It is a scary scenario we have encountered many times with our VRC residents and alumni. Imagine if you were making tremendous strides overcoming addiction in recovery only to have a vivid relapse nightmare where you find yourself using again in your dreams. For those moments you may feel like all is lost again. Or perhaps fear enters the picture as you begin to wonder whether or not this is a premonition. The truth is: as tough as these instances are, they are quite common and something we should all prepare for.
A recent study published on The Fix website discussed relapse nightmares and the fact that a third of all recovery patients may experience them. It is also worth noting that these types of dream occur frequently during the first stages of treatment and could perhaps be more likely if you were fighting a severe addiction.
Obviously, the subconscious brain comes into play here. Just how you may dream about a movie you just saw, the dependency is still fresh in the mind and thus, is likely to pop up during a deep sleep. The good news is (according to the study), the further you are removed from the addiction the more it will dissipate from your nightmares.
All of this research comes from The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, which utilized detailed methods in its findings. More than 25,229 respondents participated in their study, all with various degrees of substance abuse history. Dr. John F. Kelly, PhD was one of the lead authors and offered his perspective on the data.
“We found that the individuals in recovery who reported at least one such dream had received help from treatment and mutual-help organizations in the past, reflecting a more serious clinical disorder and impact on the central nervous system,” Kelly explained. “For those participants that did report having at least one dream, the length of time spent in recovery appeared to have an impact on the decreasing frequency of these dreams. That association suggested that as the body and mind gradually adapt to abstinence and a new lifestyle, psychological angst about relapse diminishes.”
All of that news is certainly encouraging and hopefully offers some perspective for people who have experienced a relapse nightmare. It is important to know just how common this occurrence can be and that it in no way, shape or form indicates that you are failing in your recovery progress.