Tag Archives: Relapse Dreams

Tag Archives: Relapse Dreams


What to do when you have a relapse dream

Have you ever been so preoccupied with a certain situation that it appeared in your dreams? If so, you’re not alone; in 2017, Tonic, a division of Vice Magazine, reported that about 85% of people in addiction recovery will have a “using” dream – otherwise known as a relapse dream – within their first two months of sobriety. It’s normal for many people recovering from alcoholism and other substance use disorders (SUDs) to struggle with sleeping in general; in many cases, addiction forces a person to lose a lot of sleep – or at least experience a lot of broken sleep – which can take up to a year to recover from and to get back into a normal cycle.

Even in the early stages of dependency, the obsession for using a substance can start to take hold. The mental obsession develops before the physical dependency, which can serve as a sign that an unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol has taken hold.

Previous research has cited that dreams can be particularly vivid, especially when a person has experienced ongoing accounts of poor sleep. The relapse dreams that occur are less romanticized and more fearful – and in many instances, feelings of guilt show up – especially if the dream feels so real that a person is afraid they may have truly relapsed. Researchers recently published a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, which found that individuals who have recurring relapse dreams tend to have struggled with more severe substance use histories.

The next time you have a relapse dream, what should you do?

First and foremost, take a deep breath. Relapse didn’t happen – and even if it did, you would have an entire support system at Cumberland Heights whom you could rely on to help you get back on track. Talk to your therapist about what you’re going through. Connect with your peers in recovery, and continue eating and exercising, practicing good sleep hygiene and don’t give up on your recovery.

Cumberland Heights in Nashville, Tennessee on Music Row is a 12-Step based alcohol & drug rehab program. Cumberland Heights’ Intensive Outpatient Program is designed for individuals 18 and above who may be in the early stages of dependency or are experiencing problems with alcohol or drug use. We offer personalized assessments and treatment plans, as well as convenient evening hours to accommodate your workday schedule. To get started on your recovery journey today, call us at 1-800-646-9998.

Experiencing relapse dreamsSleep is an important topic of discussion for those in addiction recovery, both in terms of the quality and quantity of sleep. Since substances can have such a major impact on the mind and body, it’s not uncommon for those in recovery to have difficulty sleeping at night, and this could be for several reasons: 1) for many people, nighttime is when they use substances the most, which means their body is going to be more awake the later it gets, 2) withdrawal symptoms can peak around this time, making it hard to sleep, 3) relapse dreams can cause a lot of tossing and turning at night. According to Tonic in 2017, about 85% of people who’ve been addicted to alcohol or other substances will have a “using” dream – otherwise known as a relapse dream – within the first 2 months of their sobriety.

It can be terrifying for someone to be in the middle of treatment yet have a dream that they’re back where they were when actively using; One woman shared her nerve-wracking relapse dream that had her fearful that she was back to using again. She told Tonic,

“They were never fun. They were always similar: I pick up a drink or serve myself punch that I don’t realize includes alcohol, drink it, and am terrified that I will restart my primal obsession…I would wake up feeling scared, disgusted, and then so, so grateful.”

A 2019 study published in Science Daily found that these types of relapse dreams are most likely to happen in those with more severe addiction histories, but thankfully the frequency of these dreams is likely to decrease the more a person spends in recovery. Dr. John F. Kelly, author and expert on addiction recovery, told The Fix earlier this year that as the mind and body gradually adapt to life in recovery, the psychological “angst” that they experience over relapse will diminish.

When these instances occur, you have to ground yourself and remember that you’re fully in control. At Cumberland Heights, you have the comfort and support system of knowing that you’re where you need to be – in recovery, with minimal to zero triggers. Dreams can feel incredibly real, but in your waking life, you are taking steps towards sobriety. These beginning stages are going to be the most challenging – but once you get through them, you’ll become stronger.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.


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