Alcohol-Related or Drug-Related Dreams in Addiction Recovery

May 25, 2015 Kira Lesley

Alcohols or drug-related dreams can be disturbing for those in addiction recovery, but what do these dreams actually mean? If you use drugs or alcohol in dreams, what does that mean for your addiction recovery?

Alcohol-Related, Drug-Related Dreams are Common in Addiction Recovery

Alcohol-related dreams or drug-related dreams can be scary in addition recovery, but do addiction dreams mean that relapse is on the way?

In eight years of recovery from alcoholism, I have never had a drinking dream in which I actually drank in the dream. However, a recurring theme that surfaces from time to time is the panic I feel when I realize that in the dream I had drunk previously--I had relapsed. Sometimes in these dreams I “remember” having relapsed and sometimes I do not; in those cases, other people have told me I was drinking. It’s doubly terrifying because it reminds me of drinking and also of being in a blackout state.

I had more alcohol-related dreams in my first year of addiction recovery than I do now, but they still occur. I have not noticed any patterns to when they happen. So does having a alcohol-related or drug-related dream mean that you want to drink or use? Does it mean you’re on your way to an alcohol relapse? I would say the answer is no.

Do Alcohol-Related Dreams or Drug-Related Dreams Precipitate a Relapse?

Dreams are individual as we are. Of course, it is possible that a person who has repeated addiction dreams is struggling with wanting to use and that he will pick up a drug again. But just because someone is struggling with wanting to use or drink, it doesn’t mean she will. Furthermore, a person in recovery may pick up a drink or a drug without having had any alcohol-related or drug-related dream or experiencing any cravings.

Personally, I have a tendency to internalize television shows, but the content usually doesn't manifest for two or three days. For example, recently I watched a show where someone was diagnosed with lung cancer. A few days later, I dreamed I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Dreams reflect inner struggles, fears, and desires, or they reflect television, advertisements, or completely random events.

Alcohol-Related Dreams Might Mean You Value Your Recovery

Once, when I was concerned about alcohol-related dreams in early recovery, a friend told me that, for her, those dreams showed that someone highly values her alcohol recovery or drug addiction recovery. I’m an anxious person and a worrier, and sometimes these worries make their way into my dreams. Other people might not be as anxious as I am but they might have dreams about other things that I never would. Our brains are incredibly complex and unique.

While I do not think drug- or alcohol-related dreams necessarily mean someone is on the verge of relapse, they might signify that something is off with that person’s psychological wellbeing. If I am having drinking dreams or any other kind of nightmare, I may need to reduce my stress and anxiety. Even if that’s not the case, these dreams tend to be very upsetting and may warrant taking some action to support one’s recovery. I know when I have an alcohol drinking dream, it makes me want to go to a meeting or do something else recovery-related. Whether or not the dream indicates anything about the health of one’s recovery, engaging in a recovery-strengthening activity is never a bad idea.

Image credit: (c); Valua Vitaly / Fotolia

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APA Reference
Lesley, K. (2015, May 25). Alcohol-Related or Drug-Related Dreams in Addiction Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Kira Lesley

June, 28 2021 at 1:40 pm

I frequently have alcohol based dreams, both about drinking and about hiding/being caught with drink. It's good to know that this is absolutely 'normal'. I'm not in any time of program and have been 'dry' for over 2 years but these dreams can be worrying. I tend to work on the good feeling of relief when I wake up and realise that I haven't fallen off the wagon and no, I haven't had to take an exam (that I haven't studied for) naked neither!!

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Jann Becker
June, 3 2015 at 7:42 am

I've been in recovery for awhile and the "relapse dreams" still happen in the month or so before my sober anniversary. Usually I'm looking at a drink, maybe pick it up-and then remember I have X amount of time in AA, I don't want to blow it-and this is when I wake up!

May, 28 2015 at 12:01 am

Great information. Will go along way in helping my bro who is a recovering alcoholic. Thank you for the post.

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