It’s okay to smile about the past, but just leave it there.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
First of all, I want to say that this advice is NOT for everyone.
There are some individuals who had such a tumultuous relationship with alcohol that thinking of anything about the past as fun or exciting could put them at risk of relapsing, and there’s nothing good about that.
However, this is aimed more at the individuals who drank for a period of time in their life and have just decided that it is time to graduate and mature to another stage in which alcohol is no longer an inhibitor of their success and growth (relate to the tagline of this publication…The MEDS…Movement to End Drinking Stagnation).
This article is for those individuals who don’t see alcohol as something that ruined their lives but instead view it as a stage of their life from which they’ve graduated.
For those people, I say to not shy away from your previous life and act as if alcohol was the worst thing ever created. Instead, embrace it and remember the good times while comparing it to your life today in its rawest form to understand why the present life is so much better.
There are a number of reasons why this is a healthy view that increases the chances you stay sober in the future.
Life isn’t about regrets
This one hits hard for me because it’s just one of my personal philosophies on life.
There are so many mistakes we will make in our lives that to dwell on what you got wrong has always seemed to me like a monumental waste of time.
Now, I do believe in analyzing your mistakes, digging down to the core of what made you make certain decisions, and then figuring out a way to prevent yourself from making the same mistake in the future.
But overall, the feeling of looking back on the past with disdain and despair usually doesn’t help you in the present or the future.
When I think about all of my drinking days, I just walk through where I was in my life and what was my faulty thinking at that time.
This analysis actually helps me to identify underlying themes and thought patterns that could lead to me making similar poor decisions but in different areas, so it helps prevent other mistakes in the future.
When I think back to all the fun I had in life during my drinking days, it brings a smile to my face because there was a lot of fun involved, and remembering the good times about our past is one of the things that makes the living of life enjoyable as we age.
If we decided to relate all of our past alcohol experiences as colossal mistakes that ruined our lives, then we could be talking about a large portion of time that could only bring sadness and regret to our lives.
And while there should be instances that we are ashamed of and would never desire to duplicate, that doesn’t mean that ALL of our previous memories involving alcohol should make us sad.
Instead, we should remember the fun and good times, while still learning from the mistakes to make sure they never happen again.
You can compare how much better your life is now and how lucky you are
Another positive aspect of remembering the good times from your previous drinking days will allow you to compare it to your life now and recognize how much better it is long term.
By honestly looking at all the fun I had during my previous drinking days, I am able to truly compare it to my life now and say that, while that was fun, the more subdued life that I’m living now is just as enjoyable and happier — especially long term.
When I think about how many crazy and ridiculous things I did in the past while drinking, I am also very fortunate to have come away from that without any major issues that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I think about how different my life could be if I had made different decisions and honestly count my lucky stars across the board, as I think about all the terrible decisions that I made that I was able to walk away from.
Thinking about your previous days with some fondness doesn’t mean you are romanticizing them, but it does mean that you acknowledge that there were some good things about that life that you enjoyed, and yet you STILL choose the life that you have now because it’s better.
By not demagoguing your previous life and admitting it was fun, you actually give more weight to the happiness you are experiencing in your current life because you‘re not sugar-coating the comparison by denying that as a fact.
It’s just being real
Let’s face it.
If you are talking to someone who is currently drinking and instantly begin to talk about how terrible your life was when you were drinking and how you were at the bottom or close to rock bottom, then many people are just not going to relate because they are going to feel that their life is nowhere near that.
However, if you let them know that yes, drinking was very fun for you.
And yes, you had a very good time with a lot of good stories during your drinking life.
And no, you didn’t have a major “come to Jesus” / your life was in shambles moment that made you decide you HAD to quit drinking.
And yet despite all of this, you STILL decided drinking was no longer something that served you long term.
Now, you can unequivocally say drinking was not helpful for you long term, held you back from growing and prevented you from reaching your ultimate potential for success while still acknowledging that your previous life was fun.
These two things do not have to be mutually exclusive.
This type of straight-up real talk will resonate with more individuals who enjoy drinking now than an across-the-board denial that life while drinking wasn’t enjoyable.
By opening up and sharing this truth with people, you not only help solidify your decision to remain alcohol-conscious to maintain the growth and gains in your life you’ve experienced from making this decision, but you’ll also get more people open to thinking this might be a decision that could be as equally good for their lives as well…which is what we try to accomplish here at AINYF every day.