Relapse Dreams: What You Need to Know 

At the beginning of a person’s recovery journey, there’s likely to be some changes—both small and large—that take some getting used to. Since substances can have such a major impact on the mind and body, those in recovery are likely to battle with some initial transformative experiences that must take place in order to set that individual up for success in healing and restoration; it’s not uncommon for those in recovery to have difficulty sleeping at night, and relapse dreams occur more frequently than you might think.

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Prevalence of Relapse Dreams

Several studies have explored the common experience of relapse dreams amongst those in addiction recovery and have found that about 85% of those who’ve battled with alcohol or other substance abuse will experience a “using dream”—especially during the very beginning stages of their recovery process. It’s incredibly scary for those who experience this for the first time, especially if they’re afraid that it’s really happened and that they’ve gone backwards in treatment. 

Despite the fear that’s behind these types of dreams, they’re quite harmless because they don’t actually entail a person using. In fact, it can be helpful to explore the pattern of these relapse dreams when they occur, so that a person can learn more about themselves and their recovery. It can also be helpful to understand why relapse dreams occur, and when:

  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.

 It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to be in the middle of a relapse dream, to wake up sweating and anxious out of fear that you’ve reverted back to drinking or abusing drugs, and you may even find that some of your relapse dreams are quite similar in nature.

Moving Past Relapse Dreams

While it’s certainly frustrating to receive these types of dreams so early on in recovery, when you’re so desperately trying to move on with your life and take the steps to create the life you’ve always wanted, the reality is that these dreams won’t last forever. If you think about it, much of your substance abuse journey has taken time to develop, and it’s going to be that same way in recovery as well. You may receive some “using dreams” from time to time, but they’re likely to diminish as your recovery progresses. In a way, it could also be your mind’s way of trying to work through the fact that you’re pursuing sobriety now—and after having been living in a pattern of using substances for quite some time, it will take a while for your mind, body and spirit to adjust.

Part of moving past these relapse dreams is talking about them. If you have a 12-Step sponsor through a program such as Alcoholics Anonymous, you can talk to them about your experience. In most cases, you’ll probably find that you’re not the only person who’s gone through something like this. It can be refreshing to get it off your chest, in addition to knowing that you’re not alone. You can also talk about this type of experience in therapy, as your therapist will be able to give you some crucial insights into your relapse dreams and these can also give hints as to what may be currently lingering in the back of your mind—tools that you can learn to prevent relapse.

A Life of Recovery

The reality of recovery is that it’s a lifelong journey filled with so many ups and downs; nobody can ever be truly prepared for what they experience along the way to recovery. However, there are so many different tools, resources and forms of support that can help you navigate the way—and by optimizing what’s around you, you’ll be more prepared for success.

At Renewal Lodge, there is an entire team of professionals who will be right by your side, to help you through these types of situations. In some ways, it’s about taking a step back and recognizing that it’s not you who is relapsing—it’s simply a dream, and now it’s up to you to learn from that dream and take the steps needed to ensure that you remain on the road of recovery. Take deep breaths and understand that while you can’t prevent these dreams from happening, you can take optimal care of your mental, physical and spiritual wellness so that you’re becoming stronger and more resilient than you ever thought you could be. 

If you’re ready to seek help, speak with a professional from Renewal Lodge today.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, a quality treatment program can provide you with strategies for maintaining long-term sobriety. At Renewal Lodge by Burning Tree, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals ready to coach each client through the 12-Steps and beyond. By structuring treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders, Burning Tree facilitates an environment of healing and holistic wellness. Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives through high accountability and life skills that foster lasting sobriety. We specialize in treatment for the chronic relapser and believe that with the right tools, you can put an end to the cycle of addiction.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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