I have recurring dreams. Scenes from law school, struggles with addiction, and failed relationships are in constant re-run. They are vivid and colorful. Like full length movies played out in my subconscious . They say this is common with recovering addicts. That’s what they say.
This particular dream begins as I arrive at a party. I’m by myself as I walk into a dark, empty room. I am embarrassed and alone. I don’t want to be alone. Even in my dream,I can feel the emptiness in my stomach. The ache of loneliness and isolation. I want to be accepted and popular. I know high school classmates will be showing up, and I want to be included in their fun. I order a diet coke. The bartender tells me they do not serve it. He offers me a Jack Daniels and Diet-Coke, my drink of choice pre-sobriety. I take the drink from him but I can’t raise the glass to my mouth. My arm won’t move.. I go to the bathroom to do a line of coke. I’m can’t snort it. The cocaine is just out of reach of the straw. The white powder vaporizing into the ether of the dream. There is always a barrier keeping me from drawing anything into my blood that will transform me into the Brian I want to see in the mirror every morning. Attractive, slim and confident. The Brian I never see. Sometimes I wake up with the familiar, peculiar smell of cocaine in my nose, the smell of ether and baby laxative. They say that is a sign of recovery. So they say.
I am walking through the room. I see a high school classmate. He said he was my friend. Before he and others assaulted me and tore my pants off. Exposing my fat, ugly body to the world. He is sixteen, I am fifty-one. He wants nothing to do with me. He makes fun of my weight. I run to to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I am no longer a heavy teenager. I am a grown, mature adult. Why is he making fun of my weight? Doesn’t he see me? The room is filling up. More high school classmates. More bullies of my childhood. They are all teens. How did I get so old? I ask “Can I join your group?” They all laugh and otherwise ignore me. I am right here! You know me! The room gets darker. I can no longer see them. The familiar feeling, the familiar ache. The loneliness. An empty, gut-wrenching void. Wanting to scream in my dream with only a guttural groan emanating from my sleeping mouth. Dream shifts. I am standing up against the gym wall at the high school dance, wishing someone would talk to me. They are back. My childhood bullies appear again. . They start pulling at and tearing my clothes, exposing me. I am crying. I am screaming. Why Don’t You Like Me! They laugh in response. I am awake. The ache is still with me. The nighttime remnants of a once shattered image. It will fade. Hopefully a different re-run tomorrow night.
Dreams fade to morning, and morning brings with it decisions that will have consequences for both the mind and body. The choices I make through the day can leave me feeling calm and happy by sundown, or feeling like I’m still stuck in a nightmare. But this feeling is not a dream. It is the reality of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Brian Cuban is a highly sought after mental health speaker. He has spoken at events, colleges and universities across the United States and in Canada. Brian has appeared on prestigious talks shows such as the Katie Couric Show as well as numerous media outlets around the country. He also writes extensively on these subjects. His columns have appeared on CNN.com, Foxnews.com, The Huffington Post and in online and print newspapers around the world.
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Bully photo available from Shutterstock