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The 1200-Step Program

Dreamed 1987/12/17 by Chris Wayan


My sister Miriel calls. She says "I think our dad is a quiet alcoholic. I admit it's subtle. He never drinks heavily, but he drinks every day after work, to "unwind," and he pushes alcohol at me whenever I'm there. He's using it to escape."

I feel skeptical, think she's exaggerating the effect of his drinking. He's definitely an addict, all right, seeking escape and comfort... but his main drugs are TV, books, any passive entertainment that distracts him from unpleasant emotions. Or actions. Alcohol's well down the list.

So I ask for a dream about this, confirming or denying it, and get...  dream image: I climb the stairs of the 1200-Step Program as my dad throws bottles from the top


I'm on a terrace part way up a huge tower. I must reach the top, where I'll be free.

But the Greek god Apollo stands on a balcony high above me, tossing empty wine bottles down at me. One hits my head, stunning me. Once I can't dodge, I'm an easier target. A bottle lands in my solar plexus, knocks the breath out of me. A third smashes into my pelvis and cracks my pubic bone.

He's not tossing them hard--but his carelessness (or is it casual malice?) gains "gravity" as it falls--by the time they hit me, they're near killing speed.

I force myself to my feet. It's that or die. Standing, staggering, I'm a smaller target.

I slog on up the steps. Not the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, but hundreds! Still, I'm three-fourths of the way up. Though to reach the top, I'll have to pass him somehow. Will he let me or will I have to fight?

One good thing, perhaps the only good thing: the closer I get, the less his bottles hurt--they've gained less momentum.

It's vivid confirmation, and unexpected. I really thought she was exaggerating. Wrong. I've been trained not to see! My dad's an alcoholic; his alcoholism has fallout; and the impact on me is threefold: my head (headaches and confusion), my solar plexus (exhaustion, shortness of breath) and my pelvis (painful sex).

And the healing process is no simple twelve-step program, but hundreds of steps. Still, though it seems endless, and his blows may actually hit me more often as I near him, their force to hurt me is growing less.


In Greece and Rome, Death was once called the Blind Archer. We all walk towards him, on a bridge of time. At first, in childhood, he only hits a few of us by chance; but as we near him, the hail of arrows gets deadlier, till no one gets past.

My dream echoes this millennia-old image, except for one strange detail. Death's arrows are inaccurate and slowed by air-friction when you're young and far off, but get deadlier as you age. Yet the bottles my father Apollo flings are less accurate but deadlier far down the tower, deeper in the gravity well. Close under him, more bottles may hit, but they also lack much power to hurt! So it's possible to keep climbing despite constant hits--possible to outlast the barrage, reach the Drunk Flinger and stop the whole sorry game.

Why did my dream dress my dad as Apollo? Consult old Star Trek shows for half the answer.

Ask Orpheus for the rest.

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