What happens when alcoholics dream they're drunk?
July 26, 2007 5:26 PM   Subscribe

What happens when alcoholics dream they're drunk?

In my experience I've had dreams where I've been drunk or stoned, even though in reality I've not taken any booze or drugs before my head hit the pillow. These are usually quite vivid dreams - sometimes in the dream i 'feel' and 'act' drunk; there is a sense of euphoria, movement is uncoordinated, I say things I normally wouldn't. So, even though I haven't taken any alchohol, when I dream being drunk, the dream experience is very similar to actually being drunk. My question is what effect does this experience have on alchoholics?

I've speculated about this already, so I'm not looking for any more speculative 'answers', I really just want first hand accounts, or those from a second party who can pass on what an alcoholic (or drug addict) has experienced about dreaming the effects of inebriation and told them.
posted by Elmore to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When you say alcoholics, I'm assuming you are talking about recovering addicts, that is, people who are not currently drinking.

I can't speak to this directly, but I do have a somewhat similar experience; I just quit smoking earlier this year, and I have occasional dreams of lighting up.

What I feel tends to be shame and frustration. That I've put all this effort into something and for some reason (in the dream, it's not a decision to smoke, I'm just suddenly smoking) I'm doing something that I promised myself that I had put behind me.

I'm betting you are more interested in the effects of subconscious inebriation though, and this answer probably isn't what you were looking for.
posted by quin at 5:59 PM on July 26, 2007

I have been sober for 5 years and I still have using/drinking/smoking dreams. A good night will include all three. I usually wake up feeling panicky and guilty then when I realize it was just a dream, I try to figure out if there is some sort of unresolved emotional stress that i need to take care of. Sometimes yes, usually no. It never makes me want to use any more than normal, I suffer no ill effects through out the day...it's just a bad dream like any other bad dream. Is that what you are looking for? The question sort of confuses me.
posted by yodelingisfun at 6:07 PM on July 26, 2007

once or twice i have dreamed that i was getting stoned ... and then found that i was stoned when i woke up. lasted about an hour or so.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:37 PM on July 26, 2007

Like quin, I had smoking dreams for about a year after I quit smoking. They were always accompanied with a horrible feeling of "Oh nooooo, I slipped! All that work wasted!" I interpreted this as a psychological safeguard, something that helped me keep my resolve to quit because the shame was so piercing all of a sudden.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on July 26, 2007

Frustration. I'm smoking/toking/ripping-lines but nothing happens. The smoking in my dreams feeling was very very much like smoking a cigarette when I had a lot of zyban/wellbutrin in my system (smoking did absolutely nothing for me other than increase my craving for nicotine).

(I had a dream, last night, that I had a half-key of uncut coke and was doing rails upon rails - I didn't get high, but my gums got numb when I rubbed some on them.)

However, I've never had a dream where I was drinking alcohol for intoxication, dropping hallucinogens, smoking opium, or injecting heroin.
posted by porpoise at 8:19 PM on July 26, 2007

Funny some of you mention the smoking dreams...I quit just over a month ago, and last night I had a dream I smoked. It was demoralizing--all that time and effort wasted!

I can't recall having a dream in which I was drunk, but I've had many in which I was high. Very, very convincing, almost lucid. It's a kind of self-hypnosis, and makes me wonder if I could induce a "high" state without actually smoking anything. Though I guess that's what happens with those monks in Tibet who meditate 10 hours a day.
posted by zardoz at 9:42 PM on July 26, 2007

I've never used cocaine in my life, but I had an odd dream where I snorted a rail with a friend and woke up thinking that it might night be a bad idea to try it...

Yeah, that urge quickly passed once I was fully awake. I have had drunk / high dreams from nights where I was complete sober. Its an odd feeling, almost a good sleeping buzz if there is such a thing. I think if I could have dreams like this more often I would. ;-) Way better than night terrors.
posted by wfrgms at 10:39 PM on July 26, 2007

Sober 8.5 years. I've had drinking dreams where I've woken up with a hangover next day, the effect on the brain has been so powerful. The weird thing about this is that when I was drinking I never had hangovers, I had a remarkable physical tolerance for booze. Of course, not being a 'real' hangover, the dream-induced one doesn't linger, but there's still a horrible feeling, for just a few seconds on waking, of 'did I drink last night?'.

I rarely remember dreams of any kind, but the drinking dreams, whilst infrequent (probably less than ten over the eight-and-a-half years), are intensely vivid and as well as a drinking scenario usually involve me feeling shame/guilt and wondering how I can face my AA friends again.

To me it's not a sign that I'm in imminent danger of drinking again and it doesn't rock the core of my sobriety.
posted by essexjan at 1:35 AM on July 27, 2007

They are vivid, though, aren't they? I'm sober 14 months now and they can freak me out - mostly as I'm trying to figure our how on earth I can explain to my loved ones that I've relapsed.

My drinking dreams tend to take the following shape: I'm in a cafe or some place I don't really associate with drinking and all of a sudden I'm aware that I'm getting drunk off the coffee. Then the shame and panic hits and I know I have to stop drinking coffee but I can't.

Have you ever had a dream where all of a sudden, you become aware you're pregnant (and it's not a good thing)? They're like that for me.
posted by katiecat at 4:11 AM on July 27, 2007

And I thought I was the only one who had this happen. I haven't indulged in certain crystallized substances in years now (got married/kid/etc), but about 3 or 4 times a year I will have a dream where my buddies & I are partaking in gleaming heaps of chemicals, along with other milder psychoactive substances. The effects are very real, and (much like zardoz) I have often wondered if I could ever train my brain to do this while I'm awake for a nice free buzz.

I wake up feeling weird, and usually spend the morning romanticizing my tweaker days of old, until I remember the heart palpitations and raging paranoia brought on by staying up for 4 or 5 days. Then I'm back to normal.
posted by ekstasis23 at 9:23 AM on July 27, 2007

Just wanted to thank those who answered, especially yodelingisfun, essexjan and katiecat.

What made me ask this question was that a while ago I had a dream where a long long gone ex-girlfriend was desperately trying to have sex with me. When I awoke I first felt guilty, a bit confused, then relieved that it was a dream. Then wondered what would happen if it was an addiction that I was dreaming about. I find it fascinating, and appreciate the frankness and insight that have been offered. Thanks.
posted by Elmore at 3:59 PM on July 27, 2007

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