Recently I was speaking with someone about many of the issues dealing with early sobriety that are rarely talked about by addicts. While there were many occurrences and issues that we talked about, our conversation started to lean towards a very troublesome issue that many addicts have in early sobriety that can be mentally taxing and emotionally confusing- relapsing dreams. For non addicts that are unaware of what these are, it is exactly what it sounds like: a dream about relapsing.
For me, the dream always started at the point where I had just previously taken a drink, and the realization and guilt of my relapse has started to set in. And just as this dream world is being created, it vanishes with my subsequent awakening. Feeling groggy and hung over, I would continue to feel the horrible shame and guilt of my relapse. Wanting to bury my head further and further into the pillow. The horrible road ahead of restarting my sobriety. Everything I had built up was now gone with one drink. How did I get here?
How did I get here? Wait, how did I get here? What did I do last night? I went out to a movie with my friend then came home and read a book. I never drank last night. I haven’t drunk in over a week. I never drank last night!
These are the nightmares I, and many alcoholics, had on a regular basis. The dream of having relapsed can seem extremely real when your brain is pulling from experiences that have happened many times in your own life. Coupled with the hangover feeling from being overly dehydrated (a side effect of quitting drinking), these dreams can be so overly realistic that it could put a damper on your day, or even week. Many times this causes the alcoholic to fear going to sleep at night for what dreams may come.
But alas, just as in every tragedy, there is a silver lining. Because despite these dreams being mentally troubling and emotionally depressing, they are nonetheless just dreams. With the right perspective they become gifts to you and your sobriety. You now have experienced exactly what you would feel the morning of awakening from a relapse the night before. Except this time you have lost no days and in fact have gained one more. I am reminded of a quote by Megan Chance: “You learned to run from what you feel, and that’s why you have nightmares. To deny is to invite madness. To accept is to control.”