The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey – Part 63

Guest blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 63 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

The 2001 HBO series, Band of Brothers, is about a company of paratroopers, “E” or Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, who parachuted behind the lines in Normandy on “D” Day, the 6th of June, 1944.  A total of 10 episodes, it takes this group of men from their training in the U.S., through the invasion, into Germany, and to the conclusion of World War II in mid-1945. The exploits of this unit were quite intense and unique in what they faced in a number of events of the War.  But the story is really about the men and the bonds that they forged as they encountered horrific events together.  It provides a powerful image of what can develop among people in a long term, high stressed series of events.

I am reminded of the leaders of the Greeks who fought together in the long term siege of Troy, as portrayed in Homer’s Iliad.  Odysseus, Achilles, Nestor, Menelaus, Ajax, and even Agamemnon were side-by-side in many battles for 10 years.  Similarly, the 2017 movie, Wonder Woman, the story involving the Amazons, presents the leaders of this colony of women warriors as a very similar band. Diana, her Mother, Queen Hippolyta, Antiope, Menalippe, Artemis, Venelia and Euboea have bonded together in a lifetime of strife in much the same way.  As I see it, the idea of the “band of brothers” (or sisters), formed in this manner, carries a deep soulful mythos.

It also has a very powerful resonance for all us; it mirrors precisely the Fellowships that are a part of our own Journeys to Sobriety.  Think of the bonds we have formed, still continue to form, with the sisters and brothers around us in all our activities.  Could the energies that it all produces be more mythic?  Could it seem more soulful and spiritually bound?

The term “band of brothers” comes from Scene III, Act IV of Shakespeare’s Henry V, wherein the King is exhorting his army facing a looming, badly-outmanned battle with the French. How fitting it is for all of us….

It will be remembered with advantages

What feats we do this day….*

For, from this day to the ending of the world,

We, those of us in them, shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

*My apologies to the Bard, Will S., for a wee-bit of editing

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey – Part 62

Guest blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 62 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

The experience of living in the Community and Fellowship of AA and its sister 12 Step programs leads us to see the miracle of Love in its purest form.  We come to care for each other in an absolute sense, unconditionally, eschewing any form of quid pro quo.  It is a spectacular experience, one of which many of us struggle to realize the full potential.

The human species, homo sapiens, craves community and companionship.  We formed tribes from the earliest periods. There was/is a dark side to this; our tribal nature could also develop an us vs. them tendency when opinions or beliefs diverged.  Hate so spawned became the antithesis of Love, but it seems to me that Love has always overcome hate even after the most ugly, longest running of human clashes.  Over time, Love always prevails and, for many of us, the idea of a Higher Power is that of pure unconditional love.  It seems to me to be the one Absolute.

I would endeavor to define Love as the deep, soulful, unconditional caring for another.  Our Higher Power exhibits this kind of Love for us in getting us to this point in our lives and in endeavoring to help others join us.

Many of the mythic stories we have discussed have Love prevailing over crisis and chaos to return a hero to her or his natural state within her or his community. Odysseus is able to finally get home after the love of Athena, Calypso and Circe help him to overcome the scourge of the Trojan War.  Dante is finally able to embrace the vision of God when Beatrice guides him through Paradiso.  Even Don Quixote’s love for his fanciful Desdemona sustained him in his quest.

In our own experiences in our Fellowship, we come to realize that the love of the men and women in our own meeting structures transcend all other elements of who and what we are.  We embrace everyone, even those with whom, in another setting, we might have had significant difficulty and differences of opinion on a host of matters.  None of that counts for anything when it comes to our mutual commitment to each other’s spiritual health and well being.

It is so clear to me today, as I reflect on the majesty of this Fellowship, that we need to bring our own best capacity to love to each of our daily lives in order to become, and to remain, psychically and spiritually whole.

The Council on Recovery Responds to Rising Trend of Adolescent Vaping with Specialized Services for Teens and Parents

In response to the dramatic rise in adolescent vaping, The Council on Recovery is excited to announce the launch of specialized services specifically designed to deliver education, early intervention, and clinical treatment for adolescents experimenting with or abusing electronic cigarettes.

Lori Fiester, LCSW, MAC, CIP, CDWF, Clinical Director, says “With a new school year just around the corner, we have seen a marked increase in the number of concerned parents and educators whose teenagers are experimenting with or abusing electronic cigarettes. Many parents don’t know where to turn for information they can trust or how to get their children help.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s most recent Monitoring the Future survey, the percentage of 10th and 12th graders who reported vaping nicotine during the past 30 days nearly doubled in the past year. This alarming rise is the largest single-year increase of any substance in the history of the survey and translates to approximately 1.5 million additional adolescents vaping.

“Vaping is drawing on Big Tobacco’s playbook to market electronic cigarettes as safe and appealing to adolescents,” says The Council’s President & CEO, Mel Taylor. “When we see stories that the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker is considering opening its first shops in Houston or that Texas teens are being diagnosed with lung disease as a result of vaping, we are very concerned. At some point, every teen will make a choice whether or not to use. We simply want young people to have all the information they need to make a healthy choice. They deserve that.”

In spite of the explosion of vaping among teens, Houston had no dedicated resources to intervene on vaping until now. This fall, The Council will enhance our existing service array for adolescents with the addition of specialized services for vaping. Services will include psychoeducation, comprehensive assessment, intervention, and treatment for teens and their families impacted by vaping. Parent coaching and support, as well as professional consultation will bring needed knowledge and skills to parents and teachers to help them recognize and respond to risky behaviors. To learn more or access services, contact The Council’s intake line at 713-914-0556.

Grateful Client Gives Back

This guest post is written and graciously shared by Janel, a grateful client who found recovery through The Council

Seven years ago I was trapped living a nightmare with no way out. My addiction took me to the darkest place imaginable. I was literally battling for my soul. I could not stop using. I eventually gave up and tried to take my own life. It was the only way I thought I could find peace. Waking up in Ben Taub’s ICU after my liver shut down, I realized that God had another plan for me. I had been given a second chance at life.

Forced to seek help, The Council on Recovery started me on my new journey. They found me a bed at a treatment center where I spent almost 3 months coming out of my fog of addiction. While there I met one of The Council’s recovery coaches who told me about a longer term treatment program, where I spent fifteen additional months. During that time, I learned so much about myself and how to overcome my addiction. I learned how to be a lady and live life with a purpose. I would not be where I am today if it hadn’t been for The Council guiding me in the right direction. Their resources are what saved my life. The work they do in the recovery community is vital. Most addicts don’t know how to stop. They do not know how to get help. That’s what The Council is for.

Last year I found a way to give back and help The Council. I used my story and my first-ever marathon to help raise more than $3,000 for this powerful organization. The marathon was about pushing myself to do something I once saw as impossible. It was meant to inspire others and – of course – bring as much attention to The Council as possible.

People need to know there is a solution. They need to know where to reach out when they are ready. I am living proof that recovery is possible. Today, I am 7 years clean and sober and I am a productive member of society. I have put myself through school, received my Bachelors degree in Human Services, and now manage a successful staffing agency. I have run a marathon and am now training for my first Ironman. Seven years ago my addiction almost killed me, but today I live free with no limits to be and do whatever I want to. And it all began at The Council. They showed me how to break the chains that bound me. They gave me hope. 

Janel ran the Chevron Houston Marathon as her first-ever marathon and used the opportunity to help raise more than $3,000 for The Council on Recovery

The Lifelong Quest for Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey – Part 61

In the ancient Greek world that spawned so many great mythic stories, the tales of Sisyphus are ones that resonate with many of us.  Sisyphus was the King of an ancient city that is now known as Corinth.  He was incredibly wise and crafty and took delight in playing tricks on the gods.  He was also mean and oppressive, terribly abusive to travelers and guests, a condition that particularly angered Zeus, the king of the gods.  Sisyphus’ disdain and abuse of the gods and men finally provoked Zeus to doom him to a horrendous eternal task…that of forever rolling a monstrous stone up a steep hill only to have it roll back again just as he reached the top, each cycle happening over and over, forever.

This story has become a much used analogy to depict those daily mundane tasks and recurring life cycles that seem to go on and on, endlessly…a mind-numbing routine job, repeated conflicts with family, keeping a garden free of weeds, etc.  But, to me, it is nowhere more resonant than in the repetitive acts of insanity that attended our alcoholic and addictive acting-out.  It has been said that the surest sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result each time.  We drank or used endlessly believing that each time would result in a different outcome, perhaps a glorious permanent state of the euphoria that attended the first ingestions of the substance. But all of it, each time, only made our lives worse.  We may even have pursued this style of living disdaining the presence of any higher power in our lives, making a mockery of all spiritual beliefs.  We didn’t need God…we were God.  The alcohol, the drugs told us so…

But there is no recovery, no redemption for Sisyphus.  He is doomed to his task forever.  He is like many of us who never do recover from alcoholism or addiction and eventually die in the disease.  How glorious is it for those of us who, in the horrid depths of our disease, begin to sense the presence of something bigger than us and begin that agonizing, gut wrenching crawl to the light.  How wonderful is it that we can live forever in this light and never be Sisyphean again.

The Lifelong Quest for Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey – Part 60

In the process of doing these Notes, I keep coming back to the Odyssey, by the ancient Greek poet Homer, as a particularly rich text with many stories that fit the parallel of our own individual journeys to Sobriety. The companion piece to the Odyssey is the Iliad, which is the definitive story of the key closing events of the monstrous Greek war with Troy, the powerful kingdom on the western edge of modern day Turkey. In many ways, the Iliad is about men in war, the men of the various Greek states locked in a mad, addictive rage over deep resentments against their enemy, the people of Troy.  It has all the elements of an epic military struggle in which its protagonists are locked in a berserk-like confrontation.  In this sense, it is very similar to the states of our own being when we were mired in our own diseases, engaged in insane actions and behaviors induced by various substances and actions.

But the Odyssey, on the other hand, can be seen as a parallel to the long process of recovery in which all of us are steeped.  It is the story of the men of Greece trying to recover from the excesses of the Trojan War and find their way home to lives of peace and family.  Odysseus, who was the key figure in the final conquest of Troy, is the central figure of the Odyssey.  His part in the conduct of the war put him in the center of this analogous process of recovery.  We can see his journey home, which was the longest and most tortured of all the Greek leaders, as particularly intense when compared to the events in our own processes of recovery.

Odysseus’ journey takes him to many places with encounters of both intense danger and beautiful delight. Of these encounters, three key ones are, first, with the beautiful Calypso who detains him for 7 years as her lover and offers to make him immortal; then with Circe, the enchantress, who tries to enslave him, but eventually gives him the key to find his way to Hades where he gets the information he needs for his continuing journey; and lastly Nausicca, the young maiden who convinces her father, the King of Phaeacia, to equip Odysseus for the last leg of his journey home. Forgetting about the romantic elements of the first two of these, what Odysseus is receiving from these goddess-like personages are the wonderful elements of nurturing and recovery that will enable him to return as an authentic ruler of his homeland. In a sense they are much like what we learn in our tireless working of the fourth to ninth steps of our own recovery.

In many ways, I see one of the key themes of the Odyssey story as that of the futility of war and all the elements of war.  His journey to Hades, where he meets many of his fallen comrades from the war is very poignant here. Achilles, the key player in the Iliad story, tells him that all of the glory of his life as a warrior was all for naught.  He would take one day as a simple common man for all his years of glory as a warrior.  Similarly, Odysseus’ stay in Phaeacia at the urging of Nausicca results in his telling his long grim story to an assemblage in court, much as we do in our Steps 4 and 5. 

The message for all of us here is to see our recovery, our getting sober, our going to meetings, our working the steps, and our immersing ourselves in service to the cosmos, as a journey so very similar to Odysseus’. It is one where all of our encounters, all the people we meet, all the friends we make, all the advice and direction we seek of our mentors in recovery form a spectacular web for a life in the sunshine of the spirit, just as all of Odysseus’ adventures made him a much more authentic ruler of his homeland once he got there.