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Your eyes fly open and you are suddenly sitting up in bed. Your shirt is soaking with sweat and it takes you a moment to realize where you are and catch your breath. You just had a nightmare. Nightmares and dreams are common for everyone but differ greatly in context. While some people dream about being chased or running, people in recovery may have a different experience.

What Are Using Dreams?

Using dreams are dreams that people in recovery for substance abuse problems sometimes have that involve drug use or drinking. These dreams tend to be more common in early recovery and decrease in frequency over time, but some people may still have dreams about relapsing several years after being sober.

Using dreams may happen for many reasons, and the research on the reasons we dream is still mixed. Some research suggests that dreams are tied to our emotions and memories.1 It is likely that people in recovery have dreams about drugs and alcohol because these substances were once a huge part of their life and they are still working through life without them.

Reactions to these dreams can vary. Sometimes using dreams may be one of the first signs of a possible relapse as they leave the dreamer craving drugs or alcohol. Other times, these drugs are a sign of relief for dreamer as they wake up and realize that they have not relapsed but can leave them feeling unsure of themselves.

Dealing with Drug Relapse Dreams in Recovery

Having dreams about using drugs or drinking again when you are in recovery can be unsettling, but you shouldn’t let it ruin your sobriety. It is natural to feel overwhelmed, but just because you are dreaming of doing drugs again doesn’t mean that you are doomed to relapse. These tips on dealing with using dreams can help you move past these nighttime terrors and stay on track in your recovery journey.

Be Proactive

Especially if you are in early recovery and have these dreams often, you want to get proactive about your sobriety. While using dreams don’t necessarily mean you will relapse, they may mean that you are currently struggling or can lead to strong addiction cravings. Attend extra recovery meetings, check in with your mental health, and apply what you learned in rehab regarding relapse prevention education. Being proactive now could save you from a relapse later.

Remind Yourself Why Your Got Sober

It is important to deal with dreams about getting high or drunk because they may make you question your sobriety. When you wake up, take a few minutes to remember why you got sober in the first place and all of the good in your life that has come out of it as a result. Sobriety is a choice, so this reminder can ensure that you stay on the right path even if you start to feel doubt.

Change your Habits

Instead of dealing with using dreams, you could take steps to try to prevent them altogether. Nightmares are sometimes the result of poor sleep habits, high stress, and anxiety. While stress and anxiety may be common in people who recently completed residential rehab, there are ways to try to minimize them. Make sure that you also create a good sleep routine and schedule. Changing these habits may help reduce the number of addiction relapse dreams you have.

Start A Dream Journal

Some people believe that dreams are symbolic and may be our subconscious trying to tell us something. If you frequently have addiction relapse dreams, start keeping a dream journal. Write down not only the details of the dream, but also how the dream made you feel. Journaling is good for your overall mental health and could help decrease the negative feelings associated with your dream.2 You may also find that journaling about your using dream may give you better insight into yourself and what is triggering these relapse dreams.

Share Your Using Dreams

You are not the first person in recovery to have dreams about doing drugs or drinking. Instead of being embarrassed or trying to cope with the dreams on your own, talk about it. You could share this dream with your mentor, friends, or at a recovery meeting. Getting this relapse dream off of your chest can help you feel better and sharing with other people in recovery can remind you that you are not alone. They may even have more insight on how to cope with using dreams.

Dealing with using dreams in early recovery is common, so remember that you are not alone. Addiction recovery is a long journey with many ups and downs. Our rehab center in Scranton works to prepare patients for life after treatment and the many challenges that may come their way.

If you or someone you love has a substance abuse problem, get help now. To get more information about our programs at Clearbrook Treatment Centers or to begin the process, call 570-536-9621.




  1. Scientific American – The Science Behind Dreaming Think
  2. NCBI – Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial
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