the best nightmare ever

I just woke from the most realistic drinking dream I’ve had in a long time. I’d ordered and drunk most of a glass of an old favorite beer and then stressed and fretted about telling people I knew would be deeply disappointed in me, including you. This all went on for what felt like an hour but was probably only a nanosecond because dreams are weird like that.

The first clue it was only a dream should have been that I was eating chicken wings and muffins and getting ready to go to a high school party. Then there were the two sober bloggers helping me fix a bicycle that doesn’t really exist. (which is totally something Josie and Christy would do because they’re the best!)

Drinking dreams have been a completely normal, if occasionally terrifying, part of the sober experience for me. I haven’t had one in a good long while and this one was particularly vivid, but so was the immense relief upon waking. It’s the opposite feeling of waking from a dream where you’re rich or reunited with a lost loved one or, as was the case in a dream last week, of giant sea otters the size of King Kong, only more playful and less murderous.

Sleep has to be the single most curative remedy I still look forward to on a hard or disappointing day. I love the simple act of putting myself to bed once the kids are tucked in. I used to watch Gilligan’s Island, but I guess you can only watch a group of people unwittingly blow their rescue so many times before what should be a simple pleasure feels like the stress I’m trying to escape. Usually I settle in with a good book and read until I feel sleepy. Sweet, sweet sleep…the real nectar of the gods.

I recently read a fascinating post on Greenland which touched on its abnormally high rate of suicide and alcoholism. I have no idea if it’s all fact, but it makes sense that a country which is partly bathed in sunlight 24 hours a day from late May to July might battle serious insomnia and related mood issues. The dog-wolves and landscape sound lovely, but sleep deprivation is hell.

The morning after a night of insomnia reminds me so much of a hangover. I find myself fidgety and restless, stricken with a low grade, pervasive sense of fatigue and doom. All day long, I obsess over sleep and when I can have more without raising eyebrows. I don’t have to look far for reminders of what life used to be like when I drank.

In the drinking dream last night, I won’t lie and tell you I didn’t enjoy the beer. It’s odd how the brain can still conjure tastes it hasn’t had in more than three years, but I can also remember lima beans and it’s been much longer. Enjoying the dream beer doesn’t surprise me because it’s not like I stopped drinking because I didn’t like the way it tasted or how it felt. I stopped because of increasing tolerance and obsession, not only with drinking but also the fearful way of life I saw as inevitable, if not exactly normal.

In my dream, I had already decided to stop at just the one. I was fretting over how to admit my lapse in judgement and how to get people to trust me again. Sober blogging does help me stay sober, though I am pleased to reveal the real reason I still don’t drink is because my life feels so much fucking better now.

If you struggled or still struggle with alcohol issues, I wish a lifetime of periodic, terrifying drinking dreams so that you too will know the flood of relief upon waking. I didn’t give up my precious, beautiful sobriety. I’m celebrating with a trip back to bed.

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18 thoughts on “the best nightmare ever

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  1. BB. I guess you could look at waking from such a dream, as an empowering experience. Somewhat ‘ taking a trip and never leaving the farm’ as the singer used to sing ( someone by the name of Stevens – you know “can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd”/ “The streak” – that guy).
    Dreaming seams to be a kind of reverse grieving. You go into sadness and reflection whilst awake and in sleep, you are travelling back out of it.
    I guess we should be thankful that dreams are there to balance our world out and let us see the ‘real’ in the reality. Hope you are doing well Kristen B

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  2. I had loads of drinking dreams when I first quit, but haven’t had one for ages. I can recognise that feeling of panic, disappointment in myself, and then the relief upon waking. I remember a really similar thing when I quit smoking, too, over a decade ago – and I don’t think I ever dream smoke any more! Agree absolutely on the curative power of sleep. How often does something seem awful and worrying at night, and then in the morning, it looks normal and manageable? My kids get very bored of me saying, “All you need is a good night’s sleep!” when what they’d really like is a day off school. xx

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  3. I really enjoyed reading this. I’ve had drinking dreams throughout my sobriety and I always saw them as a good sign that deep within my consciousness I know that drinking for me has some terrible consequences. Like you, I wake up feeling relieved, though they are so realistic it sometimes takes me a minute to realize it was only a dream. It was nice to read a positive take on these dreams, that’s how I see it too.

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  4. I have one or two drinking dreams a week at the moment. I guess this is to be expected 31 days in? But I find them very unnerving. I’ll try and focus on the relief when waking up sober aspect of them! Annie x

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  5. This was so cool to read. A) Cuz you’re awesome and B) Dreams fascinate me. Coming from a person who gets very little sleep, your description about crawling into bed to either watch Gilligan or read a good book certainly hit home. The simplicity of it delights me even if I know it’ll only be a 4-hour stint.
    Amazing that you “worked” through everything while you were sleeping–the real emotions and taste must have been enough to leave you scratching your head a bit.
    Next? I want to hear more about how that bicycle fixing session worked out 😉

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  6. Now why do I have the sudden compulsion to go out to my garage and get my bicycle pump?

    I recently had one too, within the last month, and it had been ages since the one before that. I can so relate to the awful feeling that comes from a drunk dream. I have to tell you, though, it lingers with me longer, I don’t get that sweet relief that you describe. The one I just had had an extra layer of hellishness to it… in the dream I woke up, thought it was a dream, then came to understand that I had, in fact, drank. This probably makes no sense, which is why I didn’t write about it on my blog! I had a drinking dream, woke up in the dream, and re-imagined I had drank. I was upset for hours that morning.

    On the other hand, I can totally relate to the idea of sleep as a reward. In fact, I am using that as a reward of sorts for the current challenge I have undertaken for myself (it is weight loss related, and I have deliberately chosen not to write about it because I cannot whine ONE MORE TIME on my blog about diet and exercise, no one deserves that torture!). But anyway, sleep is a total reward, always has been for me. While in active addiction, sleep was an elusive commodity, and conversely was the first tangible reward of sobriety for me.

    Lastly, and I will stop droning on and on, your Giligan’s Island is my 30 Rock, I fall asleep to it every night. And it never becomes stressful. But, Gilligan’s Island takes me back to the good old days, when there were only 4 or 5 channels, that show was a staple for me back then (as well as Bat Man, The Monkees, and The Brady Bunch).

    Always so happy when I find a post from you in my inbox 🙂

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  7. I love this post! The drinking dream sounds like a gift, of sorts. I used to have smoking dreams after I quit, and I remember the relief upon waking.

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  8. I haven’t had one for a while, the periods between them have got longer as my sobriety has lenghtened. However that does mean that when I have them now boy they frighten the bejesus out of me! I wake up sweaty, like I did when drinking, confused, frightened and bewildered… just like when I was drinking. Therefore often I have a few minutes (probably only a second or two) trying to figure out if I am drinking again or not.

    Like you though – I’ll take that moment that utter fear and concern that the dream is reality over having the actual reality of waking up covered in sweat, confused, frightened and bewildered and then having to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to have to drink again that day to cope with it all

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  9. Last night, the third night sans booze, I had my very first alcohol dream since calling it quits. It seemed relatively harmless–ordering a beer at a bar, only to remember that I’d sworn it off, and then getting up and leaving a half-empty glass. Even so, I woke up gasping for breaths from the anxiety. Dreams are powerful reminders of why we’re doing what we’re doing… thanks for sharing your story! xx

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  10. I tend to get them in bunches now. I might go a long stretch and then boom – 3 or 4 in a month. They don’t alarm me as much as before, but sometimes I get one that freaks me out. I panicked the first time I got one – thought it was a harginger for relapse. The guys I spoke to laughed and talked me down. I am always racked with guilt in my drinking dreams and am terrified what I am going to tell my wife and sponsor. I sometimes bargain with myself in the dreams as to why i didn’t relapse…typical alkie thinking…lol.

    Anyway, good to observe and be aware of, but I don’t let it bother me much.

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    1. well I wanted to come back and leave a quote I stumbled upon in my reading this weekend – and actually the entire book was an unexpected treasure to find – it is by Henri Nouwen and I had no idea he would be writing about ART! This book has sitting on my bookshelf – and it is a book we have had since the 1990’s and somehow it missed all the “give away” cleaning out days – and thankfully because it is a gem.

      “‘Addiction’ might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates contemporary society. Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world’s delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in ‘the distant country,’ leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled.”

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