On last night’s Bubble Hour podcast, Ellie and I talked about “Drinking Dreams” with recovery blogger Josie (http://themiracleisaroundthecorner.wordpress.com). We looked back over different stages of our recovery and reflected on how they seemed to bring on different types of dreams. Some of those dreams are recovery-enhancing and some can foreshadowing danger.
Drinking dreams in early recovery happen frequently as the brain is just so used to alcohol being part of every activity. We may be having a perfectly lovely dream about a normal event – say, a family picnic – and suddenly realize we are drinking in the dream. After waking with a start, there is usually relief that “it was only a dream” and we are grateful to still be sober.
In time, the dreams happen less and less frequently, and may take on more of a “processing” quality – like trying to figure out how to handle a situation involving alcohol, or dealing with the aftermath of a relapse. How you feel in the dream (and upon waking in reflection) can indicate if the dream is warning of possible relapse.
Near the end of the episode, I rattled off a checklist to help assess dreams. After listening to the podcast this morning I’ve decided to post that checklist here as a resource.
Here is a link to the episode: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bubblehour/2015/03/09/drinking-dreams
When you wake up from a dream about drinking, reflect on it and consider the following:
- Was your alcohol use incidental, such as you didn’t know you were drinking and suddenly realized you were holding a glass? (This is an example of the “familiar backdrop” of alcohol – often occurring in early sobriety because the brain is so used to alcohol being ever-present. Your shocked reaction to the alcohol is a positive indication of your desire to stay sober. Write down the dream and keep it as a reminder to strengthen your resolve to stay sober.)
- Was your drinking dream about using intentionally and were you pleased to find yourself drinking without consequence? (This is an example of “wishful longing for alcohol” and your response may be to spend some time considering all the benefits of your new life in recovery. If you find you have an unstated desire to drink, acknowledge it and look at ways to alleviate it safely. Exercising daily gratitude might be a good idea, to help you focus on the things you love about your life without alcohol, instead of romanticizing it on some level. Going back to journals from your early days of sobriety can be helpful as well. Talk to someone.)
- Were there consequences to drinking in the dream? (If yes, this is a good sign as it shows the subconscious is aware of consequences and plays them out. If not, heed this dream as a warning sign that the subconscious is responding to the lure and appeal of alcohol as relief. This is a time to assess other means of finding pleasure and assuring that the “recovery toolkit” is stocked and ready. Create and stock your recovery bubble – a safe place and means to look after yourself)
- Was the drinking in your dream a solution to a problem you are dreading, like an awkward social event or big work project or public speaking requirement? (If so, take note that your mind is stressing about this and defaulting to the old fall-back of booze. Plan ahead for the upcoming event and acknowledge the real concerns you have. Decide if you should attend or participate, and if you choose to be sure you have a solid plan to enjoy yourself and stay sober.)
I found this article to be a great resource in researching this topic: http://www.asdreams.org/magazine/articles/peters_recovery.htm
What about you? Have you experienced drinking dreams? Have they helped firm your resolve or do you find them to be triggering?