Abstract Through the use of a technique called lucid dreaming it is possible to become aware of, and therefore control our dreams. This can be a great tool for people who are disturbed on a regular basis by relapse dreams The problem
A lot of us who have abused drugs and alcohol in the past find ourselves left with a pool of common symptoms when we quit. Among these are reoccurring dreams where we are using again, some people find these very upsetting. Wouldn't it be nice if we could take control and say no to that hit, or have the ability to dump that glass of wine down the drain instead of drinking it? We have the ability to make these choices in real life, so why can't we make them in our dreams?
In most dreams we are a captive audience, we are presented with situations and circumstances, but instead of making up our own minds things just happen on their own, as if we are on auto pilot. For people who find their drug and alcohol dreams disturbing they may wish to turn that auto pilot off, they might wish that they could have the same level of control they have in real life, this is indeed possible, it's called lucid dreaming. The solution
A lucid dream is a dream in which you become aware that you are in a dream. There are varying levels of awareness and control, but generally once the realization is made you are no longer the observer, you have free will and can do as you please, which means that you can now throw that martini across the room if you so choose.
There are many methods to go about having a lucid dream, most of them are beyond the scope of this article, we are going to focus on triggers. For this to work we need two things; we need some sort of test that will prove whether or not we are dreaming, and we need a trigger that will cause us to remember to do this test.
So how the heck do you know if you're dreaming? Lots of people have had very vivid dreams that seemed so real, it's a shock when they wake up. Indeed dreams can be very convincing, but there is a surefire way to tell if you are in a dream or not. Plug your nose right now, just pinch it with your fingers and try to blow through it, did it work? Of course not, it's not physically possible because your nostrils were obstructed, now what if you tried that in a dream? Is your real nose obstructed? No, and your physical body is actually paralyzed during REM sleep so that you won't go and act out your dreams and hurt yourself. This means that your actual hand will never be able to reach up and plug your nose while you sleep, the result is that you can still breathe through your nose despite your dream self plugging it and so you will know for sure if you are in a dream if you can still breathe when you plug your nose.
Now that we have the method we need a trigger, for those of us in recovery this is painfully easy; drugs and alcohol. We are haunted by dreams of relapse and guilt on a regular basis, and seeing that these dreams happen often enough why not use them to our advantage? The steps are simple enough...
1) any time you are confronted with drugs or alcohol in some way, shape or form, test reality. If you see beer ads on tv do the test, if you go to an AA meeting do a test, if you go out to eat and people are ordering alcohol with their meal do a test. The same is true for drugs or whatever your poison was. The goal is to associate drugs and alcohol with doing a reality check so that it becomes automatic.
2) over time this will become a habit, it will become so ingrained that you'll do it in your dreams too, and when you find yourself having a relapse dream it's likely that you'll stop and do a test, hey wait a minute, it failed! This is good, hopefully you did the test before taking a sip but if not that's fine, it's just a dream and you are now aware of that fact, why not throw the drink across the room as an expression of victory!
Some tips for the test... When you encounter a trigger don't just plug your nose and try to breathe, stop and REALLY think about it. Where are you, who are you with? Does it fit? Are people behaving as they normally would? Do they look like they usually do? Is there anything out of the ordinary or unusual about the setting or situation? If you simply plug your nose and move on then you are missing the point, and it's possible that you will do that in a dream and pass right over the opportunity without realizing what just happened. You don't have to take ten minutes to analyze everything, but make a conscious effort to acknowledge what you are doing and ask yourself if it's a dream or not. Questions and answers
What does it feel like?
Lucid dreaming is not scary, but it is a unique and rather odd feeling, it's hard to describe but it kind of feels like you have been sucked into the dream and are actually there. Movement can feel slow and awkward, this is likely because your physical body is paralyzed, you can't move in real life so it translates into sluggishness in your dream. How long does it last?
This can really vary, for beginners don't be surprised if you wake up right after realizing it's a dream. Lucid dreaming is a very exciting and thrilling experience and often times the excitement is too great and you will wake yourself up, with practice you can go for longer periods of time. This may seem disappointing but even if you wake up right away, at least it wasn't another relapse dream right? How much control will I have?
It really depends what you're trying to do, if you've ever seen the matrix you may recall Morpheus talking about how you have to free your mind, it's the exact same thing here; your mind is the only thing holding you back. Flying, walking through walls and making huge changes will be more difficult because your mind doesn't know how to comprehend such seemingly impossible actions. Giving up that drink should in theory be MUCH easier since it's a common action that is perfectly reasonable to the human brain. Again with practice you will gain more control. Is this safe?
Yes it is, however keep in mind that a phenomena called sleep paralysis can occur. Remember how your body is paralyzed during a dream? Well sometimes you can wake up and still be in that state, it can be very frightening to wake up and not be able to move, you might also have bits of the dream world seem like they are in your bedroom, but you are never in any danger and the solution to this problem is to not fight it, just try to go back to sleep and you'll end up in another dream. This can happen to anyone at any time, but when you start to experiment with lucid dreaming sleep paralysis could be more likely to occur. I can't have a lucid dream, is it impossible for some people?
No, probably not, the thing about lucid dreaming is that the more you work at it, the more it will happen. Lucid dreams can happen spontaneously, but the more you work on doing daily reality tests, the more likely it is to occur. Conclusion.
Lucid dreaming is a very vast subject, and for the sake of simplicity I have only written about key points that could be beneficial to the members of this forum. With that being said I would encourage people to read into it further, if you are into meditation, the mind and psychology then definitely educate yourself. LUCID DREAMING Lucid Dreaming - Dream Views
Stephen LaBerge has a very informative book on the subject as well.