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Posted by on in Drug Addiction ----> Originally Posted by me

In early sobriety using dreams are fairly common occurrences. This phenomenon affects certain people differently. Some people in recovery report never having using dreams, while others have them almost nightly in early sobriety. Read about what a using dream is and how to deal with them if you are experiencing them.

What Are They?

Before I jump into the description of using dreams I’ll explain why they are so common in early recovery. When people are actively abusing alcohol or drugs, the brain hardly ever goes into deep sleep, specifically the important REM sleep. Dreams happen in between Deep Sleep and the REM stage of sleep, when our brain is resting deeply. As a result many people in active addiction report not having dreams frequently, and rarely remember them in the morning. Now when the same person gets sober their brain starts to go into REM overdrive to ‘catch up’ on the lost REM sleep. This process allows for a large number of dreams, and may seem even more frequent because the person is not used to having dreams. So what is a using dream exactly? I loosely define a using dream as “a dream about using drugs or alcohol, often very vivid and easily remembered upon waking”. Many people report dreaming about old memories of drinking or using with old friends or imaginary people. Others report using dreams involving substances they have never even used in real life. The content of the dreams can vary but they all have the same behavior of using substances in common.


How Do I Handle Them?

People responded very differently to using dreams. Many people say they feel guilty and shameful when they wake up from their dreams. Others report feeling fearful and anxious when they awake. The most dangerous reaction is when the person wakes up from a using dream with a desire to drink or use in real life. Using dreams can be a trigger; they can tempt some people into relapse. Despite what your reaction is, there are a few things you can do to get over the dreams and protect your sobriety. The most important thing to do is to share your dream with somebody. This can be a friend, family, or someone from any fellowship you are in. Telling somebody has a powerful effect on the dream; sharing it takes away its strength and can relieve the guilt or anxiety. This is especially important if the dream triggers you to drink or drug and can save you from a relapse. Another thing you can do is to write down the dreams in a dream journal. Recording the dreams can help you to see the progression of your using dreams. Most people start having less frequent using dreams after 30 days of sobriety. The last tip to deal with these dreams is to read some recovery or spiritual literature before bed. This helps reinforce your sobriety can keep away using dreams.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

“On a good my illness talks and I don’t listen,
on a bad day it talks and I listen,
on a really bad day, I talk back!”


The idea that abstinence will automatically also decrease alcohol-related intrusive thoughts has been dismissed by research and vast anecdotal evidence.

Practically all therapies for alcoholism e.g  AA, SMART and so on suggest that urges create automatic thoughts about drinking. This has been demonstrated in research that distress automatically gives rise to intrusive thoughts about alcohol. (1) This reflects emotional dysregulation as these intrusive thoughts are correlated to emotional dysregulation (2).

These thoughts to the recovering/abstinent individual can be seen as egodystonic which is a psychological term referring to behaviors, values, feelings that are in harmony with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego, or consistent with one’s self image.  Other conditions, such as OCD, have these egodystonic thoughts creating the distress that drives a compulsive need to act on them, rather than letting them pass. In other words, these thoughts are seen as distressing and threatening and compel one to act to reduce this escalating sense of distress. A similar process can happen to those in early recovery. Thoughts about drinking or using when you now wish to remain in recovery are egodystonic, they are contrary to the view of oneself as a person in recovery.  The main problem occurs when we think we can control these thoughts are that these thoughts mean we want to drink or are going to relapse!


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