I had a drinking dream last night. I no longer remember it. When I woke up from it at 6:15 in the morning, only about 20 minutes before my alarm was due to ring, I thought about trying to write it down, but instead I went back to sleep. I only remember the barest of details. And they are similar to all my other drinking dreams. I suddenly realize I’ve been drinking without meaning to, essentially. I just look down and realize I’m halfway through a drink. Rather than immediately throw it away though, of course I finish it, because it’s too late. I might as well get drunk, as long as I’ve lost all this time.
And then I start to panic and think about my sponsor, and what I’ll tell him. Then I start thinking about my new girlfriend, and what I’d have to tell her. I’d lose the relationship. I start thinking about how I can lie: “I didn’t mean to drink so I don’t have to tell anyone. I can keep my time”; “No one has to know. I’ll just stop again right now. I did it before, I can do it again”. But I know it’s not that easy. I have this sense, in the dream, of impending dread. I’m afraid it’s all going to begin again. The drunkenness. The sloth. The fear. The rage. The sickness.
Waking from these dreams is an incredible relief. I realize I didn’t really drink. I don’t have to give back all my time. I didn’t lose everything I’ve worked for. There was some talk in my Sunday meeting about drunk dreams. I shared then essentially what I’m writing now, except that I hadn’t had a dream recently then. That when I have these dreams my first instinct is to ask how I can lie my way out of it.
I’ve written before that honesty is the first casualty of alcoholism. We can’t tell the truth and drink how we want to. If we tell people how we drink, they get concerned, they tell us we’re in trouble, they refer us to doctors or, worse, to AA! Honesty and drinking alcoholically don’t go along together for long. To drink like I drank, you have to lie. And the lies feed the shame, and the shame makes you need to drink.
There is a moment of terrible freedom when we finally decide not to lie about it anymore. When we say: “I am going to level this facade and let it all come apart. This is the truth of all the things I have done in service of my addiction.” It is awful and wonderful and glorious in one obliterating heartbeat.
I’m grateful for these dreams. They remind me of all the lies I don’t need to tell. All the sicknesses I don’t need to suffer. All the isolation I don’t need to endure. And they rededicate me to the steps I take forward.