Drug Dreams in Addiction Recovery What You Need to Know
It is common for recovering addicts to have drug dreams and they can be incredibly stressful and create negative feelings and emotions. But can drug dreams also predict whether or not a person will be successful in addiction recovery? What do your drug dreams say about you?
Whether you have been in addiction recovery for a couple months or a few years, drug dreams unfortunately remain a common part of recovery.
Even when a person is doing well in recovery from addiction, it is possible to have vivid dreams about using drugs or drinking alcohol. Drug dreams are a common and completely normal part of addiction recovery and although they may be a source of stress or negative thoughts or emotions, they may also be able to help predict whether or not an addict will be successful in recovery.
What is the Meaning behind Drug Dreams?
The subconscious mind, even in recovering addicts who are doing extremely well in the recovery process, often still craves the substance the person was addicted to. For example, the conscious mind of a recovering alcoholic knows that having just one sip of alcohol is a bad idea, and is aware of the negative consequences that would follow. The subconscious mind, however, may still be fixated on the addiction. When the individual falls asleep, it is the subconscious mind that brings forth vivid images of alcohol consumption and over-indulging.
Effects of Dreaming about Drug and Alcohol Use while in Recovery
Waking up after having a dream about taking drugs or alcohol can be frightening. In many cases, it takes the dreamer a little while to realise that their substance use was only a dream, and that they did not actually relapse or mess up in their recovery. It is the emotions which follow that help decipher whether these dreams are more likely to be a warning of relapse or an affirmation that recovery is going well, which is explained in further detail below:
1. Relapse Pending Dreams
If, once the recovering addict realises that the alcohol or drug use was just a dream, they react with a longing to feel the effects of intoxication once again — almost a wish that the dream had been true — this is a sign that that the dreamer could fall into a relapse more easily than many other recovering addicts.
2. Recovery Affirming Dreams
In the case of recovery-affirming dreams, the recovering addict, once realising that the drug or alcohol use was only a dream, will react with relief in knowing that it was only a dream, and will experience feelings of repulsion toward the substances abused in the dream. This is a good sign that the dreamer’s recovery is going strong, that they are serious about their sobriety and recovery plan, and that they are less likely to fall into a relapse.
Dealing with the Effects of Substance-Abuse Dreams
Whether your drug dreams are a warning of relapse or an affirmation of successful recovery, it is important to take the time to fully deal with the feelings and emotions they create in the following ways:
Understand your feelings.
Once you awake from your dream take some time to really focus on how you are feeling. Do you feel disgusted by the behaviour in your dream? Jealous? Indifferent? Fully understanding how you feel after the dream is the only way to know how to deal with it properly. Write down your dream as soon as you wake up as well. Comparing your drug dreams against each other will help you analyse them properly.
Talk to someone you trust.
Talk to your sponsor, counsellor, or attend a recovery meeting where you can speak about your dream to someone you trust. Even if you are convinced that your dream is a recovery-affirming dream, letting others know that you are having these types of dreams is important. As well, talking out loud often allows you to understand the dream and your feelings from a different perspective — possibly uncovering some truths about your own feelings that were hidden before.
Look for triggers.
Is there something that may have triggered your dream? Did you walk by an old hangout spot, or bump into an old friend? Maybe someone at work said something that reminded you of your using days. If you can think of something specific that may have triggered the dream, try to avoid these things in the future.
Create a relapse prevention plan.
All drug dreams are a sign that your unconscious mind is still thinking about your addiction. If you do not have a relapse prevention plan in place already, be sure to create one. You can never be too cautious about prevention relapse, as you do not want to have to start over after all the hard work you have already put in. It is better to be prepared.
Preventing Drug Dreams
Dreams are an act of the subconscious mind during sleep which unfortunately, we have little control over once we fall asleep. However, there are a few things that you can do during the day which are said to decrease the chances of having bad dreams, or in some cases, having any dreams at all.
1. Relieve stress.
Stress throughout the day is one of the most common triggers for dreams, particularly bad ones, and is also a major relapse trigger on its own. Relieving as much stress as possible on a daily basis is an important aspect of recovery.
2. Exercise daily.
Performing some type of physical activity each day, from light yoga or stretching to vigorous aerobics, is said to increase quality of sleep and decrease the dream stage.
3. Do not eat too close to bedtime.
Many people find that eating food too close to bedtime causes an increase of dreams and disturbed sleep. Try to keep evening meals light and healthy, and curb your late-night snacking habits.
4. Relax before bed.
If you have been on the go for most of the day, be sure to take some quality time to relax on your own before going to bed. Read a book or play your favourite video game to relax your mind before trying to sleep.
5. Create a relaxing sleep atmosphere.
A deep sleep is a dreamless sleep, and a deep sleep occurs most often in the right atmosphere. Ensure your bedroom is very dark, tidy and clean. Try using relaxing essential oils around the room as well to create an oasis perfect for a good night’s sleep.
Listen to What your Subconscious is Telling You
If you are experiencing drug dreams with increased frequency or your reaction to drug dreams are severe and/or negative, be sure to reach out to someone for help. Call a counsellor or reach out to your sponsor for support. Do not be afraid to ask for the help you need, as it could be the difference between success in addiction recovery or relapse.