People who are early in recovery often have dreams of relapse. They are understandably concerned that dreaming about a relapse is a bad sign. Maybe it means recovery is not going well? Is it some kind of hunch or proof that their addiction is just waiting for an opportunity to take hold? Or will the dream trigger strong cravings?
Should you be concerned?
In short, no. Dreams about relapse are normal and they are just dreams. When you think about it, it would be weird if you didn't dream of using it. Part of the definition of addiction is that you remember to use all the time. You're obsessed with it and can't wait to do it again. This has been a regular part of your mental life for a long time. It would be strange if thinking about this suddenly stopped. It's a kind of program that always ran in the background.
Your brain responds automatically
What's probably weird for your brain is that you suddenly stopped using it. You rationally understand what's going on, but a lot of your behavior is about your brain just doing its own thing. You have motor patterns, habits and daily routines that make up most of what you do. Most of these are automatic. When you suddenly make a big change, like getting sober, all those automatic functions don't really know what's going on. They just wait to do their normal things and occasionally check if you are still doing what you do every day. So one way to respond is to think, "No, we won't do that anymore."
You cannot notice everything
Falling back into dreams can also be triggered by triggers that you may or may not have noticed. We are exposed to a lot of information every day and we process most of it unconsciously. Sometimes a sound, a smell, or a feeling is somehow linked to our drug use. We don't notice the trigger or make the connection. Your brain automatically searches for these connections. It wants to find where the piece fits. Often times it does this job while we sleep and sometimes the answer appears in our dreams. For example, maybe you've swallowed a whiff of cloves and thought nothing of it. But your subconscious mind begins to view associations. In the end, it boils down to having an ex whose brother smoked cloves and introduced you to a guy who sold you pills. You may never have consciously made that connection.
It doesn't necessarily have to be bad
Dreaming about a relapse can actually be a good thing. For example, it can make you more aware of your triggers. You may never have considered seeing cigarettes as a trigger, but now you know. It can also be a way to express your feelings addiction to investigate. Writing down your dreams, especially dreams about the use, can be a way to sort out your thoughts and feelings about the use. Because of this, you are not so easily ambushed. Most importantly, they are only dreams. You cannot use in your sleep. See what your dreams teach you, but don't be afraid of them.