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Glamorizing addiction

An addiction worksheet from Mental Health and You!

Glamorizing addiction

War stories – Glamorizing addiction.  This 2-page worksheet focuses on addiction-related “war stories” — remembering the “good ol’ days,” fascination with using, and favorable opinions about relapse — and helps the person seeking recovery identify why war stories might be problematic.  The goal is to come up with ways to STOP glamorizing addiction.

If you’re struggling with an addiction, consider completing the worksheet before reading the following.


“If a person spends time thinking obsessively about getting high or telling war stories,
it means they probably aren’t ready to quit.” — Anonymous

What’s a war story?

  • When someone romanticizes drugs and alcohol, focusing on good memories
  • Fascination with drugs and pills and using
  • Focusing on “positive” aspects of drug use

What’s the difference between healthy talk and war stories?

  • Healthy talk promotes recovery.
  • Healthy talk doesn’t put others at risk of relapse
  • Healthy talk is mature, future-oriented, and hopeful

Which of the following is “healthy talk” (appropriate), and which are war stories?

  • Talking about how to use a syringe (war story)
  • A scientific lecture on the properties and uses of cocaine (war story)
  • A story about becoming homeless after using drugs (appropriate)
  • A story about a funny thing that happened while homeless (war story)
  • Watching a movie about drugs and violence (war story)
  • Talking to someone about how you miss drugs then going over the reasons you don’t want to relapse (appropriate)
  • Discussing anti-relapse coping skills and how to deal with war stories (appropriate)
  • Discussing the advantages of medical marijuana in a substance abuse class (war story)

Why would glamorizing drugs be a problem?

  • People tend to forget the bad memories (plus consequences & regrets) and focus only on stuff they remember positively — making it easier to relapse
  • Might be a trigger for a listener who’s on the fence or newly sober.
  • Suggests the person speaking isn’t ready to pursue recovery

What can you do next time you find yourself romanticizing your addiction?

  • STOP!  Stop talking!  Then…
  • Talk about something else. Weather, sports, recovery
  • Call your sponsor.  Call someone you trust. Tell them how you’re feeling (don’t tell them the war story itself) and ask for advice.
  • Get busy: distract yourself by pacing, watching TV, thinking about your family, thinking about your dreams, playing guitar, something.
  • Avoid triggers. Stay away from people or situations that worsen cravings and relapse.
  • Deal with cravings in a healthy way. Don’t give in!
  • Say yes to sobriety. Remind yourself why you want to stay clean, and be proud of every day you’ve achieved sobriety so far
  • Say “no more” to consequences. Remember the consequences of using.  Remember the stuff drugs made you do that you regret.  Use that to motivate you to stay in recovery.
  • Decide for today. Make a decision to avoid war talk in the future, even if it’s one day at a time.
  • Remember this webpage!
  • The goal: move away from drug identity and focus on recovery!

What should you do if someone else tells war stories?

  • Don’t agree with them.  Don’t encourage them to keep talking.  It only eggs them on.
  • If they’re joking around, don’t laugh.
  • If they’re new to the world of recovery, let them know in private about the horrors of war talk.  Refer them to this page.
  • If they’re not new to the world of recovery, tell them to cut out on the war stories.  Not helping.
  • If they won’t stop, walk away.  Your recovery is too important.

Return to the Mental health worksheet page.

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