Post-Bulimia Nightmares

Something I forgot to mention in my manuscript - so I'm bringing it up now - is an interesting phenomenon you may experience as God leads you out of your bulimic (or anorexic) prison: nightmares about bingeing.

When I was starving myself, it was not unusual to dream about food. This was commonly reported among POWs...starving during the day, they would often retreat into dreams of steak dinners and mountains of potatoes at night. The brain knows when the body is malnourished.

Later, during my bulimic years, it was nothing out of the ordinary to dream about binges. Since I spent my waking hours engaged in either planning my next binge or in the middle of one, it made sense that the preoccupation invaded my sleep. The "nightmare" version of these recurring dreams was that I was unable to vomit.

During the six month period God was setting me free from bulimia, I would occasionally dream that I was bingeing...with an inevitable purge to follow. Even in my sleep, I recognized the horror of this scenario - I knew I was no longer bulimic; that I had been set free. I knew this, consciously, even while asleep. However, the old, familiar, out-of-control feeling seized me and I didn't realize it was just a dream. During my vicarious, frenzied eating, I was dismayed and guilt-stricken - as if I were betraying God by falling back into my "old man" (Romans 8).

Imagine my relief when I awakened!

It was just a nightmare. I was not that person anymore.

These "bulimia nightmares" decreased in frequency, but every so often the landscape of dreamland takes me back to that dark place. Since I know, six years into restoration, that I will never again succumb to that particular temptation, it doesn't throw me anymore. Don't let it concern you, either; it's a normal part of being made new.

I do not believe that such dreams are "attacks from the enemy". Satan cannot get into your mind and is not tormenting you in that way - much of charismatic "spiritual warfare" mythology amounts to sensationalized scare-tactics. Likewise, the Freudian precept of the "subconscious" is completely unbiblical; your dreams do not arise from such "hidden chambers" and do not dictate your "real self".

It may be that you are under more stress than usual (often, stress triggered binges in the past) or have had a fleeting moment of temptation which you dismissed. Last night, I dreamed that I started drinking again. After six years sober, where did that come from? As I slept, I apparently imbibed glass after glass of wine and was much relieved to wake up this morning stone-cold sober. Thinking back on it today, I remembered last Sunday: we had had guests over for a roast pork dinner, and they and my husband each had a glass of Merlot. When I opened the bottle, I noticed the pleasant aroma and thought it was quite appetizing, although it's been so long now it wasn't a real temptation. Later that night, my husband had a glass while we watched a DVD and ate some Roquefort cheese. It still smelled delicious, even as I sipped my non-alcoholic "Fre". I don't think I've thought that much about wine in half a decade, and it was only a passing observation.

It was enough, though, to worm its way into my dreams.

Winter has arrived in Massachusetts. We lit the fireplace today, and I am cooking pork and saurkraut. I associate the smells with the whiskey and wine I used to drink.....before God and I came to an understanding.

If you have such nightmares, do not read too much into them. Expect them, dismiss them, and praise God that you are no longer that out-of-control person. There is no reason to place special spiritual importance on dreams.

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