Using Dreams

March 29, 2012 posted by Len B.

Today is my 18 month quit anniversary. It was on September 29th, 2010 at exactly 9:25AM that I snuffed out my last cigarette. I’m still amazed that, after being a prisoner to my smoking addiction for more than 40 years, I was finally able to beat it. Hallelujah!

Last night, in the middle of the night, I awoke after having had a very disturbing dream. Although not identical, I’ve had similar dreams on various occasions ever since I quit smoking. The general theme of these dreams goes something like this:

I’m in the middle of doing something (regular dream activities, whatever they might be) when I notice a lit cigarette in my hand. I take a drag as I look down at my shirt pocket where I see a half-empty pack of cigarettes inside. It’s at this point that I recall that I’ve quit smoking and am doing something that I shouldn’t be. With that realization I immediately toss my lit cigarette down and discard the pack from my pocket, trying desperately to convince myself that it was just a minor slip up and that it won’t happen again. Failing that, all at once I become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment in myself for having ruined a perfect record of smoking sobriety. It’s at this point that I wake up and, for at least a couple of minutes, continue to believe that I’ve started smoking again and feeling like I’m a complete failure.

For the first couple of months after I quit smoking I was having these dreams on a regular basis. Puzzled by them, I did some Internet research and discovered a little-known phenomenon called “Using Dreams.” From what I read, recovering drug addicts frequently dream about using their drug(s) of choice for some time after having quit. Some of them actually report feeling high in those dreams, as if they’re actually using the drugs. I couldn’t find an explanation or interpretation of what those dreams actually mean, however, for myself I can appreciate certain benefits from having them:

Each time I have one of these dreams I eventually wake up long enough to realize that it was, after all, just a dream, and that I’m still a non-smoker. My feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment are suddenly washed away with a renewed sense of accomplishment. The dreams remind me once again that my addiction to smoking was at least as powerful as any drug addiction and that I must continue to remain vigilant at all times, so as not to fall prey to that deadly addiction once again. As uncomfortable as they make me feel, I do think that my “Using Dreams” serve a valuable purpose.

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