Friday, October 19, 2012

User Dreams

User dreams often plague us as addicts.  I want to share my experience with them, how I've learned to cope with them and even come to appreciate them.  Also, I will be talking a lot about our brain's need for high levels of dopamine.  If this is foreign to you, you might consider first reading Sexual Addiction Defined which will give you a brief overview about how sexual addiction affects the brain.

What is a user dream?

A user dream is a dream that feeds our addiction.  I would have dreams where I would act out as if I was an actor in the very pornographic media I had infected my brain with.  I would wake up shaking and sweating and in a full on state of dopamine overdose.  User dreams are usually sexually explicit dreams but can also include nostalgia dreams, romantic dreams or dreams that produce sexual emotion. Basically, if the dream is a trigger then it qualifies as a user dream. 

Why do user dreams occur?
I came to learn that my brain craved the high levels of dopamine I'd been feeding it when I was in active addiction.  My brain knew that sexually explicit images produced those high levels of dopamine and when I stopped actively participating in my addiction my brain decided to produce its own movie screen of dopamine producing film also known as user dreams.

How often can user dreams happen?
These numbers vary depending on the person but for me I remember having a minimum of 2-3 dreams per week during my detox process but the further into sobriety and recovery I traveled the less dreams I would have.  My brain simply needed time to re-adjust the dopamine level threshold.  Once my brain didn't feel as if I was starving it, it was less likely to create the dreams.  I do still have user dreams but they usually only occur every 6 months or so. 

Is it my fault that I keep having user dreams?

I used to think that the reason I kept having user dreams was because I was being punished for something I was doing wrong.  I asked Dr. Donald Hilton, author of He Restoreth My Soul, his opinion on user dreams and he assured me that unless I was doing something in my life that actively fed my addiction that I was not accountable for my dreams.  My brain was simply in a state of shock and I needed to be patient while it healed.

  How do I cope with user dreams?
I had a really hard time dealing with user dreams at first.  I would wake up saturated in tremendous shame, wanting to give up.  I felt so angry that even when I’d worked so hard during the day to keep my thoughts and actions in check that Satan had a back door to my soul when I was most vulnerable.  Satan would also constantly whisper lies to me such as:
    • This is your fault, you brought it upon yourself
    • You will never be free of these dreams
    • These dreams are what you really want; carnal desires are ingrained in you
    • Your dreams are a form of cheating on your husband
    • No one else has these dreams, you are a freak
...and the list goes on and on.   
I endured an entire year of regular user dreams, sometimes 3-4 times per week.  Eventually, I learned to wake up, crash to my knees and thank my Heavenly Father that it was just a dream, and that it was not real.  I learned to not take accountability for them and to not give up. 

What can I do to aid in the fight against my user dreams?

The following are things I worked at to battle user dreams:
  • I hung up pictures of the Savior all around my bed
  • I read my scriptures before bed - not just read them - but I studied them.  I would specifically seek out recovery scriptures to help remind me of the power of the Lord and his ability and willingness to rescue and protect me.
  • I would pray for peaceful dreams
  • I would pray for Angels to watch over and protect me
  • If I had a user dream: I would wake up and crash to my knees and pour out my heart to my Father in Heaven.  I would ask him to remove the feelings of shame that the dream produced and to help blur the images in my head.  And I would ask for strength to endure.
  • I would make sure to text my sponsor and Bishop when I would have one.  The relief and validation that comes from a simple response of "man that stinks!  Well at least it wasn't real" or "let it go, the Lord loves you" is so powerful. 
I still have an occasional user dream but I refuse to own them like I once did.  I am now grateful for them.  They increase my gratitude for my Savior by helping me remember where I came from and how much I have been healed, they help me recognize the need for my Savior and they help me recognize that I still have my sobriety and recovery.  User dreams now give me the opportunity to see and express gratitude for all that I have. 



    6 comments:

    1. As the spouse of an addict I have nightmares about my spouse cheating on me, which triggers anger towards him. I have had 2 this week. Thank you for the insights on how to fight back.

      I am not sure if my husband has had user dreams. I'll pass this along to him.

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      1. It's funny because I haven't heard much that men struggle with user dreams. Which is ironic in a way because men stereotypically are the ones who are 'said' to struggle with them. I'm curious if your hubby has them?

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    2. As you know from group, user dreams are a huge thing that I struggle with still.... However, Something totally awesome has happened that you've kind of missed out on since you have been facilitating the newer group.... I'll tell you here, shedding the fear and shame which Satan so desires to keep me woefully bound with forever.... nope, not anymore!


      Are you ready for it?

      I AM 7 WEEKS SOBER NOW!

      I made it through detox and even though I still struggle with user dreams, and even on the bad mornings when I sadly, find myself wishing that I could cling to them...hold on to them and make them real even if just for a moment, I no longer dwell on them throughout the day. I get up, sure the first few minutes are hard coming down off that high, but then I think of my baby boy waiting for me to get him and I remember reading my scriptures last night and I don't feel any shame for my user dreams. I realize that I have brain damage from this addiction and that it'll take years to repair...but I have faith in my Heavenly Father to hear my prayers, to know my heart and to fully heal me in His time. I have hope...which before, it seemed like this would be me forever. but I am not that "me" anymore and I can't tell you how happy I am that I'm not. I was always one of those people who were opposed to change inaI AM 7

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    3. (continued....stupid phone lol) ....I was always one of those people opposed to change in all aspects of the word, but I'm really not. I get that God doesn't change and that He's the same yesterday, today and forever but He has managed to make us in a special way in which we can change to be even better versions of our already awesome selves. I love Him for that. He knows me and my struggles and He will help heal every aspect of me pertaining to my recovery from this addiction as well as the issues I'm having with my health. I have faith in Him and He is bigger than any user dream, any addiction, any problem and any physical ailment. He is wonderful and I know I can attain full and complete recovery with Him on my side fighting my battles with me.

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      Replies
      1. Penny that is awesome! So glad to hear things are going so well for you:-) You are awesome! Keep it up!:-)

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    4. :) Will do. I miss your face. xoxoxo

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    Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

    Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

    "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"