They say that regular marijuana use suppresses dreams, and that conversely, quitting pot can lead to highly vivid dreams. It also seems to be a truism that withdrawal from any addiction, physical or psychological, will be accompanied by serious nocturnal psychodrama.
I’ve quit pot before, twice. The first time was when I arrived in India the autumn after graduating from college. For the whole ten days that I spent in Bombay, I was without supply (I quickly found some on my second day in Kathmandu), and my dreams were so intensely vivid that I quit taking my anti-malaria pills, which I blamed for the nighttime freak show, along with my jet lag and my culture shock. It never occurred to me until quite recently that the sudden withdrawal from marijuana might have played a role.
The second time I quit was when I arrived in Korea, where I could at first barely manage to procure dinner, much less find a source for pot, and where the drug is anyway spectacularly illegal. Again I was tremendously jet lagged and culture-shocked, and I was also under a great deal of stress because the employer who had rushed us to Korea was now saying we might not be needed for a month or two. I don’t remember about my dreams then.
This time around, I’ve definitely gone through some intense dreaming, and there have been distinct patterns to those dreams.
At first, I had recurrent dreams of using again, or of doing some of the other compulsive things I’ve quit. The feeling in these dreams was never pleasure in indulging my addictions. It was always shock that I had somehow thoughtlessly stumbled into doing something I had no intention of doing (in one dream, I was at lunch with a coworker in a cafeteria and somehow fell under the influence of a reggae song), along with terrible regret and shame and chagrin that I would have to tell Jenny what I had done.
After a couple of weeks, these dreams receded, replaced by dreams of abandonment. In one context or another, some group of my friends — often friends from middle school, though once or twice my current group of friends — made it clear that they had something important to do and didn’t want me around. These dreams were pretty obviously related to Jenny’s decision to spend some time apart from me. Interestingly, now that Jenny and I are in fact spending a week apart — she’s staying with friends — these dreams have stopped.
My current cycle of dreams has been harder to remember. I have woken up some mornings feeling agitated, but in a few minutes the images are gone. When I think back on these dreams now, all I can find is a vague sense of work needing to be done, along with intimations of the mechanical and transportational. This strikes me as just fine: I have a tremendous amount of psychological and spiritual work to do and a long journey ahead of me.