Sunday, October 7, 2012
I awoke from a terrible dream this morning that my wife had started drinking again. I was re-living in the dream the nightmare of being with her at a concert where she was drunk and stumbling.
These dreams are not new. The venue may change but the recurring theme is that we are to meet somewhere, but I can't find her. When I do find her, she is drunk. The dreams are vivid and realistic. Fortunately, this is the first such dream that I have had in a long time.
I've read that dreams about something traumatic are common among those who suffer from PTSD. A therapist once told me that she thought that is what I had from all the years of being around alcoholics. I don't know whether that is true or not. I have often been baffled by my dreams though. The ones that I remember the most are troubling and leave me with a feeling of fear and great anxiety when I awake.
I wonder if the events of the past are encrypted in the neural pathways of my brain to such an extent that no amount of recovery will erase them. Maybe not. I have found in recovery a way to understand the nature of my anxiety around alcoholism. But there are still unresolved aspects that no doubt spill over into dreams. Yesterday, I was meeting with a fellow I sponsor who is doing his fourth step (a searching and fearless moral inventory of self). He brought up his feelings of guilt and shame towards his parents and brother. Some pretty stark and ugly emotions are discussed in the process of recovery. Maybe those emotions in the unconscious mind spill over into the dream world as a reminder of what I have experienced. Maybe there is something that I can learn from these dreams.
What I realize after waking from the "trauma" of a drunk dream is that:
• Drunk dreams are not unusual for either an alcoholic or a person affected by someone else's alcoholism
• Drunk dreams aren't reality but a recycling of something from the past.
• These dreams are a part of processing emotions.
• I can use the dreams as tools for self-discovery and spiritual progress.
Here are some more thoughts on the power and purpose of dreams from Gayle Greene, Ph.D. :
When people are awakened out of REM and given a word to associate to, their associations are more novel, more original than in other stages of sleep; they "ignore the obvious and put together things that make a kind of crazy unexpected kind of sense." Dreams..... are where we bring things together in fresh, often startling ways, drawing on stores of knowledge from the past, the present, the possible, to find new associations. Dreams may help us find new patterns and create combinations that break through well-worn ruts.
I swear, I write better when I awake out of one of those intense, thrashing-it-through dreams. Even a troubling dream, a dream that churns up stuff I'd rather shove under the carpet, even a dream barely remembered, much less understood, seems to provide some kind of fluency, dream energy, fuel for thought. Those are the days that the words and images come, tumble out so fast that my fingers on the keys can barely keep up. I don't know how it works, but it does seem to work.
And creativity isn't just for writers or artists, it's about basic survival, about finding new paths, figuring out what to do when something goes drastically wrong on the highway, in a marriage, in a work situation. We live in a complex world. We need our brains to be firing on all cylinders; we need to think creatively, flexibly, as we negotiate relationships with colleagues, co-workers, family, friends.
Much food for thought. I know that the visions of that dream are still in my head. Maybe by putting these thoughts down, I have a better understanding that what was once a reality for me has been transformed into a new awareness in recovery.