Lucid dreaming has a seemingly endless list of benefits attached to it. It can help people who are struggling with emotional pain, end recurring dreams and nightmares, expand consciousness, and so on.
In addition to all of this, regular lucid dreaming practice can also be a useful tool to those in recovery (or moving toward recovery) from addictions.
The process of recovery is an incredibly difficult one and can sometimes seem nearly impossible. The absence of the addiction from day-to-day life can make long-term sobriety (I use “sobriety” as a blanket term here, referring from abstinence from whatever has formed the addiction) a daunting challenge. This is where lucid dreaming comes in.
A Safe Place
The recovery process can cause significant stress and anxiety for those going through it, and there are a lot of negative thoughts and emotions that can occur on an all-too-frequent basis. People in recovery often fear relapse and become anxious about facing relapse triggers, they find difficulty facing their new life without their addiction, they worry about the thoughts and opinions of friends and loved ones, and myriad other concerns specific to each individual.
Lucid dreaming provides a space for them to face all those thoughts and fears in a private and protected manner. Dreamers can have open conversations with those friends and loved ones, practice facing their various relapse triggers and learn how to respond to them in a healthy way, and start building a new life outside of their addiction.
As most of us know, the hours we spend in bed at night can be some of the most mentally and emotionally treacherous hours of our day. Lying in the dark with no busy work to provide distraction can easily lead to those sinister, self-defeating thoughts that we spend the daytime hours pushing away. Since those thoughts can be especially dangerous to those in recovery, using the night time to lucid dream instead is potentially a tremendous help.
As helpful as lucid dreaming can be to recovering addicts, there are a couple of risks that should be taken into account before beginning the practice.
Just as lucid dreams can provide a safe space to face the anxieties and fears that come with the recovery process, it can also become a relapse trigger in and of itself. If, in a lucid state, you are presented with a trigger and do not respond to it in a healthy way, that can be highly discouraging and make that trigger more difficult to face in waking life.
Because the lucid state is a safe space, a recovering addict may be tempted to indulge in their addiction in a lucid dream because it feels risk-free. The mind is a powerful thing, however, and a relapse in a dream state is likely to translate into an actual relapse.
Dream On (Wisely!)
What this all comes down to is self-awareness. While lucid dreaming can be fun and exciting, it is something that should be taken seriously and only practiced if the dreamer feels that he/she is prepared for it. If you are in recovery from an addiction, consider whether or not you are ready to face your fears, anxieties, and triggers. If you are, lucid dreaming could be a transformative tool for you. If not, you can just as easily wait until you are in a more stable place and feel comfortable trying it out.
If you do discover something less than positive in a lucid state (e.g. a bad reaction to a trigger or a fear that you weren’t ready for), take it for what it is. Dream journaling can be a useful tool here – have your dream journal at the ready in the morning and record what you experienced in your dream. If it was troubling or disturbing in any way, think about what you can learn from that experience and how it might help you face similar things in your waking life. At the very least, you can always reassure yourself that “it was only a dream.”