Nostalgia = old pain


Thank you to Fiona swan for the article at the end and for letting me know that ”Nostalgia comes from Greek for”old pain”. Do you really want that back??? ”


Hello, hope all good with you. Went to the beach directly after work tonight. I find that it breaks up the transition from getting in and settling in, if that makes sense; stops the wired feeling from being quite as bad. While walking along the sand I realised that this holiday coming up will be my first ever abroad where I don’t drink every day, from early afternoon onwards, well into the night.

The lure of outside drinking, restaurant drinking, beach drinking, pool drinking,drinking while barbecuing, drinking while watching the sun go down, drinking with friends around a table in the dark with just a candle flickering, drinking after a long day sight seeing, drinking while sight seeing, drinking on a boat…oh my.

No idea why the full extremity of doing all those things with a drink on board has hit me this evening, but it did. I am not going to lie and say that when my hub talks about getting a bottle of Mythos and sitting with it on our balcony it doesn’t make me feel a massive swish of nostalgia. It really does.

I am working really hard at the moment to deal with the nostalgia and the false recall really of what it was actually like. The hangover, the waiting to drink, the thirst and headaches, the money (very much so), the poorly tum and shattered looking face in the mirror, the shaking hands, the dumb things that are said and done.

We do have a tendency to remember the good bits and forget the real reason why we decided drinking is not a good idea. Going on holiday abroad will be my biggest test to date and with this in mind I am being especially vigilant in my thinking processes and remembering that even at two years, I am still as vulnerable as anyone else. Addiction sets us traps and it doesn’t matter how far into recovery we are, we are still at risk.


Danger of Nostalgia in Recovery

Benefits and Dangers of Memories

Memories of the past can be like old friends. This is why people like to keep photographs from the childhood and listen to the same music they enjoyed during their school years. Such memories can remind the individual of a time when life felt easier and when deceased loved ones were still alive. Life would be far less satisfying without these memories but if people overindulge in nostalgia it can be detrimental to them. If people are recovering from an addiction but they are nostalgic for those days when they were still engaged in substance abuse, it may be a warning that they are about to relapse. It can also occur that people are so focused on the past that they fail to appreciate what they have in the present.

Nostalgia Defined

Nostalgia can be defined as wistful or excessively sentimental, sometimes abnormal yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition – it is a type of emotion. It usually refers to some idealized form of the past that never really existed. When people are feeling nostalgic they will only tend to remember the good things and forget about the bad. So if an individual is feeling nostalgic for their childhood it will seem as if every day was perfect – even though that is highly unlikely to have been the case. Occasional feelings of nostalgia are normal, but if people are constantly romanticizing about the past it can prevent them from enjoying their current life. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Herb Cain once referred to nostalgia as a memory with the pain removed.

Difference Between Nostalgia and Homesickness

The words nostalgia and homesickness can sometimes be confused. This is hardly surprising as nostalgia comes from a Latin word that means homecoming. In fact originally nostalgia was used to describe a sickness that a person experiences when they are not in their native land. In modern usage the word nostalgia is mostly used to describe a yearning for the past – a place that the individual can never return to. Homesickness differs from this because the individual will usually have the option to go home.

Causes of Nostalgia

There can be a number of reasons for why people become nostalgic about the past:

* It can be a positive experience because the person is reminded of good things that happened to them in the past. It is perfectly normal to occasionally dwell on these nice memories.
* Hearing old songs or meeting old friends can trigger this emotion. School reunions are special social occasions where nostalgia is encouraged.
* Fear of death can mean that the individual feels safer looking to the past rather than thinking about the future.
* These memories may play an important role in the development of identity. The back story allows people to make sense of their current life.
* It can be an important element of social bonding. A group of friends can share their memories of the past and this reminds them of their closeness.
* If people are fearful about the future they are more likely to look upon the past as a safer place. For example, when there is a great deal of financial or social insecurity people tend to become more focused on the past.
* People experience dissatisfaction with their current life.
* When people are dealing with a great deal of stress they can yearn for a time when things seemed to be simpler.
* Bereavement can mean that the individual may yearn from a time when their loved ones were still alive.
* If people have low self esteem they may think back to a time when they seemed to be more in control of their life.

Dangers of Nostalgia

Nostalgia can be described as a disorder of the imagination where the mind is dwelling on past memories while losing interest in the present. The dangers associated with nostalgia include:

* It can become an emotional disorder that negatively impacts the individual’s life. The person dealing with this emotion may find it difficult to appreciate anything in their current life.
* Nostalgia may prevent the individual from making the most of their current circumstances. They will not have the motivation to work towards goals and get things done.
* It can lead to symptoms such as insomnia and heart palpitations. It can also lead to symptoms of depression.
* It may mean that the individual suffers from a great deal of anxiety and feelings of powerlessness.
* It can lead to a loss of interest in food and the person may become unwilling to take care of their physical health.
* It may lead to thoughts of suicide.

Nostalgia in Recovery

Nostalgia can be dangerous for people who are recovering from an addiction. This is particularly true if the individual is constantly thinking about the period of their life when they were using alcohol or drugs. This kind of nostalgia is sometimes referred to as romancing the drink or drug. When people first become sober they will have no problem remembering how bad they felt in the midst of addiction. Over time the memory of the pain can fade, and the individual can start to remember times when alcohol or drugs seemed to be their friend. If the individual allows such nostalgia to continue it may lead them to once again return to alcohol or drug abuse.

How to Escape Excessive Nostalgia

The actress Jeanne Moreau made an interesting claim that can help put nostalgia into perspective:

> My life is very exciting now. Nostalgia for what? It’s like climbing a staircase. I’m on the top of the staircase, I look behind and see the steps. That’s where I was. We’re here right now. Tomorrow, we’ll be someplace else. So why nostalgia?

Occasionally thinking about the past is not a bad thing, and it may even be necessary for mental health. It is only when people are overly nostalgic that it becomes problematic. It is vital that those who are recovering from an addiction, but are romanticizing that period of their life, take action to limit this thinking. People can escape excessive nostalgia by:

* If people are working hard to build a good life now they will be less likely to dwell too much on the past. This means that it is important to have goals in life and to work towards these.
* If a person in recovery is remembering the good times of drinking or drug using they need to tackle these memories head on. They need to remember how they really felt during the midst of addiction and why this drove them to yearn for escape.
* It is understandable that as people get older they prefer to enjoy music, movies, and other forms of entertainment from previous decades, but it can also be a good idea to stay interested in what is popular now.
* There is no time in history that was ever perfect. It is good that people remind themselves of this and avoid glorifying the past excessively.
* People are never too old to try new things and experiment. Such an open minded and adventurous attitude will help to keep the individual feeling young.
* If the individual is dealing with excessive stress in their life they will need to develop tools for dealing with this. Relaxation techniques can be a great help with this.
* If people are struggling to cope with bereavement they might benefit from some type of counseling.
* Many people who have a history of addictive behavior will have low self esteem and this can make them more prone to nostalgia. They can increase their own self worth by setting small goals and achieving these – as their confidence grows they will be able to achieve more and more.


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SWAN is a new friendship and support network for people who choose to live without alcohol. Everyone is welcome.

3 thoughts on “Nostalgia = old pain”

  1. Reblogged this on suburban betty and commented:
    This swan post really sums of some thoughts and musings I’ve had about how nice it would be to be able to drink. Particularly the bit about “the waiting to drink”; I remember the anticipation of getting my first glass of wine, how it would taste, how I would feel, the anxiety leading up to it, the disappointment if I had to hold off a few hours.


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