Is It Normal To Have Nightmares When You Get Sober?

woman waking up from drug dreams

Is It Normal To Have Nightmares When You Get Sober?

If you are recovering from a substance use disorder, you have probably become familiar with a wide variety of odd symptoms. From restless leg syndrome to major mood swings and fluctuations in weight, early addiction recovery can cause some strange effects.

Have you found yourself having extremely vivid and potentially disturbing dreams? Did you wake up one morning unsure if you had just relapsed in your sleep?

What you’re experiencing is referred to as “drug dreams.” While these dreams can be distressing, they are very common. These vivid, disturbing, and sometimes triggering dreams occur frequently during early recovery, especially if you are worried about relapsing.

If the drug-related nightmares that you have been experiencing have got you worried, this article is for you. Let’s discuss what drug dreams are, what causes them, and how to cope with vivid dreams or drug nightmares in early recovery.

What are Drug Dreams?

As if dealing with cravings wasn’t enough stress for you in early recovery, now you’re waking up in a sweat after experiencing a vivid dream. Thankfully, you are not alone. Many individuals in recovery from addiction or alcoholism have struggled with drug dreams at some point. It takes time to adjust to sleeping sober.

So, what exactly are drug dreams?

Drug dreams are vivid nightmares that people in recovery experience. Oftentimes, these dreams are based on your current situation in recovery, however, you end up relapsing in your dream. This is why they seem so real, causing you to wake up questioning whether that actually happened or not.

While dreams related to your addiction are scary to experience, they could actually be a sign of progress. When you first entered treatment, you may have been apprehensive about sobriety. Experiencing a vivid nightmare about relapse – and being concerned – shows that you are happy being sober and afraid of returning to your old patterns of behavior.

What Causes Drug Dreams?

All dreams stem from your unconscious mind and can be influenced by your daily encounters and emotions when you’re awake.

During early recovery, you have just recently changed your entire life. Previously, your life revolved around substance abuse. Because of this, dreaming about using drugs is completely normal and even expected.

You could be having drug dreams for several reasons, including:

  • Your subconscious is preparing your mind for future stressors
  • Part of you misses certain aspects of using drugs or alcohol
  • Your memories are influencing your dreams
  • Relapse is a source of fear for you, causing your fears to manifest in a dream
  • You talked about drug abuse the previous day, leaving drug abuse fresh in your subconscious mind

Any of the previously mentioned causes of addiction dreams are valid. Additionally, none of them necessarily mean that you are not doing well in recovery. However, it is important to unpack those dreams, identify any possible triggers, and utilize proper coping mechanisms to ease your mind.

Does Quitting Alcohol Cause Weird Dreams?

Yes. One of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is vivid dreams and nightmares. If you suffered from alcoholism, your sleep cycle was probably affected.

When you drink alcohol frequently, it is common for the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep to become disrupted and irregular.  The REM stage of sleep is when you experience dreams.

When you are detoxing off of alcohol, your body will begin to adjust to functioning without the substance. As your body attempts to correct its REM cycle, you could experience vivid nightmares.[1]

How Should You Cope with Nightmares and Vivid Dreams When You Get Sober?

Unpleasant dreams, especially ones about drugs or your addiction, can be disturbing. Here are ways you can cope:

Unpack Your Feelings

When you wake up from a drug dream, you should unpack how it made you feel. Were you upset that it wasn’t real? Were you worried it was?

Getting to the bottom of how you feel about relapsing in your dreams will help you understand what you need to work on in recovery.

Speak With a Sober Support

Talk with your therapist, sponsor, or any trusted individual in recovery. Describe the dream to them and explain how it made you feel. Even if you think that the dream helped you confirm your commitment to recovery, you need to discuss it with your sober supporters.

Additionally, sometimes it is difficult to understand how you feel until you speak about something out loud. Talking to sober support about your dream could help you reveal some important feelings about drug abuse and recovery.

Identify Triggers

Try to identify what triggered you to experience the dream.

Did you see someone you used to do drugs with? Were you dealing with emotions that used to cause you to abuse substances? Did you smell something that reminded you of your drug of choice?

Identifying what caused your dream could help you identify potential triggers for relapse in real life.

Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

Even if your dream only solidified your stance on staying sober, you should create a relapse prevention plan. While drug dreams do not necessarily mean you are at risk of relapsing, having a plan is an important aspect of recovery.

Your relapse prevention plan should include a list of triggers, positive coping mechanisms to utilize when you feel tempted, a routine of recovery maintenance techniques, and plans for what to do if you slip up.

Finding Help for Addiction or Alcoholism

Addiction and alcoholism are both chronic and progressive diseases that can wreak havoc on an individual’s life. If you or a loved one suffer from a substance use disorder, professional addiction treatment can help. Contact Florida Recovery Group to get connected with a reputable drug and alcohol treatment program today.