Dr Carl Jung, spirituality and alcoholism – The Sydney Retreat (2023)

After Dr Jung achieved his medical degree in 1902, he worked at the psychiatric hospital that was a part of the University of Zurich and treated many alcoholics. Like most of the doctors and psychiatrists who were working in the field of alcoholism at the time, Dr Jung found working with alcoholics both demoralising and mostly unsuccessful.

Decades later and by then in private practice, Dr Jung was asked to treat the son of a wealthy investment banker and US senator named Rowland Hazard. By the time Rowland had reached Dr Jung, he was incapable of exercising any control over his drinking. For several months, Dr Jung and Rowland spent every day together in therapy. When Rowland left Dr Jung’s treatment for an overseas trip, he was confident that he would be able to stay sober, but in no time he was drunk again and he returned to the doctor for more help.

At their next meeting Dr Jung told Rowland that he thought his situation was hopeless. His grave assessment was not due to any misunderstanding of Rowland and his long held destructive obsession with alcohol. It was Dr Jung’s realisation that science couldn’t affect the fundamental change required to stop a drinker of Rowland’s type from drinking when the compulsion in him was greatest. He told Rowland that he’d applied the best that medicine and psychiatry had to offer and it hadn’t worked.

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Frightened and grasping for a glimmer of hope, Rowland asked Dr Jung if he thought anything could be done to help him. Dr Jung told Rowland that he had known of people who had “experienced a conversion” as a result of becoming affiliated with a religious organisation and recovered. He added however, that “these recoveries due to a life-changing ‘vital spiritual experience’ were relatively rare.”

Many years later, in a letter to Bill Wison the co-founder of AA and architect of the 12 Steps, Dr Jung defined the way to such an experience in the same way that he might have explained it to Rowland Hazard at the time: “It can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to a higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through an education of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism,” he wrote.

While on his search for this elusive experience, Rowland came across the Oxford Group, a fundamentalist Christian organisation that was starting to attract a number of alcoholics who, like Rowland, were turning to spirituality because other forms of treatment hadn’t worked.

The significance of the Oxford Group for people who have recovered from alcoholism cannot be underestimated. The movement provided a set of principles and a spiritual foundation that gave structure and accountability to people seeking recovery. With hindsight however, it is fair to say that the Oxford Group served as both angel and omen. The tenet of service inherent in its six steps was the spark that led to the world-wide movement that came to be Alcoholics Anonymous. But the Oxford Group’s evangelical Christian doctrine was never going to be inclusive enough for a rebellious group of drunks who, despite their plight, would find long term conformity to absolute honesty, purity, selflessness and love, too overbearing to be sustainable.

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While Dr Jung’s expertise did not identify the physical craving that overwhelmed the alcoholic once they started to drink – that was identified by the late Dr William D Silkworth, chief physician at Towns Hospital in New York in the nineteen twenties and thirties – he did observe that through alcohol, the alcoholic was seeking personal unity and spiritual enlightenment. But he also understood that the values and principles that guided the lives of most people were unsatisfactory and therefore unattainable to the alcoholic. He identified how the fragile esteem of the alcoholic sought grandiosity and status. When those ambitions weren’t fulfilled – and they never could be to the extent that was required – the alcoholic would seek to alter their reality and drink to oblivion.

The emphasis of the 12 Steps was endorsed by Dr Jung in his correspondence with Bill Wilson. Dr Jung described the steps as the most appropriate antidote for intoxication. In response, Bill Wilson told Dr Jung that his concept of spirituality was the foundation to the success that AA and the 12 Steps were able to achieve.

It is estimated that two million people worldwide count themselves as a part of the recovery community but because twelve step facilitated recovery groups don’t require members to sign up or resign, the numbers may well be significantly higher. And those numbers don’t account for the number of people who have recovered from drug addiction using the twelve steps.

A more current endorsement for the twelve steps and twelve step facilitated recovery is provided by Cochrane, an unaffiliated, international network of researchers that perform systematic reviews of medical evidence to improve health outcomes and healthcare practices around the world.

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A recent Cochrane Review into Twelve Step Facilitated recovery (TSFR) found “high certainty evidence” that TSF programs that were designed to increase participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can lead to higher rates of continuous abstinence over months and years compared to other treatments including cognitive behaviour therapy.

A twelve-step facilitated recovery program encourages participants to see their drinking and drug use as symptomatic of deeper, underlying character flaws. Once a person commences the steps they soon understand that their relationship to alcohol was fuelled by a complete inability to negotiate life on their willpower alone, no matter how powerful their intent and ambition might be. The inordinate demands that they place on themselves and those they are in relationship with is untenable. Eventually, regardless of how dedicated their loved ones and colleagues might be, they end up isolated.

Dr Stephen Jurd, director of the Sydney Retreat and leading authority on alcohol and drug addiction treatment in Australia says that the 12 Steps, as pioneered by AA, work because they are deep, powerful and comprehensive.

“The steps provide a template for personal renewal,” said Dr Jurd. “For the process to work you first need to admit that you are in trouble; to consider at length what you believe in and what motivates you, to move towards those motivations and then to do a complete reappraisal of your life,” he added.

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The Sydney Retreat is a 30-day treatment program that is designed for the 50 or 60% of problem drinkers who don’t respond to the drug and alcohol counselling that is applied in most drug and alcohol treatment centres, or people who can’t afford the cost of rehab. in Australia. At the Sydney Retreat, residents enter a comfortable, sober living environment, and learn how to apply the principles of step by step sober living from clean and sober members of the recovery community.

“The Retreat is a peer led recovery approach that benefits from the lived experience of people in recovery. It introduces residents to the recovery community and most importantly, it provides the education and support for people so that they know that they are not alone,” said Dr Jurd.

The Sydney Retreat will be opening in early 2021 and you are welcome to contact us now to make enquiries or to make a booking.

Rowland Hazard was able to get sober when he had both the Oxford Group people AND the Emmanuel Movement therapist Courtenay Baylor working with him. But he then stopped going to Baylor for counseling, and by 1936 was back drinking once again.

Who wrote there is a solution? ›

The distinguished American psychologist, William James, in his book “Varieties of Religious Experience,” indicates a multitude of ways in which men have dis covered God. We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be ac quired.

When we dismantled olympus we turned the gods into symptoms? ›

Dr. Jung stated: “When Mt. Olympus was dismantled, we turned the gods into symptoms.” In other words, alcoholics, like me, suffer from a lack of spirit (spirituality).

Did Ebby drink again? ›

Thacher was the Assistant Director of High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, Connecticut in the summers of 1946 and 1947, during which time he remained sober. He returned to drinking after his tenure as Director.

Who helped Dr Bob get sober? ›

In January 1933, Bob Smith attended a lecture by Frank Buchman, the founder of the Oxford Group. For the next two years he and Smith attended local meetings of the group in an effort to solve his alcoholism, but recovery eluded him until he met Bill Wilson on May 12, 1935.

What does living in the solution mean? ›

Recovery Means Living In The Solutions. Using the same thinking to solve a problem as the thinking you used to create the problem may not be the best idea.

Is there solution to every problem? ›

There is always a solution

While they may not have a “correct” answer, they do have a “best” answer and you can do your best to find out what that is. If you don’t believe every problem can be solved, you’re not going to try very hard to solve it, are you?

Who said there is always a solution to every problem? ›

Mencken Quotes. There is always an easy solution to every problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.

What is the baffling feature of alcoholism? ›

“This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it – the utter inability to leave it alone no matter how great the necessity or wish.”

What does AA say about fear? ›

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says that we are “driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity.” These things drive our addiction and behavior. When we let ourselves be subconsciously driven by fear and its friends, we often end up suffering greatly.

What does the big book say about self-pity? ›

Self-pity is one of the most unhappy and consuming defects that we know. It is a bar to all spiritual progress and can cut off all effective communication with our fellows because of its inordinate demands for attention and sympathy. It is a maudlin form of martyrdom, which we can ill afford.

What are the 4 absolutes of AA? ›

  • Honesty.
  • Unselfishness.
  • Purity.
  • Love.

Who got Ebby sober? ›

The grave of Edwin “Ebby” Thacher, center, at Albany Rural Cemetery. Thacher is credited with inspiring Bill Wilson, a longtime drinking buddy, to start Alcoholics Anonymous. The site is on the south edge of section 56 in the cemetery. The grave of Edwin “Ebby” T.

What does XYZ 32 mean? ›

BBp4 “XYZ-32” Paper ticker tapes were used to print out stock prices, the company’s names were reduced to 4 or less letters – so XYZ-32 means that a company XYZ was trading at $32 a share. No company abbreviated XYZ exists so Bill didn’t want to mention the name.

How many years did it take to produce 100 sober alcoholics? ›

It took four years to produce about 100 sober alcoholics in the three founding groups. Early in 1939, the Fellowship published its basic textbook, Alcoholics Anonymous. The text, written by Bill and reviewed by many of the early members, explained A.A.’s philosophy and methods.

When did Dr. Bob died? › Bob Smith / Date of death Who created the 12 steps? ›

History. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the first twelve-step fellowship, was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, known to AA members as “Bill W.” and “Dr. Bob”, in Akron, Ohio.

What does it mean to live in solutions rather than live in problems? ›

A solution is innately positive. It gives you back the control over your life and lets you resolve the troubles. By looking for solutions and opportunities in every situation problems will evaporate and you will start to feel happier and happier. How to change your mindset.

Why is it important to acknowledge your problems? ›

Acknowledging the problem

The first step to solve any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Denying its existence will delay its rectification. Identifying the presence of the problem is critical to solving the problem. And often the problems we face are not problems really.

How do you acknowledge a problem? › Resolving Customer Complaints

  1. Remember that it’s not personal. …
  2. Listen to what the customer says. …
  3. Acknowledge what the customer says and feels. …
  4. Understand what the customer wants. …
  5. Offer a solution. …
  6. Apologize to the customer. …
  7. Send a follow-up letter.

How can we avoid problems in life? ›

10 Ways to Overcome Challenges in Life

  1. Make A Plan. While you don’t know what is going to happen in the future, you can always plan ahead. …
  2. Know You’re Not Alone. Every person in this world has their low points. …
  3. Ask For Help. …
  4. Feel Your Feelings. …
  5. Accept Support. …
  6. Help Others. …
  7. Think Big. …
  8. Positive Mindset.

How can I solve my personal problems in life? › The Steps to Solving Daily Life Problems

  1. Step 1: Is there a problem? …
  2. Step 2: What is the problem? …
  3. Step 3: What are my goals for this problem? …
  4. Step 4: Thinking up solutions. …
  5. Step 5: Deciding on a solution. …
  6. STEP 6: Carrying out the solution. …
  7. STEP 7: Checking in on your problem.

What is Mark Twain most famous quote? ›

  • “Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.”
  • “An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.”
  • “When in doubt‚ tell the truth.”
  • “If you tell truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

What is the fourth step of problem solving process? ›

Step 4: Create an Action Plan

In Step 4 you create your action plan — who is going to do what and by when. Documenting all of this and making it visible helps to communicate the plan to others and helps hold them accountable during implementation.

What is the second step of the problem solving process? ›

The first step of the problem solving process is to identify and define the problem. The second step, which is to analyze the problem, involves gathering information, sorting through relevant and irrelevant information, and evaluating the source of the problem by asking the Five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why.

Is AA the only way? ›

Is AA The Only Way To Stay Sober? No, you can take many pathways to long-term sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remains one of the most common support groups for long-term sobriety. AA inspired additional 12-Step programs, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), for those struggling with other types of substance abuse.

What is the main purpose of this book AA? ›

Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as the “Big Book,” presents the A.A. program for recovery from alcoholism. First published in 1939, its purpose was to show other alcoholics how the first 100 people of A.A. got sober. Now translated into over 70 languages, it is still considered A.A.’s basic text.

What are the musts in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous? ›

People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which show drinking scenes; we must not go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles if we go to their houses; we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all …

What are some fears in recovery? › Six Common Fears in Recovery

  • The Fear of Sobriety. It is normal to fear the unknown, and sobriety can seem like greatest unknown of all. …
  • Fear of the Future. …
  • Fear of Abandonment. …
  • Fear of Facing Challenges. …
  • Fear of Success. …
  • Fear of Failure. …
  • Overcoming Your Fears in Recovery. …
  • Fear Not, For Anything is Possible.

Is fear a character defect in AA? ›

Some common character defects or shortcomings can include fear, dishonesty, greed, lust, jealousy, grandiosity, willfulness and anger.

What is the fear prayer in the AA Big Book? ›

Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.

What triggers self-pity? ›

The feeling of self-pity typically arises when an individual attributes failures to external factors perceived as uncontrollable. Although the primary focus of self-pity is on the self and one’s own emotions, it has a strong interpersonal component as well.

How do you know if you have self-pity? ›

Self-pity can include ruminating over problems, feeling angry about what life has dealt you, craving the sympathy of others, and unfortunately sometimes falling into a pattern of one upping other people’s struggles.

What is the root of self-pity? ›

With respect to anger expression, self-pity was primarily related to anger-in. Strong connections with anger rumination were also found. Furthermore, individuals high in self-pity reported emotional loneliness and ambivalent-worrisome attachments.

When did Dr. Bob get sober? ›

They later found out, after Dr. Bob had returned, that he was out making amends. Not drunk as they may have surmised, but happy and sober. That date according to the AA literature was June 10, 1935.

Did Dr. Bob ever relapse? ›

On May 13, 1935, Dr. Bob met Bill W., a recovering alcoholic, at an Oxford Group meeting. Through talking to him, Smith stopped drinking. Yet, after a month of sobriety, he relapsed which at a convention in Atlantic City.

When did Bill W get sober? ›

December 11 marks the day Bill Wilson, co-founder of alcoholics Anonymous, took his last drink in 1934 when he was 39. After finishing a final beer, he entered Towns Hospital for the last time. (Depending on who you talk to, it was his third or fourth trip to treatment.)

Who was Bill W sponsor? ›

Edwin Throckmorton Thacher (1896-1966), more commonly known as “Ebby” is credited as Bill Wilson’s sponsor (1998).


1. Bob D. and Sandy B. – AA Speakers – “Spiritual Awakening” (Odomtology 12-Step Recovery Media) 2. Hitchens delivers one of his best hammer blows to cocky audience member 3. The Bill W. – C. G. Jung Letters about the origins of AA read aloud 4. Sandy Beach – Spiritual Principles – AA Speaker 5. Joe Bailey – The Evolution of Recovery (Addiction, Alcoholism & The 3 Principles) 6. Sandy B – AA Speaker – “AA is EXTREMELY Spiritual!” (Odomtology 12-Step Recovery Media)

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