Chewing dreams are common if not universal among ex-chewers. It is especially common when a person is off a short time period, and if it occurs within days or weeks of quitting, it is likely to be extremely disturbing and very realistic. Realistic enough in fact that the ex-dipper will wake-up smelling and tasting a chew, convinced that he or she has actually chewed.
The dream can be interpreted in one of two ways upon awakening, and quite often, the ex-Chewer takes it as a sign that they actually want to chew. After all, they had been off chewing and just dreamt about it that means they want to chew, right?
I used to get calls in the middle of the night for clinic participants panicked by the dream. They would start off saying, “They can’t believe it, off all this time and they still want to chew.” They knew they wanted to chew because they dreamt about it. I would then ask them to describe the dream. They would tell about the vividness and realism, and they would almost always say it started to take on a nightmarish proportion. They would wake up in a sweat, often crying, thinking that they just chewed and blew the whole thing, that they were now back to square one. That all that time off chewing was wasted.
As soon as they would finish describing their feelings, I pointed out one very obvious fact. They just dreamt they chewed and assumed that meant that they wanted to chew. They woke up and upon further clarification, they describe the dream was a nightmare. This is not the dream of someone who wants to chew; it is the dream of someone who is afraid of chewing. This is a legitimate fear considering the ex-dipper is fighting a powerful and deadly addiction. Hence, it is a legitimate dream too. It kind of gives you a sense of how bad you would feel if you actually do go back to chewing. Not physically speaking but psychologically. If the dream is a nightmare it makes you realize how bad this feeling is without having to actually have chewed and fallen into the grasp of nicotine addiction again. It can give you some perspective about how important not chewing is to your mental health.
The dangerous dream is when you chew a whole can in it, have the aching gums and tongue sores, get socially ostracized, develop some horrible illness, end up on your death bed about to let out your final live breath—and all of a sudden wake up with a smile on your face and say, “that was great, wish I could do that when I am awake.” As long as that is not the dream you were having, I wouldn’t let myself get to discouraged by it. In regards to chewing, no matter what you do in your dreams you will be OK as long as you remember in your waking state to Never Take Another Chew!
© Joel Spitzer 2003
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.