Archetypal Dreamwork and the 12 Steps: The Recovery Chronicles #02

The Recovery Chronicles by Laura Smith are a series of essays which delve into the ways that dreams can support 12 step recovery work. Through her own personal experiences in recovery and with the dreams, Laura shows how dreams can offer insight, hope, and support in the deeper work toward emotional sobriety.

Coming to terms with Higher Power is perhaps the single most effective and critical aspect of a successful recovery program. It is through grace and the keen insight of our founding fellows that the foundation of our recovery must be built on faith in a power greater than ourselves. For what other than the True Light could pierce the darkness of the soul-sickness that we experience as alcoholism or addiction?

And yet, is it not true that in some deep recess of our heart we know? We know that there is something more. Is there not some basic yearning in us to find our true self again? Is our thirst really our longing to be found, to be whole, to reclaim our lost soul? We had to first accept that we were lost before we could be found.

The great Carl Jung, in a 1961 letter to Bill Wilson, wrote, "You see, Alcohol in Latin is 'Spiritus' and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraved poison. The helpful formula therefore is: 'Spiritus Contra Spiritum' (which is translated in this context as 'Spirit against Alcohol').

Jung had observed that the alcoholic's thirst for alcohol is, "the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God."

And he went on to quote Psalm 42,1:

"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."

For many of us, finding a God of our understanding is a mighty challenge. Who cares to admit total defeat? And yet, without our admission of our own powerlessness, we have no starting point, no way for God to get to us. But when we surrender to our own powerlessness it is like we are cracked open. It is through this crack that the light can re-enter. And when we achieve fullness, it is through this crack, the crack of our wound, that the light shines back out for others to see and find hope.

It is this way with the dreams. The dreams want to crack us open, break our willfulness, bring about our total surrender. The dream will give us many opportunities to see how we are blinded by self will, independence, pride. They do this not because we are bad people, or that we should feel sinful or shameful, but because they seek to bring awareness to all the ways we have closed our self off from the sunlight of the spirit. It is the sunlight of the Spirit, or the grace of God, that can burn away our character defects to reveal the untarnished girl/boy soul that longs to be freed from the bondage of self.