Drinking Dreams:  Nightmares or Reminders

Drinking Dreams: The four of us pulled up to a dock on Saturday evening. We tied off the boat, then walked up the gangway and into the bar portion of the waterfront restaurant. My wife and her friends excused themselves and headed for the restroom. I strolled over to the bar and told the bartender I wanted a double vodka, no ice. He handed me a large tumbler filled to the brim with the cool, clear liquid. I held the drink in one hand, put my other hand on my hip, and drained the glass.

As I was bringing the tumbler down from my lips, I found myself eyeball-to-eyeball with my sponsor.

Then I woke up.

Drinking dreams are very common among those in the early addiction sobriety period. Some say they are the most realistic dreams they have ever experienced. Many times, I have wakened from such dreams with an incredible sense of guilt, foreboding, and grief. My mind would tell me that I’m a newcomer again, that I’d have to stand up at my home group and take a white chip. I would think how much I had disappointed my wife and the rest of my family.

And then it would hit me. It was just a dream.

That realization would fill me with relief and gratitude. But what do these dreams mean? Should we be concerned about such dreams? Does it mean our program is weak? Using dreams is part of recovery, something many of us have experienced in early recovery and, for some, decades after their last drink.

“Consider it a free high” is how some old-timers shrug it off. No big deal! Teaches you gratitude!

Some claim that, psychologically, our brains are sick from extended drug and alcohol abuse. Sleepless night after sleepless night, passing out on the couch, our times that resembled sleep were never healthy. More often than not, we did not hit that healing and refreshing level of REM our bodies so desperately needed.

Sometimes these dreams crop up when the dreamer is under stress. On the other hand, they might come when life is going great. It is curious that these dreams seem to be experienced only by sober folks.

Your first thought after such a dream is to keep it to yourself because you can just bet some old-timer is going to question your program. But what we’ve learned is this: Keeping secrets is old behavior, and it can lead back to drinking or using.

One suggestion, if you have such a dream in early recovery, is to share the dream with your sober friends or at a meeting. That not only takes power out of the dream, but it opens the door for others to share about their using dreams.

Another plus is that these dreams, as frightening as they are, remind us of the insanity of using and encourage us to maintain our sobriety. As an added bonus, they usually provide the group with a good laugh when described in vivid detail.

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