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The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 14

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 14 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 year 476 A.D. is seen as the year that ended the Roman Empire, an institutional bastion of power, wealth, and peace that had dominated the known world of almost 1,000 years.  It had been weakening for many decades, but the breakdown of its fundamental institutions and the advance of the Germanic tribes into the corners of the Empire finally resulted in the dissolution of the majesty that was Rome in the 5th Century.  What followed in Western and Central Europe was 500 years of declining culture, scholarship, civil order and peace, a period called the Early Middle Ages, also the Dark Ages.  The Christian Church, which was ruled, if loosely, by a Holy See in Rome, was the dominant institution and much of the more repressive elements of Early Christianity found their initiation and resurgence in this period.

Beginning in the 10th and 11th Centuries, the roots of scholarship and development began to resurface, enabled by a number of trends; and one piece of artistic majesty that emerged at the end of this was a literary survey of the spiritual, social and religious belief systems of the Middle Ages.  It could also be seen as a spectacularly large analogy for our journeys from the depths of addiction to the sunlight of sobriety.  It is called The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri.

It is fiction, written in the first person, with Dante as the protagonist; and it has Dante as a 35 year old man, mired in an aimless life, desperately trying to find his way to God.  To do so he must travel though three realms, each a separate part of the book, Hell (The Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Heaven (Paradiso). Written in complex verse, it is also quite explicit, especially with regard to The Inferno and it has been said that the grossly horrific images of Hell portrayed by Dante in The Inferno are the source of much of the Judeo-Christian West’s terrifying view of Hell over the past 800 years.

Dante is in a dark place when he begins, but he is aided by Virgil, the famous Latin poet, who becomes his guide into and through Hell. The task is to get through a series of nine descending concentric Circles, each of which deals with a certain set of evils and sins, with each descending Circle a more severe one than the previous.  Dante and Virgil are but travelers through these descending circles so they are witnesses to the sufferers, but the poignancy of what they see and the experience of it all are worthy of the analogy we are building here to show the comparisons to our Journeys.

I will leave it to my next writings to explore some of the more poignant comparisons of their horrendous experiences in Hell and then of the eventual move on to Purgatory and Heaven.  But to close here, before we begin our exploration into Dante’s psychic renditions, it is worthy to recite the carving above the Entry Gates to the Inferno in the story. It is an inscription that clearly recalls our deep despair when we were mired in our disease: “Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here.”

The Healing Power of Laughter

There are many ways to improve one’s health. Perhaps one of the most effective options is laughter. Humorous thoughts can decrease anger because it is hard to be angry while laughing. Anger and humor are incompatible mood states just like anxiety and relaxation. Humor can also be used to manage conflict. Using lighthearted humor to deliver bad news can decrease tension and anger. In fact, laughter is becoming one of the most popular additional treatments for people struggling with chronic mental and physical health issues.

Laughter Yoga has been a growing trend over the past decade. The traditional breathing exercises used during yoga are used in order to oxygenate the body and its organs. The breathing and laughter exercises are equivalent to the effects of a cardio workout by increasing energy and relaxation throughout the body.  You do not have to be in the mood to laugh in order to participate in Laughter Yoga. The exercises make you laugh until it becomes contagious.

Laughing releases endorphins from your brain, reduces the level of stress in your body, and strengthens the immune system.  It is proven that laughter therapy, also known as humor therapy, can reduce negativity, emotional stress, and physical discomfort.

Life can sometimes offer tragic and impossible situations, but laughter can give you relief through those dark times. Comedians have the power to make audiences laugh even when life isn’t funny. They have the skill to give a different perspective using their experiences and unique interpretations.

In 2012, comedienne Tig Notaro was nominated for an Emmy for her stand up entitled, “Live,” where she performed just two weeks after learning the news that she had stage two breast cancer. She used this stand up to process her reality and to experience laughter in a time of darkness.

“She has this way of dropping her jokes that are – they’re wonderful, deadly jokes. And they’re about small things usually, like bees and drapes, but they’re incredible,” said fellow comedian Louis C.K. in an NPR interview. “So here she is applying it to something really big. It was an incredible example of what comedy is good at, which is taking people to the scary parts of their mind and making them laugh in those scary places.”

Rich Vos performing at The Stress Factory Comedy Club
Rich Vos performing at The Stress Factory Comedy Club on March 27, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Come and find healing through laughter at the Sober Recreation Committee’s annual Addicted to Comedy show on Saturday, October 7, 2017, from 8 pm – 10 pm. Comedian Rich Vos will be headlining the event. He has written for the Oscars twice and has been seen on HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central. Being 31 years sober from drug and alcohol addiction, he knows all about laughing through the darkness.  All proceeds from the show will go towards the Sober Recreation Committee (SRC).

To register for this event click here.

For more information about services offered at The Council on Recovery, visit www.councilonrecovery.org.

The Council on Recovery Deploys Social Workers to Area Shelters to Help Evacuees Deal with Emotional Impact of Storm

The Council on Recovery, the area’s leading non-profit provider of addiction and mental health services, has rapidly deployed many of its counselors and social workers to area shelters to help evacuees cope with the emotional impact of Tropical Storm Harvey. The Council has also sent recovery coaches and volunteers to shelters to help facilitate on-site support groups for flood victims who are struggling with addiction in the aftermath of the storm.

The Council’s president & CEO, Mel Taylor, said the immediate deployment of counselors and social workers is vital to the physical and emotional well-being of storm evacuees. “Our shelters are full of people who have experienced physical and mental trauma as the result of the storm,” Taylor said. “When the reality of their situation sets in, many may experience emotional anguish and our professional social workers are there to help them deal with it.”

Taylor said that among those at the shelters may be individuals suffering the effects of withdrawal from alcohol or drug use, especially after several days without those substances. “People with substance use disorders, such as opioid addiction or active alcoholism may be suffering from symptoms of withdrawal or detoxification,” Taylor said. “We trust medical care will be provided to those who need it, but our clinicians, who are highly-trained in these matters, will help will seek out resources for and provide counsel to shelter residents who need help with alcoholism, addiction, or co-occurring mental health disorders.”

“Our recovery coaches and volunteers are on-site at area shelters to facilitate support groups for people who need to process what’s currently happening in their lives,” Taylor said. “The importance of participating in these 12-Step meetings during this difficult time cannot be understated,” he added, “and we’re doing everything we can to make sure people have a safe and confidential place where they can share their experience, strength, and hope.”

In addition to providing services at area shelters, The Council on Recovery’s main campus at 303 Jackson Hill is open and providing counseling services to the entire community.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 13

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 13 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.

In the Fellowships of 12 Step Recovery, it has been said that the dues for membership is relatively cheap; they only require a desire to stop the destructive consumption or behavior.  It is also said that the cost of entry, the initiation fee, is monumentally high, reflecting all the horrendous things we did over our lives to earn the qualification.  The first three steps deal with all of this and are what we must accomplish to fully commit to the Fellowship.

But it is the first step that always must be done first…and fully…the full admission to the powerlessness of the drug or behavior and the unmanageability of our lives in the disease. These two parts are critical…and the failure to admit to both will always leave us nowhere, in limbo.

In the original Ghostbusters movie, the ancient Sumerian evil Deity, Gozer, is trying to inhabit the Earth in a physical form.  He recruits/possesses Dana Barrett and Louis Tully, played by Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis.  These two live on the top floor of the Shandor Bldg on Central Park West in New York, the building that is referred to in the movie as Spook Central.  Dana and Louis become Zuul, The Gatekeeper, and Vinz Clortho, The Keymaster, respectively.  The Shandor Bldg had been designed as the perfect entry vehicle for the forces of the paranormal to enter the real world.  Zuul and Clortho are to be the key operatives in the opening of this passageway for Gozer, on the roof of Spook Central.

Does it strike you as it does me that Zuul and Clortho are uncanny representations of the two requirements of powerlessness and unmanageability that give us our credentials for this Fellowship of ours. Our powerlessness and unmanageability are the gatekeepers and keymasters of our entry into the disease and the Fellowship. Thinking of the grim final scenes on the roof of Spook Central and how grim our lives were in this disease, the parallel strikes me as.…well….striking.  The forces for good, the four Ghostbusters, are almost overcome by Gozer, the Destroyer.  A wonderful light twist is added when one of the Ghostbusters, Ray Stanton, played by Dan Akroyd, in response to a challenge by Gozer, imagines The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as the real-life personification of The Destroyer.  Doesn’t this also portray how we can trivialize our disease as we are struggling to fully grasp its destructive power?

But I can also turn this analogy around, from the Dark Side to the Light.  Step One requires admission of powerlessness and unmanageability, the manifestation of a real-life Zull and Clortho, The Gatekeeper and The Keymaster.  The admission of these two, if executed correctly, also give us entry into the Fellowship…and it is the Fellowship that begins to open us up to a world of Light and Joy, a Sunlight of the Spirit.  If we do the step correctly we turn them into a wonderful doorway. They are a true gatekeeper and key master.

The Council on Recovery Responds to Disaster, Offers Counseling Help to Those Affected by the Storm

The Council on Recovery is open and providing immediate help to people with addiction and mental health disorders who have been affected by #TropicalStormHarvey. Counseling is available now at our main facility, 303 Jackson Hill Street, Houston, 77007. Call 713.942.4100.

The Council has also deployed teams of social workers and counselors to shelters throughout the area to assist those in need.

The Council is open for all regularly scheduled 12-Step meetings. Check the Meeting Schedule. We are also making space available to 12-step groups that may have been displaced by the storm. Contact venue@councilonrecovery.org or call 281.200.9335.

The Power of Opioid Addiction: Even Overdosing Doesn’t Deter Subsequent Use

A five-year study  by the University of Pittsburgh on opioid use before and after an overdose reported that the “brush with death” did little to reduce continued use of either prescription opioids or heroin. The research also indicated that, despite receiving medical attention, those who had overdosed continued to have high opioid use, signaling a weak response by the healthcare system to the problem.

The report published in the JAMA Research Letter found that intervention has been shown to reduce overdose risk, but that potential intervention opportunities represented by overdoses are often underutilized. The research letter found evidence of similar under-utilization among Medicaid patients, who are three times as likely as their commercially-insured counterparts to have an overdose in the first place.

Statistics reveal that for every fatal opioid overdose, there are approximately 30 nonfatal overdoses. The Council on Recovery offers intervention and treatment options to people struggling with opioid addiction, as well as the co-occurring mental health disorders that often accompany addiction. The Council offers clinical assessments and referrals to the most effective treatment options, including Healing Choices, our intensive outpatient treatment program. Call 713.942.4100 for more information or contact us online.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 11

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 11 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.

In Norse Mythology, encompassing the mythic stories of many of the ancient northern European cultures, the tales of Siegfried and Brunhilde are very present. To many of us, they are most familiar in various parts of Richard Wagner’s cycle of operas, Der Ring des Nibelungen, composed and premiered in the middle of the Nineteenth Century in Germany.  Siegfried and Brunhilde are star-crossed lovers, enduring all kinds of hardship, treachery, and misfortune in efforts to be together, only to die vaingloriously, in the end, unable to overcome the difficulties fate has put before them.   For some of our own brethren, caught in the never-ending trappings of the disease of addiction, Continue reading “The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 11”