This year in Seattle we have been blessed with light. Yes, the usual spate of rainy days, but today, sun penetrates the golden maple tree, its leaves, big as dinner plates, sailing down, to cover my window.

And yet, even with our bounty of exterior light,  I feel an activation of inner darkness, in myself, in those around me: an increase in dreams of shadowy figures. images of alleyways going nowhere. Waking in the night with unanswered questions; something has been stolen, longed-for, not retrieved.

I tell myself, and others, this is a fertile time. Write down the dreams. Search for meaning in the darkness.

A dream of my alcoholic mother calling my name. I cannot see her, yet I hear her voice, calling, as if off-stage. I climb a tower of plastic toys. When I come down, I discover my wallet is stolen.

Terrifying?  I felt so some years ago, in the days before I learned to look for rich healing symbolism, especially in shadowy, or evil figures, or long-departed ancestors.

I invite you to open to multiple possibilities of meaning in your dreams, even scary ones. Ask yourself who is trying to get your attention. If you find yourself running from a monster, what can this mean in your waking life? If you turned and faced the monster, what would you ask her? What do you suppose she would say?

In the dream cited above, what did the alcoholic mother say to the dreamer?

Simply my name, called out in the darkness.

What is she naming? Perhaps your own vulnerability to alcohol or other addictions? Perhaps she issues a warning, as one who knows so well, that your identity can be stolen by the monster thief of addiction.

At this point it may be tempting to blame the shadow figure. To remember all the times your mother looked at you with gin-soaked eyes. To rage at her: the childhood stolen, the hopes, the love, the grace, diluted in watery silence.

Another possibility is to invite your Shadow to tea.

Don’t demonize her. How easy that would be. The far more difficult choice is to say, “She is in me”. And, most poignantly, “what has she got to teach me about her struggles, her pain, her relationship to her disease that I can learn from in my own life?” Spend some time, listening to her, remembering all the times she tried to quit, the times she did, the tenderness in her voice that was always there somewhere, even in the darkest times.

Let her wisdom come to you, alongside the awareness that addiction stole your loving mother and in some sense, she never returned.

Embracing the wholeness of her reality can inspire a deep compassion – for her, for yourself, for all who are vulnerable to addiction – or to any human suffering.

This is a path open to all of us, even in the darkest inner winter. Armed with wholeness and compassion, we can look deeply into our own life. If we are on a dicey road to addiction – or any other self-destructive or life-destroying path—we can chase down the thief who stole the “wallet” of our identity, and get it back.

Cherish the shadow as she lives in us, ever grateful for her loving, warning call.


  1. Beautifully-written reminder, Elizabeth, to embrace our demons as possible teachers, whoever or whatever they are, and in whatever forms they show up. Thank you.

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