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Like bats, their wings compressed, clinging to ceilings of caves, copper leaves pose naked upon stringy branches of my London plane tree—their indecision severe whether to hold on or to let go. Occasional whisper-breezes interrupt their pondering, their listless pirouetting of pointed toes, but still the leaves hang. Most have already dropped, with additional shriveling and tearing and dismemberment.

The lesson is obvious.

At 6 A.M., I awoke to a recovery dream:

Alone, I stand at the sink of the industrialized kitchen and scrub platters, bowls, and mugs used by our AA buddies during our pot luck dinner. Our meeting in the theater had preceded this gathering. It is quiet.

Within my psyche, I am alone, characteristic of my behavior, even now, as I prepare for my transition. A venerable priest recently likened me to a hermit mystic, a description that fits my individuation, and one that relieved the pressures of socialization, even in recovery. I was to learn other ways of relating to people, especially through writing and prayer.

My work setting, the industrialized kitchen, suggests the larger-than-life tools for daily use in my psyche: the Twelve Steps of recovery, essential for deep cleaning and restoration. The platters, bowls, and mugs symbolize containers of undigested life experiences, stored away for assimilation another time, but that time never came. In the dream, I had to scrub my psyche of scum, availing myself of Higher Power’s direction. On my own, this was impossible.

The image, pot luck dinner, suggests varied nourishment for the psyche and calls to mind the AA slogan: “Take what you need and leave the rest.” Because Twelve Step recovery is unique among members, their experience, strength, and hope differ, and teach members accordingly.

And the image, theater, speaks of venues where life-changing stories occur. That can occur in all thirty-seven recovery programs of the Twelve Steps, and eight partially patterned ones, provided willingness and honesty motivate the participants. Higher Power is always present, within and among us.

The continuing miracle in my life is adherence to the Twelve Steps of Chronic Pain Anonymous, one day at a time. It works …

At 7:15 A. M., I awoke with this Step One Dream:

I’m planning my special dessert for guests invited to my home later in the day. The ingredients call for two-to-three feet of newly fallen snow and pots filled with melted chocolate chips. Everything is ready. I go out to my backyard and dribble hot chocolate syrup over the snow, then begin mixing the concoction with a wooden paddle.  To my horror, the snow congeals the chocolate into hard bits. I’m furious.

A departure from yesterday’s dream, this one reveals, in Jungian terms, shadow material: unwonted behaviors and attitudes and so much more that lurk within the darkness of my psyche. In dreams, such disorders are symbolically brought to consciousness for my review. Such was this morning’s dream.

I’m planning suggests total control and obsession to please my guests with the dessert of all desserts that will enjoin their adulation upon my low esteem. I will feel alive. Nothing about the ingredients seems unusual: two-to-three feet of newly fallen snow that suggests frigidity, unyieldingness, and unwillingness to relate to people, places, and things; and melted chocolate chips, the mood-changer with their caffeinated kick.

The wooden paddle becomes the tool to whip this delicacy into shape, rather than chill my arthritic hands. The hard bits were not supposed to happen and trigger blinding rage. 

On yet a deeper level, this dream plunges me into the unmanageability of Step One: my bargaining with Precious God—if I come up with an unheard of sweetness for my guests, including Him, then I’ll be rewarded with a longer stay in this existence. But my plan fails and decades of repressed rage bite me in the ass.

Besides carrying this rage to subsequent steps in CPA for its removal, I pray with the Psalmist: “From my hidden sins, O Lord, deliver me.” Psalm 19:12

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