I could do without...

...the drinking dreams. I had them right after I stopped drinking five months ago, then they stopped. They started up again in January, when I was furloughed during the government shutdown. I would wake up scared and sad from having busted my sobriety, and it would take several moments for my mind to process that I was back in real life, where I in fact have not had a drink for five months.

I'm guessing in my case these dreams are triggered by stress - last fall because I was scared I'd never be able to pull off sobriety, and last month because I spent weeks wondering if I'd be homeless. For those who have experienced this, do you also find they're brought on by stress? Will I get to the point in my sobriety where I can experience severe stress and not have these dreams?

Edit: Because it's my five-month soberversary, I'll allow myself the indulgence of adding that I really love being sober. Easily the best thing I've ever done for myself.
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  • I’m not an addict but from a mental health side, I believe you have these dreams because the only way you know how to deal with stress is through your addiction and you are in the process of re-programming your body and mind to deal with stress in new ways. Humans are creatures of habits and do well with consisten routine, even if the routine is an unhealthy addiction, it’s how we are hardwired. You’re doing amazing though! 5 months is amazing and talking about how you’re feeling is a fantastic step into healing. You are building a better and healthier life for yourself and with time I have faith that you won’t have those dreams.
  • @NXL, ah, drinking dreams. The bad news is, they get less, but they never really go away. Or at least they haven't for me in my 7 years sober and counting.

    For me, they have gotten less frequent, but they are still the same as you describe. The panic, the disappointment, the shame. What was really bad, and kinda funny to think about, is that when I first started on my sobriety, drinking dreams were really tough to ID. Reason was because I was prone to blackouts when drinking, and the rolling blackouts of memories fading in and out. As such, the fact that dreams start in the middle of something, and jump around at times, didn't stand out as odd or impossible. The dream was me at a bar drinking shots. Then I am at home on the couch. Then yelling at someone at another bar. Seems like standard night drinking. There were times when it would be WELL into the afternoon, like 4 or 5 PM, before I realized that it was just a dream. A whole day thinking I had failed. But hey, that realization that it was just a dream felt REALLY good when the light went on.

    Drinking dreams are so normal that they get some words in the Easy Way to Stop Drinking that I read and other books (that I haven't read). It is good that you feel bad after the dream. That means that you are still committed to your sobriety. How would you feel if you woke up and thought,"It was a dream, but it wasn't that bad" as opposed to the shame? For me, I'd be cracking open some literature and reinforcing my commitments to sobriety REAL quick.

    So, what do they mean and what to do about them? They DON'T mean you secretly want to go back to drinking. After all, a lot of us have that "naked in public" dream, or the "forgot something important" dream. Doesn't mean we want to do those things. I think the drinking dream is just part of the brain working through memories and doing what it does. Kinda like the naked dream and the dream about flying like Superman. If they are really unsettling and unnerving, maybe talk to a mental health pro about it. But, if it is any consolation, I had them, and still have them to a lesser degree. Just like the naked in public dream, it is part of being human in a society and part of the price we pay for the life we choose. And I'm ok with that.

    Keep the faith!
  • @NXL... I hope the drinking dreams lessen for you sooner rather than later. And big kudos to you on 5 months of sobriety! That's FABULOUS!! Just keep going!

    @Leaker... Thanks for sharing your insight. You're such an asset to this community!

    Happy Monday! :)
  • Thanks @DeanD, it's good to be here. Hopefully I can contribute to someone else's positive life choices and turn a black spot on my life into something positive.

    As an indicator of how little the alcohol dreams effect (Affect? Damn you Florida public school education!) me now, and a little piece of coincidence, after I posted, I remembered that I had an alcohol dream Friday night.

    Basically I was at a restaurant bar, or maybe just a restaurant, and had a beer I was tapping on. I kept telling everyone that I stopped drinking, and wasn't a drinker, but they kept referencing the beer I was drinking. "I stopped drinking 7 years ago" "Yeah, but Leaker, you are drinking a beer right now." "But...I stopped drinking" "Got it, but explain the beer". "Well, I haven't finished the whole beer..."

    Eventually I started doing all kinds of mental gymnastics, "Well, I haven't had a drink before this", "But, I stopped drinking hard stuff like vodka and whiskey" and that sort. Then I had the internal monologue about how do I count this beer. Do I start over sober as of tomorrow, or do I play the cheater card and give the long answer with caveats "sober for 7 years except for beer", or "Sober except for less than 1 beer one time", etc etc.

    During the dream it was aggravating and stressful, but obviously when I woke up I put it behind me and went about my day. From it, I can glean that I really don't ever want to be in the situation of having to legitimately consider what that one beer would do for me and my sober time, so better to avoid the beer altogether right? To me, that is the power of the alcohol dreams. One can get an idea of how they would feel going back to drinking, without the alcohol clouding the thought processes. They are free to consider the situation with the clear mind that sobriety brings. All that anxiety, discomfort, mental gymnastics and "well, you see, the thing is, if you look at like..." that is in the dream, without actually having to go through it in real life. Annoying yes, but it can be a positive thing.
  • Wow - good looking out, everyone. I've been thinking it all over and what you've said makes a lot of sense.

    @Vicbrenan You're quite right about how I handled stress, which is to say that I never handled it at all before. I just cracked open a bottle, and it was never too long before you'd find me at the bottom of it.

    @Leaker your recounting of your dream hit on something else I've been thinking of but haven't put into words: most days I feel like a straight-up fraud. I feel like I'm lying about my sobriety even though - hand to God - I am not. Maybe it's because in my drinking days, I was previously so much in the habit of the mental gymnastics you describe. And maybe it's good, too, that I don't feel completely secure - conscious or otherwise. Better to stay sharp than assume it's safe to let my guard down.

    I think too that in addition to stress, this is partially about guilt for me - that I was weak, that my kids saw me pass out and throw up, that I let my husband down. I didn't think to make that connection before, but I know from experience that guilt can take a while to work itself out sometimes.

    Thanks again for your insights. You all are such a help and encouragement as I seek to follow this new path.
  • @NXL It's interesting that you mention feeling like a fraud, even after 5 months of sobriety. It might be worth exploring that a little bit. Why do you feel that way? Is it because you still feel like you are moments away from capitulating and starting to drink again? Have you not really accepted the "non-drinker" name? Is there a part of you thinking there is a path to drinking in moderation, but another that is set on total abstinence?

    The other side of that coin is, what would it take for you to not feel like a fraud? Is that criteria realistic? Is it obtainable? Or does some of that criteria involve turning back time and correcting past alcohol sins? If the goal is to get past the shame and guilt, or at least make it a little less so, the criteria has to be realistic and obtainable. Truth be told I will always carry shame and guilt with me from my alcohol sins, but I accept it while at times wish with all my being that it wasn't so. However, I did those things, I said those things, and while I can't change it, I can move forward and make sure they never happen again, as well as be an example to others about the potential for some form of redemption.

    Standard Leaker caveat that you don't need to answer the questions here, just things to ponder on the drive to the store or while laying in bed one night. Enjoy the ride!

    Keep the faith!
  • @NXL @Leaker are either of you spiritual in your journey? Totally not being a bible thumper here because I don’t push religion, but our pastor gave an incredible sermon about starting over this past Sunday. I love my pastor and I’ve never felt more joy going to church then when I switched to this church. A year ago I didn’t even bother with it. I don’t have addiction issues, but I have a lot of guilt and trauma from other areas of life and I think it’s a comforting way to re-focus on building positivity in your mind. The past is a lesson but we can’t focus on it. When we forgive ourselves and repent, we can form a plan. And with the plan you can gather the support and things that work for you to move forward. If you’re religious, God is all loving and forgiving and does not want us to hold guilt. If you’re not, that’s ok. Your family and kids love you and the only thing they desire is to have their parent, they will forgive you as they see repentance and they will support you in your journey. The importance of therapy for them is important to be able to support you.

    I know that had nothing to do with dreams about drinking lol... sorry
  • @nxl Don't know how I missed this post over the last few days. When I was in rehab years ago, everybody was having dreams that had to do with their drug of choice. People would report them almost daily.
    On April 1, I'll be 5 years into sobriety and while they don't happen nearly as much, I still have drinking dreams. It's always a variation of the same dream. I have beer put in front of me and I say I can't drink it. Then, the dream jump-cuts to the future and I'm sitting in front of a few empty pint glasses and I'm left wondering "How and why did I forget that I can't drink?"
    The bitch of it is, I don't even get to drink the alcohol in the dream, just deal with the shame and guilt of having fallen off the wagon. I hope the dreams will stop someday, they probably only come once every couple months at this point. Those are dreams that are nice to wake up from and realize I haven't really relapsed.
  • Im not so sure we should be calling them dreams folks.

    The horrors is way more apt in my most humble of opinion.

    Mine lasted for about the first two months of sobriety, it was almost as if the frigging things were waiting for me to actually sleep. Horrible nasty vengeful nightmares where I was on the recieving end of an unmerciful beating was one which had a very ironic twist to it. ( what dreammare doesnt hey?)

    sleep well tonight folks.
  • Great thread here! Thanks to all who posted. I agree with a lot of it and from what i've heard, they do decrease over time.... and, they can be productive in the way that your subconscious mind may be processing and working out what needs to be worked out....

  • @Vicbrenan Nope, I am not spiritual in my journey or any other aspect. Concur that an important part of the journey to freedom is forgiving one's self for actions, and I think I have to some degree, but I still feel guilt and shame over them. Forgiveness, at least to me, doesn't mean that the slate is wiped clean, it just means that the transgressions (my own or others) don't bear as much weight in the future. Maybe because holding grudges aren't productive, maybe because the reasoning is justifiable. If I forgive someone, I still remember the time they let me down, but I don't hold it over them, or make them do anything else to prove they won't do it again, as an example.

    To be clear, I am not saying that I am consumed with guilt and remorse. But, those drinking induced shames pop into my nugget now and then, and I still feel bad about them. Like the time I lied about eating the cookies when I was young or other things. I can regret the memories, some more than others, but I concur, they are lessons, and powerful tools for seeing the right direction going forward.
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