Dealing With Relapse Dreams During Addiction Recovery and Treatment

Dealing With Relapse Dreams During Addiction Recovery and Treatment

Early on in recovery, people tend to have dreams about ‘substance using’ their previous drug of choice.

Most “‘substance using’ dreams” occur within the first eight weeks of drug abstinence and will rapidly diminish from there after the first eight weeks. However, depending on a person’s habit, these dreams can last anywhere from six months to a year from their sobriety date.

Sometimes these dreams indicate that the person dreaming has relapsed. Upon waking up, that person realizes it was a dream is usually relieved, but shaken up.

These dreams are common in recovery, and they are often stressful. People who experience them are known to feel a lot of negative emotions such as sadness, anger, and guilt.

Why do these dreams occur? How will this kind of dream affect your recovery? Will it predict your success in recovery? Also, what can you actively do for yourself to help cope with these kinds of dreams?

Relapse dreams can occur even when a person is doing well in his or her recovery.

You can still have vivid dreams about drinking or ‘substance using.’ It is important to recognize that these types of dreams are a normal part of recovery. However, they do tend to cause a lot of stress.

This is especially true if the person in recovery doesn’t know what is happening or why they are having these dreams.  

Your Subconscious Mind

Even if you are a recovering addict who is doing well in your recovery process, your subconscious mind will still crave your drug of choice.

Those in recovery, for example, already know that “just one” is a terrible idea because even a thousand will never be enough. The conscious mind is exceptionally aware of the negative consequences that will occur if they use even a little bit.

The subconscious mind, on the other hand, might be fixated on the addiction. Then when you are sleeping it is your subconscious that brings about those vivid ‘substance using’ dreams.

Can ‘‘substance using’’ Dreams Predict Relapses?

Studies have shown that there may be a correlation between ‘substance using’ dreams and the likelihood of a relapse.

People who tend to have many ‘substance using’ dreams are more likely to have more drug cravings and are more likely to return to drug use because of it. This is especially true for those who were addicted to things like heroin and cocaine.

Whereas there have been studies of alcoholics whose frequent ‘substance using’ dreams only encouraged their sobriety. Other studies have shown that ‘substance using’ dreams may be a way for the brain to cope and allow the individual a release to handle their cravings safely.

There are two major types of ‘substance using’ dreams:

  1. Pending Relapse Dreams: This is where once the person in recovery realizes their usage was just a dream they find that their cravings a reignited. They almost wish that the dream had been real. This is usually a sign that the person is likely to relapse more easily than their peers in recovery.
  2. Affirming Relapse Dreams: With this type of dream, the person in recovery has an entirely different reaction to their dream. They are relieved to know it was just a dream and will feel repulsed by the fact that they had such a dream. This is generally a good sign that the dreamer’s recovery is going strong and that they are serious about their recovery. They are a lot less likely to relapse than their peers.

While there are exceptions and discrepancies, one thing stands out.

It is more important to look at an individual’s reaction to their ‘substance using’ dream. The content of the dream or number of dreams doesn’t tend to matter as much as the reaction does.

People who express disappointment and frustration upon finding out the dream isn’t real are more likely to relapse than those who feel relieved to find out it was “just a dream.”

Those who are relieved tend to get more motivated to stay away from their drug of choice and are ultimately more likely to succeed in their recovery.

Understanding Your ‘‘substance using’’ Dream Fully

One technique to handle ‘substance using’ dreams is to attempt to understand them. For some people putting energy into stopping their ‘substance using’ dreams can backfire because of stress.

It may be a better approach to embrace ‘substance using’ dreams and determine what they are attempting to tell you. Potential theories of these dreams are as follows:

  • Your drug dreams might mean that you are ready for a change. ‘substance using’ dreams might be your subconscious way of learning how to deal with the frustrations of recovery. Drug dreams can be a useful tool that helps you deal with cravings. It frees yourself from the constraints of addiction and allows you to embrace change.
  • Your drug dreams might be that your brain might be re-setting itself. While you were in active addiction, chances are you didn’t have normal dream activity. Drugs and alcohol are known to suppress rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles that are needed for dreams to occur. So, once you are off all substances, it is likely that you will experience rapid eye movement rebound and dream more. Due to this, it is possible that your ‘substance using’ dream is simply your brain’s way of readjusting to dreaming again.
  • Your ‘substance using’ dreams might mean that you have intensified cravings. Dreams sometimes are a way of experiencing stress. If you have increased stress during your recovery, your dreams might be indicating that you feel ambivalent about sobriety. Just because you have a craving does not mean you need to use. It is more productive in this case to take steps to aid in your recovery than it is to relapse in a weak moment.

The Meaning Behind ‘substance using’ Dreams

Dreams tell us a lot about what we are feeling and thinking at the deepest level. Dreams utilize symbols to share a specific message.

Your subconscious communicates much easier with imagery than it does words. Interpreting the symbols in your dreams and discovering their meanings for you might provide valuable insight. That insight can help you not just in recovery, but in life in general.

All symbols in your dreams are a part of your mind. Dream images reflect your innermost thoughts and feelings. So, it is important to ask yourself what your dreams mean to you. Here are some common symbols in ‘substance using’ dreams:

  1. Failing Dreams: ‘substance using’ dreams are a way of failing at your recovery. This might simply be alerting you to the fact that you are concerned about whether or not you are going to be able to maintain your recovery. Failing dreams don’t just come in the shape or form of ‘substance using’ dreams. It could be that you are dreaming about failing in school or that you failed a test.
  2. Emotional Pain in Dreams: With ‘substance using’ dreams there is some level of emotional pain that occurs. Your dream might be indicating to you that you are unsure about your recovery and might be a representation of where you are at regarding your recovery. For instance, if you struggle with the decision to use in your dream, it might mean that you are unsure of your recovery efforts. This simply means that you might need to remind yourself as to why you are in recovery and what relapse means for you.
  3. Accused of Something in Dreams: If you are dreaming about being accused of ‘substance using’ drugs, it might be a reflection that you are taking responsibility for your drug usage. Even though these dreams usually create a feeling of anger after that fact if you are in fact “not guilty,” these dreams are usually a sign that you are doing well in recovery. Alternatively, it could mean that you are hiding something such as your true feelings for yourself and you are feeling guilty about it.

Remember your subconscious reports feelings, not the facts and is a way of forewarning you so you can be armed to best handle potential obstacles in recovery.

It is a good idea to discuss your dreams with someone you trust as a sponsor, good friend, or counselor. Talking it out will help neutralize cravings and any guilt.

Being Proactive With ‘substance using’ Dreams

Whether your ‘substance using’ dreams are an affirmation of successful recovery or a warning, it is important to process your feelings surrounding them. Doing so will help you deal with the emotions you are feeling.

  • Acknowledge your Feelings: Upon waking up from a ‘substance using’ dream take a moment to notice your immediate reaction and feeling. Do you feel guilty? Jealous? Disgusted? Or Indifferent? Understanding your emotions after the dream will provide you with a guide on how to deal with them properly. Write down your dream as well so that you can notice any patterns in your ‘substance using’ dreams and process them correctly.
  • Talk About Them: As mentioned earlier attending a meeting where you can speak about your dream or talking about it with a trusted friend, family member or counselor, can be helpful. Even if the dream is recovery affirming, letting others know you are having these dreams is important. Talking out loud gives you an opportunity to understand your feelings from a different perspective and can uncover hidden truths.
  • Identify Triggers: Is there something that might have caused you to have your dream? Did you run into an old friend? Find paraphilia, or perhaps someone said something that reminded you of when you used to use. If you can think of something that caused the dream, you can avoid it in the future.
  • Make a Relapse Prevention Plan: Drug dreams are a sign that your subconscious is still thinking about active addictive. If you do not already have one, be sure to create a relapse prevention plan. When it comes to relapse, you can never be too careful. Having a plan will help prevent you from starting over from step square one after all of the hard work you have put into your recovery.

Reducing the Number of ‘substance using’ Dreams

While we have little control over the subconscious mind during sleep, there are a few things you can do while you are awake during the day to help decrease the number of these kinds of dreams.

Reducing the number of nightmares you have can help you to live a positive and healthy life. Here is how to do it:

  • De-Stress: During the day a common trigger for ‘substance using’ dreams is stress. By relieving as much stress as possible throughout the day, every day is essential. Your recovery will depend on your ability to cope with stress healthily.
  • Exercise: Doing physical activity from yoga to vigorous aerobics will help increase the quality of your sleep. Not only that but, it will also help decrease the number of dreams you have. Ultimately this means the chances of you having a ‘substance using’ dream are greatly reduced.
  • Meditation Before Bed: Meditation before bed is not only a way to help with ‘substance using’ dreams but they are a way to improve your quality of life. Take some quality time to relax before bed. Read a book, listen to soft music or play a guided meditation tape to relax your mind before attempting to sleep.
  • Cut Out Late Night Snacking: Eating food, especially fatty ones right before bed can lead to disturbed sleep and more dreams. Try keeping your dinner healthy and light. You also want to curb late-night snacking habits as best you can.
  • Create A Relaxed Sleeping Atmosphere: A deep sleep means a dreamless sleep and usually deep sleep occurs when the atmosphere around you is just right. Ensure that your sleeping area is clean, dark and tidy. ‘substance using’ essential oils before bed can also help improve the quality of your sleep.

If you start having more drug dreams or severe reaction to your dreams, reach out for help.

Do not be afraid to ask for the things you need. It could make all the difference in your recovery efforts.

Need Help with understanding relapse dreams in Addiction Recovery?

If you want to understand relapse dreams and how they affect your recovery life you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.

The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment.  Call anytime.

Chateau Recovery Center
375 Rainbow Lane

Midway, UT 84049, USA
Phone: +1 435-654-1082


Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program

Coping With Drug & Alcohol Dreams

Coping with Drug and Alcohol Relapse Dreams. People who are in recovery from Drugs and Alcohol often experience reoccurring dreams about their substance of choice. This prospect may be troubling to those new to the recovery process; many people report having them often in early recovery, especially in the first 30 to 90 days. So if you have them don’t panic they very normal. It is important to understand that this phenomenon is not significant regarding predicting a future relapse. Though drug dreams can be disturbing, they should not get in the way of one’s recovery.




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