This morning I woke up with the sense of impending doom; that familiar feeling of: ‘Oh God, what have I done now?!’ I was achy, anxious, had a throbbing headache and was tangled in a mix of emotions – fear, guilt, remorse – that were making my heart cartwheel. This lasted approximately 10 seconds, followed by a wave of relief when I realised – it was just a dream.
These “dreams” – or night terrors as I can only best describe them – are not uncommon and have crept up on me on countless occasions as I battle the demons that lay in my subconscious mind. Without sounding like a broken record, 4 weeks ago I put the bottle down for good and my intention is to never pick it up again – unless that be to pour the contents down the sink, or pass willingly to a sane, ‘one-glass-will-suffice’ friend. I’ve been here a million times (most instances recorded in the last year) and after the passing of the first couple of weeks, sleep takes me to a crazy, frightening fantasy, which is so real that I live every single moment.
Throughout my life I’ve had vivid (and frankly bizarre) dreams, but I’ve always put that down to having a pretty active imagination. During my first year of A-Levels (when shit got real) and thereafter (Uni exams, first interviews, work pressure etc.), dreams would transcend into experiences of being caught up in tsunamis and plane crashes (two of my biggest fears). Since alcohol has become a “thing”, however, my nightmares now consist of 2 scenarios: 1) I’m pissed and in a panic as I try to find more wine – willing to crawl over broken glass to get it; and 2) I’ve woken up in a place that drink has led me too (more often than not, the house of that screaming, drunk psychopath who N introduced me to), it’s chaotic, filthy, noisy, and I’m practically shaking with fear.
According to experts, these occurrence of “drink” and “drug” dreams is a known phenomenon among people in recovery. There’s one argument which suggests that they are a sign of our mind readying itself for change, but still very little is known from a scientific standpoint about their prevalence, whether they subside with time in recovery, and (most importantly) their relation to relapse risk. For anyone who hasn’t experienced substance abuse first hand, the solution to avoiding a relapse is easy: just don’t pick up. The reality is, it is so much more complex than that; you are always at risk because you’ve spent years conditioning yourself into believing that drink is the only way to cope. The beginning is always the most difficult time because you’re still reeling from the mess you’ve made in the short period of time you were drinking, you hate yourself, and your body is in a constant state of anxiety.
Having that dream last night has put me in a pretty lousy mood all day and the “drying out” anxieties have started to rear their nasty little heads. Pretty much like the way a hangover makes you feel. I know that I’m still fragile, so perhaps these horrendous dreams are just my mind’s way of keeping me in check and to remind me of why it’s so important to keep being kind to myself and to stay strong – because the alternative is a pretty dark place.