Several years into my recovery from drug addiction I started to have a recurring nightmare in which I’d smoke pot and feel the considerable guilt and anxiety that came along with relapsing. Still within the dream, I would go to bed and wake up the next morning saddened and overwhelmed. I hid it from my friends and experienced another day of living with the apparent relapse. I’d go to bed and wake up yet again still within the dream and so it went. By the time I actually woke up for real, I was absolutely convinced that I had relapsed. I could not tell the difference between the dream reality and my waking reality. I tried to piece together where I had smoked pot and why it had happened. Sometimes, I’d say to a friend, “I have to ask you the damnedest thing. Did I relapse last night? Did I smoke pot?” They thought I was joking. “Tommy, we went to an AA meeting and then to the movies last night. Don’t you remember that?” I would piece it all together in my mind and the most incredible relief would come over me. I was so grateful to still be sober and walking my path of recovery.
I was detoxing on a profound psychological level. Marijuana had been embedded deep in my psyche, it makes sense it would take a lot to get it out. These dreams went on for a while. With each successive one, I felt all the more confused and sometimes quite certain that I had used again. When I explain this phenomenon to people in recovery, many of them have had the same experience. A therapist I was seeing told me that it was a gift, an opportunity to experience the feelings that went along with a relapse without having to relapse. That worked for me and so I went with it.
I learned much from these dreams within dreams. I realized just how mentally ill I had been. Drug addiction hit me hard and penetrated the layers of my psyche. I am fortunate to have escaped its jaws. I also saw that I had changed. Shortly after this period, I would wake up one day to realize that I no longer thought about using drugs and alcohol. The charge around it was gone. My thinking had changed dramatically. From a person who could not have imagined a day without drugs, now I could not imagine a day that included them.
The takeaway here is simply this: Addiction works on us at a variety of levels. It gets in deep and this is almost always underestimated. We have the hardest time understanding and believing it’s destructive power. If you have it, treat it with great reverence and respect by treating it with the biggest guns possible. This means bringing together the healing, transformative power of the 12-Steps, Yoga, Meditation and a healthy diet. These are the main tenets of Recovery 2.0. They work. Embrace and practice them and you will move beyond addiction.