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Dream Interpretation: You don't have to drink again

Recovering alcoholics and addicts go through phases in their newfound sobriety. The state of sobriety comes over time as a process rather than a single act. It requires renewed commitment every day, sometimes every hour! It is expected that those going through this process will dream of their old circumstances in conflict with their new ones. This can be unsettling. Today’s dreamer offers an excellent example of the internal work she’s doing to stay clean.

A recovering alcoholic's drinking buddies may demand her attention in her dreams, but she will be wise to focus on sobriety.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Dear Carolyn,

I just celebrated my first birthday clean and sober! I am so proud of this accomplishment. I feel stronger every day, but still worry that my sobriety is fragile. I’m doing well, but some days I know with one slip, my new life could go down the drain and I could lose everything. I am committed to staying sober; and I have daily, sometimes hourly, talks with myself to stay on the straight and narrow. So I was especially upset when I had this dream:

I was talking on the phone. The conversation was important and I didn’t want to be distracted, but my old running buddy “Jenny” came and stood in front of me. She acted like a little kid, talking over my conversation, wanting something, just being generally rude and demanding. Someone came and took her away, so I was relieved and went back to the urgent phone call. But then here she came again, butting in and trying to take over my conversation. She just wouldn’t quit!

I woke up very upset from this. Jenny was so persistent! Does it mean that I’m weakening? Am I considering going back to Jenny and our old drinking ways? Or, since Jenny’s still drinking, does she need my help?


Scared of Jenny and for Her

Dear Scared,

Rather than accepting your dream as having a literal message, let’s consider the metaphorical view: Like many recovering alcoholics, you have a regular internal conversation regarding where you were, where you are now, and how to stay there. Through the image of the phone conversation, your dream reflects your having this crucial ongoing dialog with yourself. You don’t want to be distracted from it. Very good!

Jenny, representing your old self and your old destructive lifestyle, keeps popping up and trying to insert herself into the conversation. She throws little fits and demands your attention. This is parallel to your work on sobriety. You must address those recurrent urges and intrusions into your focus on abstinence. Each time the spoiled child throws a tantrum you must redirect your attention to the important conversation of sobriety. The good news – in your dream, that’s exactly what you do! Your priorities are clear and you stick to them. Good for you Dear Dreamer!

As for Jenny – beware of becoming entangled in her struggles. She’s lost her drinking buddy and that requires her to look at herself differently. Like a child’s tantrums, hers should be ignored. The best help you can give her is your model of a sober life.

Sweet Dreams to You!

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