isn’t likely to resolve that other problem, although it will certainly give you more opportunity to take care of it. You simply can’t make good progress on any issue as long as you are actively addicted. The substance use has to stop and when it does, other issues can become more apparent and more available to intervention.

Painful and distressful memories always suggest the possibility of a traumatic reaction such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. In fact, this is a common dual diagnosis issue among people with addictions. The causes are various, but many people with these dual issues have had childhood trauma such as physical or sexual abuse, witnessing family violence, neglect or abandonment. Other causes can be other adverse incidents such as an accident, injury, serious illness, natural disaster, victimization through crime, domestic violence, sexual assault… Professionals trained in dual diagnosis issues can help you find workable solutions.