Using dreams are a phenomena of recovery where an individual has a dream that involves using their drug of choice and relapsing. Our addictions become ghosts of our past and their appearances in our dreams are frightening. Addicts and alcoholics often jest that their obsession with using is so severe, they dream about it in their sleep. Using dreams are a normal experience that indicate more positive signs than they do negative ones.

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Types of using dreams

There are two types of using dreams. First are dreams that involve using the substance of choice and relapsing. Second are dreams that involve “old behaviors” associated with the using lifestyle. Using dreams are like relapses- progressively worse, never better. Early recovery sees using dreams quite frequently. Using incidents in these dreams are usually innocent- finding out a drink was spike with alcohol or mindlessly picking up a cigarette that was full of marijuana. The dreams demonstrate what used to be a lack of control over drinking and using. Overtime through the recovery process, the stakes of relapse get higher. These dreams are full of disappointments and loss.

Do using dreams mean you are going to relapse?

Dreams are sometimes interpreted to be prophetic. However, having a using dream does not mean you are going to relapse. A using dream might be a sign that you need to attend more twelve step meetings or step up your recovery program. Dreams are also the brain’s way of processing excess information from the previous day. Experiencing something triggering or indulging in memory recall can leave the brain with information it isn’t able to process. Without fully letting that experience go, it can come up your dreams.

Am I being punished in my dreams?

Using dreams can feel like your using past is haunting you in your sleep, literally. Using dreams can be scary. They feel disconcertingly real. You wake up in a panic, convinced you have used again. You might even feel the sensations of your substance of choice. You feel guilty and afraid. Instead of viewing this as a predictive conviction, look at it is a sign of progress. Your fear of relapsing is a healthy sign that you care about your recovery. You don’t want to mindlessly throw away everything you’ve been working so hard for. More importantly, it means that a drug or a drink is not worth it to you anymore. This is a huge accomplishment.


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