“Picked Up the Real Bottle”:
Flower Essence Therapy and the Treatment of Alcoholism

A Case Study by Linda Cohen

Carl (a pseudonym) came to me with a willingness and openness to give Flower Essence Therapy his full participation. In his mid-thirties, Carl was on his final three months of unemployment insurance after leaving a five-year word-processing job he hated. He was good looking, a talented writer in the process of honing a three-years-in- the-works first play about his dysfunctional birth family, and clearly at a crossroads.

Carl often self-sabotaged his work, his relationships, and the completion of his goals by using drugs and alcohol to escape feelings of boredom, low self-esteem, and a self-described lack of confidence. He experienced consistent mood swings and sharp energetic ups and downs. While not in a crisis situation, Carl faltered from experience to experience, often isolating for extended periods while using alcohol, prescription painkillers, and marijuana as coping mechanisms.

Restless, with an active mind, Carl was easily swayed by his ever-changing thoughts, moods, and life direction. He appeared to be “spinning his wheels,” not making any real progress. He wanted to create balance in his life, both emotionally and financially; establish a better, more consistent health regimen, including a dietary upgrade; greatly reduce his longtime erratic substance abuse; find satisfying employment that would allow him the time and energy to finish rewriting his play; and channel his energy in positive directions so he could set healthy, confidence-instilling goals and follow through to complete them.

Family Background

Carl’s childhood was laced with family violence and pervasive substance abuse. Both parents were alcoholics, as were many others in his family, including his father's brother and his father's father. His birth father was also a hardened heroin addict, drug pusher, abuser of many other drugs, and hard-core criminal by the time Carl was five. The oldest child in his family, Carl has two younger sisters.

With the wife-battering and criminality escalating, Carl's mother finally kicked his father out of their upstate New York home when Carl was five. For the next two years, Carl lived with the constant threat of his abusive father showing up to “see his family.” This caused Carl great embarrassment and shame. While his mother continued to drink regularly, she did manage to somewhat successfully raise her children (all attended college), remarry, have another child, and support herself through nursing school to become a healthcare practitioner.

Carl's father disappeared altogether when Carl was seven. At age 21 Carl went looking for his father, only to find him in a home for derelicts, near death and filled with remorse at his wasted life. With relief that his father could no longer hurt him nor his family, Carl was somewhat able to move forward, finish college, and aspire to be an important writer with a message of hope and insight at rising beyond what could have been his own ill fate.
Carl longs to bring to the world his unique perspective, his voice, his experiences and commentary on the madness he lived through while growing up and overcoming hardship and challenge. However, the negative family dynamic, constant abuse and violence, genetic propensity toward drug and alcohol use, and lowlife environment that pervaded much of his early life took a heavy toll on Carl's confidence and ability to be consistent and move in positive directions.

The Plan for Flower Essence Therapy

Carl and I met for five sessions. All our sessions were approximately one hour long, spaced at one month intervals. In every case, at the end of a session I would:

(1) create a flower essence formula for the month made from chosen essences and spring water, stabilized with brandy;

(2) create a relevant affirmation for Carl to employ throughout the coming month; and

(3) provide "soul work" for him to do, which included daily journaling, establishing long- and short-term goals, and using visual images to represent his healing and progress, created from whatever sources he chose.

“I decided to put down the bottle and
picked up the real bottle, my flower essences. ”

Carl proved an excellent client in that he attended all sessions, arrived on time, brought Xeroxed copies of all his creative soul work, made a serious effort to complete his outlined goals, used the flower essences with great consistency, enjoyed the process, and made steady, quantifiable progress each month toward sobriety and actualization of his goals in all areas.

In two of his most telling and confirming journal quotes, he wrote: (1) "the essences provided me with the excitement I craved" and (2) "I decided to put down the bottle and picked up the real bottle, my flower essences."

I will review Carl's case with a brief description of each session, touching on the areas of issues, progress, formula, affirmation, and creative soul work.

The Sessions

Session 1

Carl came to me feeling that he was the greatest obstacle to his own progress. He needed to find a job and create a healthy lifestyle. While he maintained some good habits in the morning (yoga, sometimes running, sometimes swimming), he often procrastinated later in the day, spending most afternoons high on marijuana and often drinking heavily in the evenings. He also complained of low energy, inertia, and tendencies to isolate. He did have spurts of sobriety and felt very positive about his progress on the play he'd nearly finished.

The issues he highlighted during our first session were (1) the need to create more confidence and (2) the need for more consistency. We established the long-term goal of his finishing his play by the end of our work together. I gave him several short-term goals and assignments to fill his days with positive action toward finding work and reduce the downtime he might waste through substance abuse, inertia, and isolating with negative moods.


In this first session, Carl's core essence revealed itself as Larch, to help build confidence. I rounded out Carl's first pyramid structure formula with Hornbeam essence for more constant, vibrant energy, and Lotus to uplift and spiritualize his process and serve as overall elixir for the remedy.

His affirmation for the month was:

I have the energy and confidence
to apply for any job!

Session 2

Carl arrived with all assignments finished and proud and happy with his work. He reported much more consistent upbeat energy and progress with both his play and his job search. It was during this second session that we spoke a good deal about his family history, abuse, shame, low self-esteem, and primarily poor relationships with women, relationships that were often fueled by excess drama, out-of-control emotions, and toxic substance abuse. Carl also revealed, in the positive, that he felt he had a "destiny, a calling" with his writing: to become an important voice in his field.

He also made it clear that being sober was the main key to any success he would create. After wrestling with drugs and alcohol abuse his entire life, Carl could clearly identify the origins of abuse within his family, as well as its poisonous effects on anything positive he wanted to create. It was his choice at this time during therapy to rid himself of the drugs and alcohol he often used, including the heavy painkillers he procured from an ailing family member. Carl reported feeling that the essences provided the balance and inspiration he needed to move forward with positive behavior and goal actualization. There was never any conflict with the small amount of alcohol used to stabilize his formulas.

Again we set goals, including his attending two "anonymous meetings" each week; discarding all negative substances from his home; targeting and going after specific jobs; and writing a short poem, “My Ideal Father - As I Would Be.”

Baby Blue Eyes

The formula for the month was again grounded in Larch for stabilizing and internalizing confidence. Added to the formula were Agrimony to help Carl unpeel his mask of mental torture and release toxic emotions to create a more genuinely cheerful state of mind, and Baby Blue Eyes to assist with healing issues of poor and absent fathering.

His affirmation for the month was:

I'm sober and I'm healthy!

Session 3

Carl arrived with gusto! He had made excellent progress with his job search since our last session, and had completed his play. He reported eliminating all prescription drugs, nearly eliminating alcohol, and using marijuana only occasionally. This was significant progress toward the sobriety he felt was critical to his success. He reported that whenever he used the essences, they gave him "a great big smile."

During this session, Carl asked whether I'd like to read his play, as it was finished. Of course I said yes. He also stated that he'd finally made a commitment to his writing as his craft and his identified work mission in life. This helped to put the search for employment in a better perspective, as he now felt more strongly that whatever job he found would not be his "main thing" but would rather serve to provide a means, or backup, to his continued writing.

His play proved a revelation to me. Not only did I find Carl an excellent writer, but also, the insights it provided into his past and the humor and depth with which he portrayed the dysfunctional characters in his past gave voice and meaning to what are often depicted as one-dimensional stories and flat characters and personality types, not real people with real lives. I could see why he felt he had a special voice and tale of redemption to offer to the public, the "higher destiny" he spoke and wrote of often.

Carl was able to take his horrid pain and abuse and create soul art. He reported in his Case Evaluation, "This month my heart had opened up and I feel much more loving and accepting. I can feel this emotionally whereas before it was an intellectual satisfaction. I feel more trusting and open to move deeper in this direction with relationships. My emotions are more stable, less erratic." Carl was adamant in declaring, "Sobriety is foundation!" He also added consistent daily sessions of yoga and meditation to his flower essence program this month.

The most significant issue for Carl now was to continue grounding in sobriety and new healthier life patterns. In addition, he continued with his job search and identified and researched several work options.

Chestnut Bud
Wild Oat
Morning Glory

The formula for the month was again anchored in Larch, and included Chestnut Bud for internalizing life's lessons, Morning Glory to continue establishing new and healthy habits and patterns, Wild Oat for continued commitment to his writing vocation and to open further options and opportunities for jobs, and Scleranthus to address his still-occurring ups and downs and for balance and an even temperament.

The affirmation for the month was:

Being sober opens the right doors for me!

Session 4

Carl arrived with the statement, "I'm doing good." Significantly more relaxed and confident, Carl had made great progress with his main goals of (1) finishing his play; (2) maintaining sobriety, for the most part; (3) creating a healthy lifestyle; and (4) finding a job. He reported using almost no liquor at all during the month, and smoking "a little pot" on approximately half the days since we last met. He told me he had “begun the second half of his life” -- in other words, that within him there had occurred a wisdom born from experience, and that he had achieved the ability to commit to his higher vocational calling, which now served to instill great confidence and provide an emotional stability he lacked. The essences had served him well since our last session.

While Carl remained up in the air as to specifics, often changing his mind regarding current job possibilities, he seemed joyful, fully satisfied, and soul-fulfilled in his commitment to writing and sobriety. Carl had gained great clarity, energy, focus, and the ability to shift negative, self-destructive behavior by embracing sobriety and following through with his commitments and a more healthy lifestyle.

He had identified important steps he needed to take to actualize his writing, submitting his play to theater projects and looking into summer stock. At this point he felt he was faced with many pressing decisions. Exactly which job should he persue? How would he continue to reinforce his art and expand his creative vision?

For this month, the formula was the same as the last month's, with the exception of inserting Blackberry (while removing Chestnut Bud) to provide energy and inspiration for physical manifestation.

The affirmation for the month was:

Sobriety and clear choices make it happen!

Session 5

This session was mainly an acknowledgment and celebration of the fine work Carl had completed. He reported that with the exception of occasional marijuana smoking, he was and had been sober for the past two and a half months, and beamed with joy and pride while describing his energy as being "on fire."

Carl had done deep, revealing, transformative soul-level work. At this session he spoke of "remaining balanced and content, moving forward and helping others." He also journaled, "I felt emotionally and mentally very strong this month."

Today Carl is clear and focused with regard to his life decisions, especially (1) the certainty of writing as his life's work, (2) doing what it takes to financially ensure that writing remains his career reality, and (3) recognizing that sobriety is the key to his ability to translate his ideas and dreams to reality.

Blackberry helped to give him the necessary energy to manifest a clear life plan for the time being as he continues to write and map his future. He maintains his yoga practice and daily meditation.

Carl is a complex and complicated man. Today he is able to use that complexity and insight to create high art and propel himself forward toward his next writing project. He sees this translation of pain into art as his talent, gift, and opportunity to heal himself and others. He has faced his pain head-on and transmuted it into creative energy, and he is conscious of doing so.

"Pain is legitimate," he wrote in this last month. Along with, "the feelings, the anger, the determined need to express..."

Linda Cohen is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Counselor, flower essence therapist, and writer of poetry and nonfiction. Born in New York City, Linda graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. from New York University. She received her Master's Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Queen Mary College, University of London, in 1971. In 1991, she graduated from The Gary Null Health and Nutrition Program given through The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and is recommended as a health counselor by Gary Null in his book Healing Your Body Naturally. After a 15-year affiliation, Linda recently received her certification as a flower essence therapist through The Flower Essence Society. In 1996-1997 she served as a staff writer and columnist for Movement Magazine:The Guide To South Florida's Night Life. She has counseled privately since 1991 at chiropractic offices, health clubs, and spas in New York City and Miami Beach. She can be reached at lcohen1854@earthlink.net.



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