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.
One of the hardest challenges to face in recovery is relapse. Several years ago, researchers published a study in the journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry to understand the lived experiences of those with addiction and in recovery. They found that while most people are unable to recall physiological symptoms associated with relapse, most people can identify the context or stressors that triggered their relapse. Sometimes the situations that have happened in our past – or even our present – can spark thoughts and feelings that wind us leading down the road of relapse, even when we least expect it. The good news is that by taking these circumstances into consideration, we can better combat them with healthy coping mechanisms, support and other resources to prevent relapse next time.
You may be able to tell that you were feeling angry, depressed or anxious that day, but do you know why? Sometimes it’s hard to reach that wider circumstance that led us to troubling emotions in the first place but identifying the root cause can help us work through what’s been bothering us more effectively. The following are some life circumstances that may be triggering you without you even knowing it:
- Disappointment/lack of support from family members
- Trauma that you have not yet healed from
- Feeling disconnected, like you do not have a clear sense of purpose or direction yet
- Missing the life that you used to have because you’re not used to this life of recovery yet
When we look at the bigger picture of what’s been giving us that trickle effect of unhealthy thoughts and emotions, we can start healing. Therapy, support groups (such as 12-Step programs), and other recovery resources can help you find your way through these murky waters and into a path that brings you more balance and stability. It’s not uncommon for those in addiction recovery to struggle with some (or all) of these major life circumstances – in fact, it’s not uncommon for people in general to struggle with them.
Start taking the steps you need to heal from what’s been holding you back. By tackling the bigger picture, you’ll be more equipped to deal with thoughts or emotions that feed into those larger concerns.
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.