Saturday, June 24, 2017

I still get high in my dreams

I still sometimes get high in my dreams. If you are a recovering addict, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Using dreams. Yep, they're real. And they feel real.

I've had dreams where I'm digging through old purses for pills, which in my past life I frequently did, and then I find a handful of them hidden in a zipped pocket. While I was in treatment, I dreamed that I was on a home visit. I was traveling in a big, white conversion van--maybe because I was accustomed to riding in what we dubbed the "druggy buggy" or "pills on wheels."  Anyway, I was a few rows back in the van and I noticed a bottle of pills in the cup holder up front. As the van went around curves, the lid came off of the bottle and pills started floating through the air. I grabbed them as fast as I could, then worried the rest of the dream about failing a drug test once I got back to the facility. I woke up in my bunk bed scared to death that I'd relapsed. It felt so real that it shook me. As I got into the line for the 7am drug screen the next morning, I actually found myself getting anxious about failing the screen.....even though I knew it was just a dream.

Just a couple of weeks ago (after being opiate free for 30 months) I had one of the most vivid using dreams I've ever had. I can remember nearly every single detail. The dream took place in my old high school. I was sitting at a giant wooden table in a conference room that appeared to be the former study hall. I think that I was there for some kind of meeting, but then a guy I used to know pulled a duffel bag out from under his rolling chair and laid it on the big mahogany table. He had a bag full of assorted drugs, and he started pulling them by one. I just kept shaking my head. I didn't want anything he was offering. Well, until he looked at me and said, "I've got your favorite." He slid the bottle across the table to me, and when I read the label, my stomach dropped. He was right. It was my favorite. I told him that I would take a couple with me, but that I was sure I would never use them.

I left the room and walked down a stairway. I put the pill in my mouth and kept walking. Somehow one of my best friends, Ash D., found me and grabbed me by the arm. As we walked, I tried to spit the pill out. But, it just kept growing in my mouth and I couldn't spit it out. Ash kept trying to help me as we wandered the halls of that old school. We walked up a small set of stairs near the Guidance office, then over to the library. I started trying to yell, my mouth filled with the ginormous pill that I needed to spit out.  I couldn't swallow it. I didn't want to take it. I couldn't relapse. If I did, I'd have to tell my friend Sandy (even in my dreams I know that I have to tell her the truth!) and I couldn't let my family down. I awoke in a cold sweat, spitting onto my pillow. I opened my eyes and they slowly adjusted so that I could see the room around me. I wasn't walking through the halls of my old high school, but lying in my comfy bed in my safe and quiet bedroom. I looked beside me where Chad peacefully slept. I was home. And I wasn't alone. Once I realized that it was just a dream nightmare, I allowed the air that was trapped inside of my lungs to finally escape. I had never been so happy in my life to be clean.

None of that, however compares to a dream I had while in treatment. While it wasn't a using dream, it's one of the worst dreams I've ever had because I had to wake up from it.

I was lying in my bed at home, holding my little girl. 
She must have gotten scared and wanted her Mommy.
Her damp hair rested on my arm.
I put my nose to her head and smelled her hair.
It still smelled like baby shampoo. 
I wrapped my arms around her even tighter
and she snuggled into me.
I twirled her damp little curls around my index finger.
I watched her little chest rise and fall with each breath.
I kissed her flushed cheeks. 
And I smiled. 

Still sleeping but somehow half-awake, I tried to pull that curly-headed brown-eyed baby even closer to me. But, my arms were empty. She was gone. Adrenaline shot through my veins and my body jolted wide-awake. The room was still dark and I blindly felt all around the bed for my little girl. She was gone. My eyes began to focus on the room around me, and I was scared. I didn't know where I was, but I knew it wasn't home, and I knew that my baby was gone. The fog and confusion began to clear and as a small light shone into the dark space, I remembered where I was. 

I wasn't home.
I was in treatment.

I heard the trickle of the fountain that was in my room.
I looked beside my bed and saw the battery-operated candle my friend Charon had snuck into my bag when she dropped me off to treatment. 
I peeked out toward the top bunk and saw my best friend Leanne sound asleep.
And though I wasn't alone and I was in a comfortable bed in a safe place that was beginning to feel like home, I wasn't home, and my arms were empty.
I wept and I wept and I wept.
I quickly closed my eyes, trying to get back to sleep, but, most importantly, trying to get back to that dream. 
But it never came.

That dream should have kept me clean forever, but, sadly, it didn't. I ended up making the same exact mistakes again and forcing my curly-headed, brown-eyed baby to relive the same exact nightmare.

Dreams come from our sub-conscious mind. I don't pretend to understand any of that, nor do I know how to interpret dreams. I've read many many articles about using dreams. Researchers say it's normal because our brains were so accustomed to abusing drugs. I know that my brain was very accustomed to it because I had used for almost eight years. That's a lot of behavior and memories to unlearn. It's all so complex and complicated. How can a dream like that pop up when I haven't even thought about using? I don't have a freaking clue.

But here is what I find important. One article I read said that although using dreams can be very surreal and terrifying, the most important thing to look at is how it made you feel. Did you wake up feeling disappointed that you weren't high, or did you wake up feeling completely relieved and grateful that you weren't high? Those two responses make all of the difference in the world, and I'll admit that I've had both of them. In the past, I was so ticked to wake up and realize that the purse that was full of pills in my dream was actually a purse full of gum wrappers, old receipts, and my long-lost lip gloss buried at the bottom of my closet.

Thankfully, the most recent dream I had scared the crap out of me. I woke up thrilled that I hadn't really thrown everything away....yet again. I was disgusted with the girl in the dream who thought she could put a pill in her mouth and get away with it. I don't know what all of the details in the dream meant. The mind has a funny way of mixing all kinds of different memories together. But, the one thing I kept thinking about, even days later, was that certainly there was some kind of symbolism. Not being able to spit that ever-growing, swelling pill out kept coming back to me. It finally dawned on me. It wasn't just one pill. It immediately turned into something that I couldn't get rid of. It overtook me. I had quite literally bitten off more than I could chew. And that's exactly what addiction does. It starts out with something as small as a little pill and eventually it's something we can't get rid of.....even when we try our hardest to spit it back out.

More often than not, my dreams (while always quite crazy) are now good ones. And when I wake up in the night and feel a sweaty head in the crook of my arm, I open my eyes to find that while it's not my tiny curly-headed brown-eyed baby, it's now my curly-headed, brown-eyed ten-year old who has crawled in bed with me because she wanted her Mommy.

I put my nose to her head and smell her hair. 
It smells like the big-girl shampoo she now uses. 
I wrap my arms around her even tighter
and she snuggles into me. 
I twirl her damp little curls around my index finger. 
I watch her chest rise and fall with each breath. 
I kiss her flushed cheeks. 
And I smile. 

Because that, my friends, is a dream come true.

May you dream of lovely things and wake to find them real. 
-JJ Heller

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