Relapse Dreams: Why am I dreaming of using when I’m sober?

Dreams of relapsing often rear their head when we least expect it. As upsetting as they may feel, they can be an integral part of the recovery process. Research reveals that relapse dreams emerge even when a person appears to be doing well in a recovery program. No matter how awful these dreams feel while dreaming them and upon waking, they are very beneficial. It’s psyche giving us feedback about our progress. They tend to appear more often in the early days of sobriety, but I’ve seen them arise in people who have been sober for many years.

Relapse dreams often stem from stress. But they can also be a sign to pay particular attention to your recovery process as the following dream reveals:

My partner is sitting on the couch and tells me had a dream about drinking. I am deeply concerned and tell him this means his sobriety is in serious  jeopardy, I know, because it’s happened to me many times. He blows it off. I get very serious and tell him he has to look at this dream and address it. I look outside and it’s  dark and foggy. I point to it: “See outside, how dark and gray it is? This means you need to go within and look at how your dream is telling you how close you are to drinking again.” He still blows me off.

So, I get on top of him, grab his shirt and tell him: “This is really serious. If you don’t look at this, I am going to have to LEAVE YOU!” As I say this, I can smell his breath and it’s foul and I notice his teeth are brown and caked with plaque. I awake feeling incredibly anxious.

The dreamer is worried about her partner relapsing, so it’s important she look at the relationship with her partner and assess if he, or she, is losing commitment to sobriety. It would be helpful for her to look at how their recovery process is going and if their current approach is working. In addition, her partner is also representing her Animus, her masculine aspect. So, she might pay particular attention to her daily activities, responsibilities, and stress levels. Perhaps she’s feeling more pressure than usual from her busy life. If so, the dream may be indicating that she needs finding more balance in her life so she doesn’t crave using alcohol to relax at the end of the day. She needs to find healthy ways that bring about calmness like going for a walk, drinking a cup of “Calm” (magnesium which relaxes the body), taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (more magnesium), listening to uplifting music, journaling, creating a peaceful space for herself, etc.  

If you’re dreaming of relapsing, don’t panic. Practice the following approach:  

  1. Examine your thoughts (without judgment)

Look at what you were thinking about during the day. Did you have thoughts about using? Were you feeling cravings? Tempted? Are you feeling afraid that you might relapse or turn to something else that doesn’t serve you?

  • Observe your current commitment to sobriety

How committed are you? Are you consciously working your recovery process, whether that be a 12-Step program, an online support group, or sober coaching program? There are so many amazing recovery options to choose from these days. Just in the realm of alcohol addiction there are leaders like Annie Grace from This Naked Mind, Holly Whittaker founder of Tempest, Chris Scott founder of Fit Recovery, the list goes on and on. Reflect on how committed you are to remaining sober. Even if you’ve been sober for many years, it’s important you don’t take your recovery for granted. If you quit cold turkey without any kind of support, you might want to consider that these dreams, if they are recurring, may be signaling a need for a process that better fits your needs.

  • Become aware of your stress level

On a scale from 1-10, 10 being high, what is your stress number today? Stress is a common trigger for relapse dreams. If you are experiencing higher than normal stress, what can you do to reduce it right now?

  • Practice patience while developing new pathways in your brain

Finally, relapse dreams may simply be telling you that you are on the right path but it’s going to take time. When we’re drinking or using drugs (this goes for food, too), we create neural pathways in the brain which creates habits and in turn, becomes part of our addictive behaviors. Once we stop using, we need to create new neural pathways in the brain based on sober choices. And this can only be done by taking positive action repeatedly. Where you may have poured yourself a glass of wine at 5pm, now you are pouring some steaming hot water into a cup with a bag of chamomile tea.

Remember, recovery isn’t just about letting go of a substance, it’s much, much more…it’s the pathway back to your true Self.

If you want to see a video about this blog, check it out here:

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