When recovering from sex addiction, it’s important to address the euphoric recall that can potentially trigger a relapse. While only remembering the positive feelings associated with your past behaviors, these recollections don’t remind you of any negative physical or emotional consequences of your actions.
What is Euphoric Recall?
Euphoric recall is an addictive thinking that brings to light how great the event was while minimizing or even completely blocking out any troubles you may have experienced because of this behavior.
When recalling events in your memory, the same areas of the brain are activated that were in use during your pleasurable encounter. In fact, these memories create a biochemical response that may even feel better than the actual event. This allows you to justify your behaviors and minimize costs and consequences. With all types of addiction, the brain tends to focus on positive outcomes that can trigger a relapse.
Due to this enhanced memory of pleasure, you may experience some other difficulties as a result of this warped view on reality.
As the brain’s biochemistry is altered as a result of the addiction, you may begin to expect only positive outcomes from engaging in the undesired behavior since your brain is blocking out or minimizing the negative impact. These expectations may lead you to believe that you are on the right path for a good life and can lead to distortions in judgment and your ability to control your impulses.
When the pleasure center in the brain is constantly kept stimulated with excess chemicals enhanced by recalling euphoric events, this can lead to what is known as anhedonia. Anhedonia is a state where you cannot gain pleasure from regular activities. In addiction, this typically leads to engaging in the unwanted behavior more frequently just so that you can feel something.
Do Cravings Equal Euphoric Recall?
Cravings are not the same thing as this twisted recollection of events. However, only remembering the positive feelings associated with your past behaviors – and failing to recall the bad that could occur as a result – can lead to craving the activity even more. Once this occurs, you must overcome these cravings to prevent a relapse. Relapse, or recovery maintenance, is a critical part of the process.
Signs You’re Experiencing Euphoric Recall
Perhaps the most obvious sign that you are experiencing euphoric recall is that you either cannot remember bad consequences to giving in to your addiction or you find ways to justify or minimize engaging in that behavior. There are some other signs that may show you are experiencing this detrimental way of thinking:
- Obsessing over the behavior
- Feeling depressed
- Suffering from mood swings
How to Cope with Euphoric Recall
Although you may not always be able to prevent memories from coming to mind, there are some ways that you can look more realistically at past events to prevent these recollections from triggering a relapse.
Rather than focusing on the positive aspects of giving in to your addiction, you should take the time to emphasize your thoughts on the negative consequences you will face if you engage in sexual activities. Whenever you recall the euphoria that comes with the actions, replace those thoughts with how bad you will feel if you give in until the euphoria passes. Use a journal or make a list of all of the costs if you find this helpful.
If the enjoyment of past events comes to mind, you can focus on the here and now by engaging in an activity that uses your five senses. The physical sensations of grounding can make you more aware of the moment to take your mind off of unwanted recollections. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Suck on a sour or strongly flavored piece of candy
- Sing a song or recite a poem
- Use aromatherapy with essential oil: by lighting a candle or by spritzing some air freshener around the room
- Hold an ice cube and focus on the sensation as it melts in your hand
- Engage in strenuous exercise such as jumping jacks or running around the block
- Go outside to focus on the sounds or turn on a podcast to listen to
- Rub lotion on your hands or feet
- Drink herbal tea and savor the flavor
- Create something through crafting, drawing, painting, sculpting, woodworking, taking pictures, or some other artistic endeavor
- Use the 54321 method to point out five objects, listen for four different sounds, feel items with three different textures, identify two scents, and enjoy one flavor for taste.
Many people find guided meditation to be helpful in moving the mind from unwanted to more desirable thoughts. Not only will you change your thinking, but you will also be more relaxed and in touch with your mind, body, and the present. You can find guided meditation sessions easily for free on YouTube.
Whether you choose deep breathing or more regulated forms of breathing, you must focus your attention on the technique, which will get your mind onto the present while providing some relaxation and relief from stress. Some methods of regulated breathing include belly breathing and 4-7-8 breathing.
If it is continually hard to distract yourself from continuing recall episodes, you may need to take additional measures. Acupuncture causes a release of endorphins that can be pleasurable to the brain, potentially reducing the need to seek pleasure through addiction.
Take the time to talk to your sponsor or a trusted friend. This person can help to get you grounded or draw your focus away from the euphoric recollections. Although it is important to address the issue with this individual, it can help if you continue to engage in small talk for a bit to bring your attention to real-life matters.
Sometimes, a familiar environment can produce memories more frequently. When no other options provide you with relief from reliving your past encounters, it might be time to move to a new location. However, if you choose this option, make sure you will have the support for your recovery in place before you finalize your move.
The Importance of Continued Care
Recovery is a continuing process, so it is important to maintain your care to prevent a relapse. In fact, research has shown that those who keep up with aftercare are less likely to return to their addictive actions than those who stop. Whether you attend group or individual sessions, meetings, or other types of continuing care, you will be better able to handle any episodes of euphoric recall and resist the urge to relapse into old behaviors.
In addition to our treatment programs, Begin Again Institute is committed to ensuring you maintain your recovery. Through our Continuing Care Program, you have the opportunity to connect with a broad community of support persons.