How to cope with bad past memories?



Hi there. My name is Lexi and my boyfriend is a recovering addict. When we started dating he was almost two years sober and I naively thought I’d never see the addict side of him. Three months into our dating, he relapsed. There were a lot of lies, deceit, empty promises and days where I felt lost and mistreated. Now, he is back in recovery and over 2 months sober. I feel like I finally have him back. Things are good between us. Our lives are falling into place and everything is slowly seeming to climb uphill again. But I still have days where I can’t help but think of all the terrible things he did when in his addiction. How can I let the past go and be okay with the things I went through?

Thank you in advance.


Hi @LexiNico thanks for joining us here :slight_smile: I married my husband after he got into recovery and there have been ups and downs (slips) since then but in general we’ve been on an upward trajectory of healing. BUT I don’t hold any illusions about the fact that this is part of his history and makeup some how and might also be a part of his future.

In the early recovery years it took time for me to build up the data points to naturally let go of my suspicions. What that meant is he might say something harmless and I might way overreact (eg. him wanting to stay out to get ice cream, to me triggered memories of him wanting to stay out to get wasted) but the more the good memories take over the old the more they become front of consciousness - at least in my case.

AND what surprised me was how easily this started to happen, I also had times when I thought I might never recover from that way of thinking, but then there just came a day when those thoughts didn’t rule my psyche. It felt simple then.

I guess one tip in hindsight might be, to be sure to take extra care of you. Know that his healing takes time and that this worry has put a lot of stress on you and your nervous system and so healing needs to take place for you too. Don’t judge the responses too much.

Have you found anything that has worked for you to help with this yet?



Hi @lexiNico I can totally relate to your story. When I met my partner he didn’t tell me he struggled with addiction for many years and we were practically living together when he had a major drunken episode and opened up to me about his issues. I felt so betrayed and really had to dig deep to decide if I wanted to move forward. I only have because he committed himself to initially sobriety and now recovery. He has also had slips and I’ve talked to @Jane about this same issue. Initially we had to have check ins in place where we could both openly talk about how we were feeling and how to built trust again. We continue to work on it but couples counseling was very helpful. I think what @Jane said also is very true I shifted a lot of my focus back onto me. My partner works in the restaurant industry and it was initially giving me panic attacks thinking of him potentially relapsing so he’d have to check in with me during his shift or let me know when to expect him.home (as he got drunk and never night). I know he could lie but for me this gave me some peace of mind. Slowly I started to use his nights at the restaurant to feed my soul do things to to nourish me. I’ve also had to train my brain to stop looking for the danger all the time. I really really really have to focus on what’s going well - write it down and remind myself of it. It’s a journey for sure and I don’t think you need to forget the bad memories but just take them for what they are things that happened in the past. It sounds like you’ve both done a lot of work to get to the place you are at now and maybe take some peace from that.

I hope this helps and I would love to hear what you find helpful so I can learn from you too!


Hi @LexiNico,

I think it helps to understand that when you replay those things in your mind, you’re choosing to feel that pain again. It’s optional. Those thoughts cause painful feelings, and if you want to change your feelings, then you can choose new thoughts to think instead. For example, when you are reminded of the past, you can choose to think “We are both making progress and moving forward. I’m grateful for where we are now.” Not that you have to, but it is an option available to you.

Also, take some time to really process what lessons you learned from those experiences. Did you learn that there’s some behavior that you want to create a boundary around? If you place a healthy boundary around what behavior you won’t accept from him, then you can know that if it DOES happen again, you will do _______. It helps to have a plan of how to respond to situations that were hurtful in the past, if they happen again.

Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable :slight_smile:


@LexiNico Hi, I’m new to the group and I haven’t participated before. When we hold onto the past we are being anchored down by fear. Fear that the “other shoe is going to drop.” What’s happening is that you get consumed by “what was” and you’re worried about what “may” happen. If you live in the present, taking each day at a time and fully enjoy time spent with your boyfriend and encourage his recovery, it reinforces positive behavior. Live presently. When you start to feel stressed and over anxious about what hasn’t occurred yet, take a breather and meditate, focus on “the good”. I have a very vivid imagination and get consumed by worry for my adult son. I have conjured up stories that run rampant and ruminate through my exhausted head. When this happens, I pause, breathe, and remember to live in the “now”. :0)


Hi there, I think you may benefit from a program like Al-Anon/Nar-Anon or even personal therapy.
Your boyfriend is very newly clean and you will be a big part of his support network. It may take some time but as he gets more comfortable, the 2 of you will start to create new happy memories. If you keep looking to the past it will be impossible to move on. I had to make peace with my relationships troubled past and metaphorically throw it away. One exercise that worked for me was writing down those bad memories, mentally saying goodbye and than ripping them up. It may sound weird but the things we say to ourselves and the memories we replay have a big effect on us presently. Also you can try to remember some good memories and even if it takes some time when you do start thinking about a bad memory, stop it as soon as possible and insert a good one. Over time it will become automatic. Remember your partner isn’t the only one who needs to do the work. There are a lot of resources for partners of addicts that have been very helpful for my relationship. I wish you the best and hope some of this has been helpful. :v::yellow_heart: we’re all in this together


Thank you for the suggestions. I like the idea of writing down and ripping up the things that affect me. Getting rid of them in my heart so-to-speak. I have been looking into PAL and AlAnon but have not yet attended a meeting. Mostly due to the fact that I work 2 jobs and working on getting into med school. But that’s no excuse. I know I need to make time for my mental health as well. That’s why I started out here. It’s been just a few days and this site has already helped me so much. Thank you for your words.



Such great tips here that I’m reviving this topic to share with the community today!