I don’t usually remember my dreams. But when I do they are often using dreams. I had a using dream this week. And it happened to be the most gruesome using dream I have had in the past 8 ½ years. In other words, ever.
For those of you who don’t know, a using dream is a dream addicts who have given up their substance have of getting high. For me they are about sugar.
They are totally normal. They don’t mean anything. In the beginning I was afraid they meant that I was going to have a relapse. But it soon became clear that there was no reason as to why or when I would have them. And it also became clear that every addict I knew who had given up their substance had them.
Up until this week, my using dreams have always been short and simple. In my dream I somehow get to a point that I realize I have had a bite of something that I don’t eat, like a muffin or a cookie. Sometimes the dream even starts after I have already taken the bite. The dream itself is usually about the aftermath. The panic. What I am going to do. Who I am going to tell. If I am going to tell anybody. If I can, or will, rationalize it. If I’m going to be honest or if I am going to lie. And it is always in the context of the fact that I do not eat the thing I have just eaten. It’s not like I don’t have food boundaries in my dream. The point of the dream is that I don’t eat sugar and I just ate sugar.
This particular dream was long and drawn out. It was specifically about eating licorice. (Yes, black licorice. Licorice licorice.) Which was a nostalgic food for me. I used to eat it with my Italian grandma. It’s what we would eat after dinner. This dream was not just about eating it, but then going out to find more. And the specific brand my grandma used to buy. It was about chasing it.
I was telling a coworker about this the other day and he said to me, “Was it great to eat it again? Were you thinking, ’Mmmm. Wow, this is so good?’” I looked at him surprised. I said, “No. It was a nightmare.”
The main feeling of the dream was the dual terror that I was going to eat more and that I was not going to get to eat more. It was the feeling of how crazy eating sugar made me when I was an active addict.
The good thing about this dream is that it reminded me where I come from. Who I could be if I did have a relapse. It brought me back to what it was like to live in my head when I was crazy and in food hell. And it reminded me that I am a low-functioning addict. That when I was eating compulsively, I didn’t pay my bills. I didn’t clean my house. I would eat in bed, and then just push the garbage aside to go to sleep. I slept in a nest of my own garbage.
It is always a relief to wake up from a using dream. I think that may actually be what they are for. Especially when I am feeling normal and sane and happy in my life. That relief. That full body experience that reminds me that all of the inconvenience of shopping and preparing and reading labels and constant vigilance is actually worth it. Because I didn’t really eat that licorice or that muffin or that cookie. That the life with peace and calm and the ability to cope with every-day situations is not my normal. That there is another me out there who is totally cray-cray. But not today. For today it was just a dream.