Gathered from a Single Dream: Addiction Recovery and Sleep

Hello everyone. I hope all is well and you’re continuing with whatever comes your way throughout your day or night. Whatever that may be; you might have ups and downs, lefts and rights, in and outs; or all of the above in a short time. Many of us pressured from life throwing us around and around; it’s exhausting! When the end of our day comes, and we fall asleep, our brain and body “regenerate” to be able to have energy and continue to another day. This post will be on dreams. As a removing addict, and the son of a father that has a Narcolepsy (a form of epilepsy that causes you to fall asleep during the day, with little warning), so I am already genetically inclined to not only have sleep problems; but also have very vivid dreams. Being an addict has so many impacts on your sleeping patterns you can probably write an entire book on this subject alone, but in this post, I’m just going to share some of my dreams, experiences with sleep issues, and how it affected me both in active addiction and recovery. I hope if you don’t find this informal, at least maybe it’s a little entertaining lol.

When I entered rehab I was not in acute withdraw, but it was a little to get used to sleeping on the “plastic lined” bed (to protect the mattress from “withdraw related” bodily fluids), even the pillows were lined and irritating. It usually takes a few days to a week to “settle in” to any inpatient place before you become used to the routine/schedule of how it is specifically run. So I was surprised on actually how fast I adapted to this situation; it’s wasn’t much to me because by that time I have long ago lost the “fear” associated with the unknown and was pretty beaten down by my addiction and life by then. So it wasn’t too hard for me to sleep; I shared a room with two older African American gentlemen (I mention this solely based on their similar “religious preferences” which I believe was a type of Christianity…maybe Baptist, but I could be wrong); both very nice people. So I felt bad for them at night; because without knowing I would be swearing and yelling in my sleep “I’m gonna kick your f@&#** a$$!!!!!” “mother fu****!!!!!!!!” etc etc; and it can get scary. They would tell me “boy those demons coming out you!” and “who’s ass you gonna kick tonight?” So I began to take notice and a lot of times still to this day I wake myself up yelling from inside my dreams. Usually, if I have been in a period of depression or had an argument with an ex and I’m dwelling on something; these dreams increase in occurrence. I wonder if for myself; if it is both my mind trying to “relieve” my stress, I have been experiencing. Or possibly is my subconscious trying to bring a message to light and the forefront of my thoughts to examine and acknowledge for my good? Obviously, I’m not sure, but I think that maybe it could be both.
Usually our dream stage our rapid eye movement is hindered during our active addictions. I guess it depends on your specific “drug of choice” to what problems you have.

During withdraws, I experienced vivid “fever dreams” where they were very depressing and sometimes terrifying. I would wake up covered in sweat and the bed soaked in it…not even knowing what terrible dream I had but left with a feeling that it was horrible. Nothing like waking up to the nightmare of dope sickness every single morning (as I have for almost ten years of my active heroin addiction). I would go to sleep knowing every morning I would wake up in withdraw, talk about unmanageable. Usually, it was a daily struggle to drag my ass to work and lift thousands of pounds (my jobs were mostly labor for the majority of my life). Just part of my daily nightmare because I lacked the control to hold onto anything I had the previous night before to “keep me well” the next day (the future never mattered to me, and I didn’t care about the consequences even if they were brutally uncomfortable). After a while I would just enjoy my sleep knowing I was high for the moment; why worry about when I wake up? It was a daily thing for years. After that long, I just accepted that this was the way it was going to be for me. Sick in the morning; work and struggle through the day to find dope to sleep at night, a fantastic cycle of misery.

When I found myself unable to find my fix, there was a hard night ahead with little comfort or any rest at all, let alone sleep. But I will digress to my main topic of dreams; when in early recovery I have heard many stories (and also had them myself) of dreams involved in using while going through acute and post-acute withdraw. We dream of using our drug of choice. Well, usually the dream consists of us almost using our drug (I have had many of these dreams, where the rig was full and in my hand. The needle breaks, or I drop all my dope all over the place…waiting for someone to bring it to me, and I’m a “handout” away from getting “right”). Then there are the dreams where we get high in the dream and wake up wondering if we broke our sobriety; the dream creates guilt (this is common with people that just quit smoking and alcohol/drugs).

This whole experience and education I obtained in rehab have taught me how to look within self a little deeper. Pushing my mind towards understanding my thoughts and feelings to build up defenses within myself from myself (I know it sounds odd, but it is the “interlocking” component that fits with spirituality that allows you to “clean house” and lives of your Higher Power’s will and not your own). Now I look into every part of my psyche including my dreams; sometimes it is a raw base emotion; other times they are warning signs telling me I ought to change my thought pattern I have been in recently, or it might get worse for me very quickly. I listen to my intuition when it comes to recognizing these things within “self” because whatever I’m feeling is real to me and could carry weight, causing positive or negative consequences.

For instance; I had a dream while in rehab that I remember. After thinking about why I had this specific dream, I came up with a couple of alternative answers for what they meant to me personally:

The dream involved me sitting in the “middle” of my old Mustang next to my ex-girlfriend; I believe she was getting ready to shoot some dope and I was waiting for mine and I was sitting in the middle counsel next to her…one leg and arm by the wheel and gas/brake pedal and the other arm and leg on her side. We were sliding sideways down an inner city alleyway, sideways, gradually moving towards a brick wall on her side (passengers side). We were getting closer and closer to hitting the wall, and I was paralyzed in this position…unable to jump over and reach the brake as we get even closer and closer. Right before we hit the wall I force myself to jump over to the brake pedal…and, in reality, I slung my leg right off the bed and into standing position; waking myself up immediately.

So what did I learn from this dream that threw me out of bed?

I learned that by us sliding sideways steadily that I felt both in control yet was out of control of the situation. I felt paralyzed when I needed to stop the car and from us hitting the wall; I had to force myself away from her and my turn to get high for me to not crash into the wall. It had to do with me needing to stay away from not only using~but her; which was and frankly still is a hard thing to do when your in love with someone that is also an addict. It also had a significant factor in my personality traits of being a “protector.” I felt paralyzed when trying to stop us…and have no control over her using but want her to stop too; before we both crash and likely die.

The dream held significance because, during the time, I was extremely worried about my ex and believed we could have a future together when I left rehab, which was not the case. I can care about another person and hope they want to change but cannot change the way they think or feel; no matter how close I am to them. What I needed to accept, and I had to accept this for myself; I cannot be around anyone that uses or try and force change on another person. I gathered all of this from a single dream; so to me I guess my dreams do occasionally carry a depth and weight at times; they are worth looking into and might show you the right path to take.

Follow your dreams and thanks for reading
-Christopher Truxall

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