You are here:
Using Dreams
Adam Elsheimer - Jacobs Dream
Jacob’s Dream by Adam Elsheimer (Wikimedia Commons)

by Simon Mott

Using Dreams in recovery – Using Dreams Explained

Having “using” dreams in recovery about relapsing on drugs/alcohol is common in early recovery. When you have a drinking or using dream, you may wake up not really knowing if it actually happened.

Many people find it disturbing and frightening when they experience a using dream. Common examples include being in a position to be tempted to drink or use drugs, having the feeling or the sense that you did use, or experiencing yourself in the act of drinking or using, or successfully avoiding drinking or using. These dreams can feel so real that, upon awakening, they can leave you confused about whether you had actually used.

They can also set a disturbing tone for your day. It can involve an unsettling feeling that creates or exacerbates anxiety, tension, or stress. You may even be embarrassed to tell others that you had a drinking or using dream in recovery.

JUST FOR TODAY July 17 – Using Our “Using Dreams in recovery”

“Do we fully accept the fact that our every attempt to stop using or to control our using failed?” Basic Text, p. 18

The room is dark. Your forehead is bathed in cold sweat. Your heart is racing. You open your eyes, sure that you’ve just blown your clean time. You’ve had a “using dream”, and it was just like being there-the people, the places, the routine, the sick feeling in your stomach, everything. It takes a few moments to realize it was just a nightmare, that it didn’t actually happen. Slowly, you settle down and return to sleep.

The next morning is the time to examine what really happened the night before. You didn’t use last night – but how close are you to using today? Do you have any illusions about your ability to control your using? Do you know, without a doubt, what would happen once you took the first drug? What stands between you and a real, live relapse? How strong is your program? Your relationships with your sponsor, your home group, and your Higher Power?

Using dreams don’t necessarily indicate a hole in our program; for a drug addict, there’s nothing more natural than to dream of using drugs. Some of us think of using dreams as gifts from our Higher Power, vividly reminding us of the insanity of active addiction and encouraging us to strengthen our recovery. Seen in that light, we can be grateful for using dreams. Frightening as they are, they can prove to be great blessings – if we use them to reinforce our recovery. 

Just for today: I will examine my personal program. I will talk with my sponsor about what I find, and seek ways to strengthen my recovery.

Using Dreams in recovery – Why Do We Have Using Dreams?

Dr George Christo of the Centre for Research on Drugs conducted research into using dreams; found that 85% of  subjects who were at in recovery for at least six weeks reported having using dreams. A six-month follow-up study, suggested that those who experienced a high number of drug-related dreams were more likely to have resumed their drug use. This was especially true of cocaine addicts, the researchers say, perhaps because of “the particularly powerful reinforcing effects of crack.”

These dreams “could be explained by Freud’s theory of dreams being the fulfilment of an unacceptable, and therefore repressed, unconscious wish,” They think it’s likely that the dreams are memory cues which may prompt an increased desire to use drugs. Those who reported many drug-related dreams, they note, also experienced heightened feelings of craving.

During sleep, the researchers speculate, the brain’s “higher” cognitive processes may be inactive, allowing the pleasure centres that drive addictive behaviour to get the upper hand. Drug-related dreams, then, can serve as a warning to the waking mind that cravings, and the likelihood of relapse, are on the rise, knowledge that addicts and doctors can use to prevent dream from becoming reality.

Heaven is a place in the sky

Using Dreams in recovery

However an earlier study (Choi, 1973) concluded that alcoholics who dream about drinking during their course of treatment tend to achieve longer periods of sobriety. This finding suggests that alcohol clients who dream about the alcohol that they are attempting to abstain from may be more engaged in the treatment process as a result.

Benefits of Dream Recall

Dream Recall is an effective method of gaining control over dream-time. It can reveal areas of Magical Memory and you can ‘observe’ the dream. Getting plenty of sleep is the first step to good dream recall. A benefit of getting plenty of sleep is that dream periods get longer and closer together as the night proceeds. Keep your journal handy by your bed and record every dream you remember. The first dream of the night is the shortest, perhaps 10 minutes in length, while after 8 hours of sleep; dream periods can be 45 minutes to an hour long. We all dream every night, about one dream period every 90 minutes. There is general agreement among sleep researchers that dreams are only like to be remembered when we wake directly from the dream.

Using Dreams in recovery by Simon Mott

Contact us

"*" indicates required fields

Your Name*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Media about us:


"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.