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The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 21

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 21 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 this ongoing series of notes, we have seen how deeply imbedded human stories of struggle and recovery seem to be all around us and poignantly reminiscent of our own journeys to Recovery.  The concept of the hero’s journey is ever present in all time and all cultures, so much so that Joseph Campbell and others called it the “mono-myth.” We see it in ancient societal stories as well as in modern literature and the arts all over the world.  As disparate examples, the Popol Vuh cultural narrative of the ancient Mayan systems in Guatemala tell of the exploits of hero twins defeating enemies in the early process of the creation of the world; and the Dogon systems in West Africa have very similar stories of hero twins as do the many stories of the Native American Indians of the Southwestern U.S.  Indeed, the evolution of the human species over hundreds of millennia could be seen as one big journey of the collective human hero to higher levels of understanding and consciousness, to a felt-sense integration with a higher power, not unlike Dante’s tireless, excruciating search for God through Hell, Purgatory, and into Heaven.

This seems to be the core element of the idea of a hero’s journey for us….the call, the struggle through difficult conflicts, and the ultimate success in finding an answer to the idea of a better life and a contact with something higher.  We find it in so many places…even in our most simple, yet sublime of experiences…like baseball.

In 2013, a Brooklyn Preparatory School classmate of mine and past President of NYU, John Sexton, wrote a book called Baseball as a Road to God. John and I were classmates in the 1950’s in an area of Brooklyn that was close to Ebbets Field, the home of the venerable, if a bit pathetic up to that time, Brooklyn Dodgers. John was a baseball fanatic, par excellence, and he remained so for much of his life.  The book was the outgrowth of a class he taught at NYU for many years with the same name.

John used the intricacies of the game, the before, during and after elements of the actual events, and the deep and rich history of its larger than life experiences and personages, to provide a fascinating view of the nature of a higher power in our lives.  The progress of individual baseball lives, the unfolding of the struggles and successes of each season, and the building of drama in and through each inning of a game are richly portrayed in a mystical and at times metaphysical framework. For me, a baseball fan of a bit less fervor than John, his portrayal provokes a wonderful view of our lives in committed Sobriety.

When I sit in a meeting, surrounded by women and men whose individual lives of tragedy, disaster and recovery provide vivid glimpses deep into the soul of humanity, I am struck by the beauty and good fortune of my presence in this Fellowship.  Every story is different, every one is full of cataclysms and misadventure interspersed and then followed by glorious ascensions into the Sunshine of the Spirit.  The differences are striking, but they are dwarfed by the symmetry and the harmony of their connectedness and by the perceptibility of Recovery that we all share.  It is a community of love and vision that has no equal.

It all reminds me of the spectacle of the field of men and dreams that constitutes the active baseball arena.  Surrounded by a intensely focused and roaring crowd, baseball presents an altar of vivid green and brown on which muscular danseurs in white execute stunning feats of athletic wonder…smooth  and rapid and even, interspersed by lengthy dramatic pauses that give us the ability to absorb and allow for the highly orchestrated play to run for the required nine acts.

For me, in Recovery, every share in a meeting and the aggregation of all shares in each and every meeting is precisely the equal of this spectacle.

Technology Misuse, Abuse, & Addiction Among Teenagers

[The following was written by Patrick Hagler, a counselor for the Choices program at The Council on Recovery.]

It is hard to escape screens. Most likely, you are looking at one right now! Although the long-term effects of screen time are still being studied, the effects of excessive internet and smartphone use are well-documented. “Pathological” internet use has been linked to depression in teens, and it may even shrink gray matter (see article links below).

Pathological Internet Use May Cause Teen Depression

Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain Continue reading “Technology Misuse, Abuse, & Addiction Among Teenagers”

The Council on Recovery’s Adolescent Services Program Confronts Teen Issues of Addiction, High-Risk Behaviors, & Mental Health Disorders

In response to the alarming escalation in addiction, high-risk behaviors, and mental health disorders among teenagers, The Council on Recovery has assembled an all-star team for its Adolescent Services Program at the Center for Recovering Families (CRF) to confront those issues head-on.

Dr. Susan Delaney , Adolescent Service Manager
Dr. Susan Delaney

The Adolescent Services Program team is led by Dr. Susan Delaney, an accomplished clinician with a deep background in mental health services for children and adolescents. Prior to joining The Council, Susan held key clinical positions with UTHealth and DePelchin Children’s Center that focused on trauma care, interventions, and counseling. In addition to her Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology, Susan also holds a MBA degree, which affords her a unique and valuable perspective on the business of delivering mental health services. Continue reading “The Council on Recovery’s Adolescent Services Program Confronts Teen Issues of Addiction, High-Risk Behaviors, & Mental Health Disorders”

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 20

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 20 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 Vietnam War was executed from 1965 to 1973, the period of time when U.S. troops were on the ground engaged in combat activities in Southeast Asia.  A total of 3.4 million U.S. men and women were in the air, afloat or ashore in the combat area over that time and over 58,000 died, nearly 10x the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. With the post-WWII generation coming of age and engaging in critical scrutiny of the American experience of the 20th Century at that same time, it was also an intellectually and emotionally charged era.  Those of us who fought in the war were not given the license or honor of our service to the national community as were our fathers and mothers after WWII. It created a very dangerous place for the warrior archetype in all of us, veterans and otherwise, trying to achieve the peaceful transition that is accorded all warriors in the aftermath of war.

The warrior is a strong part of all of us, an archetype that is a critical part of being human.  Much of mythological stories and the literature and theatre of all eras deal with this element of our being.  When this element is suppressed, not given the ability to find the right outlet either in its combative state or in the process of recovering therefrom, there can be dangerous outcomes for all concerned.  The process of trying to regain a peaceful place in society after a wartime experience, when not accorded a proper recognition of service nobly performed, can be long and difficult.  For many Vietnam veterans, it never happened…and descent into addiction, homelessness and death has been an all-too-frequent outcome.

The story of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey is a wonderful compendium of various tragedies that can befall a warrior trying, unsuccessfully, to find his way home. Much of what Odysseus experiences on his journey, his odyssey, mirror the experiences of the Vietnam vet. The journey back to wholeness for these particular veterans, to a place of peace in society and our own hearts, has been long, conflicted and riddled with disaster.  It is, once again, a perfect expression of the hero’s journey and a parallel to the journey to Sobriety for us alcoholics. For many, like me, it has been the same journey…and it has taken the embrace of the recovery process of the 12 Steps to achieve any success at all.

New Report From NCHS Confirms Enormity of Drug Overdose Epidemic

The National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention just released data that confirms what many Americans already fear: Drug overdose deaths are rising at an alarming level.

The report entitled “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2016” details the enormous scope of the problem and its increasing burden on the public health system in the U.S. Read the complete report here.

 

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 19

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 19 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 1960’s, the focus on the race to the Moon created a consciousness of the Cosmos beyond Earth and the spawning of a different, more elaborate culture of science fiction genre in the arts, TV and cinema.  Star Trek debuted on TV in 1966, and 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered in 1968.  There were literally over a hundred movies in this genre in that decade, not to mention the dozens of books like A Clockwork Orange, Dune, and Slaughterhouse Five. What set the video material of this time apart from the much less elaborate Buck Rogers of the 1940’s and 50’s was the expansive and intricate detail and mechanisms of the space machines;  they created a deep felt-sense of wonder and awe, at least to me.  They also had profound story lines that fit the Hero’s Journey pattern we have been discussing in connection with our own Journeys to Sobriety.

But, for me, what always struck home in these pieces was the one tagline intro from Star Trek that said that the Enterprise’s five year mission was: “…to boldly go where no man has gone before.”  Many of us have come from a history of Alcoholism that goes back through the generations.  For some of our ancestors, it may have been just an imbedded culture of the time, but the abuse of the myriad of spirits was equally as voluminous and extensive.  So for us to pursue a sober life, free of the compulsion to consume any of those substances, required us to initiate a massive, cultural and spiritual break from a long familial past. We had to boldly go where none before had gone.

In  1995, Pete Hamill, a journalist in New York, published an autobiography of sorts called A Drinking Life: A Memoir.  It is a story of his Irish family drinking history, his own early life consumed with alcohol abuse, and his career associated with a community of people of some renown where the one defining constant was alcohol.  He hit a bottom one day and, recalling his familial history with alcohol, he said to himself: “The madness must stop.  The madness stops here,” and he stopped drinking forever.  It is precisely the recollection I have of that point early on the day after my last consumption of a molecule of alcohol when I made the commitment to stop, finding myself in that same abyss of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.”

It is fascinating to see the science fiction genre over the years in somewhat the same light, where the exploration of the Cosmos beyond the gravity of the Earth is seen as just such a brave, new, exploratory journey into a world of unimaginable wonders alongside our very own higher power….within the Sunlight of the Spirit.

12 Tips for Partying Sober During the Holidays

For a recovering addict or alcoholic, holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can be annual versions of The Bermuda Triangle. To stay out of the danger zone, it is best to prepare yourself for the potential threats to your sobriety before you encounter them. Here are 12 Tips you can follow for partying sober during the holidays:

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom from Want,” 1943.
Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” March 6, 1943. Photo Credit www.nrm.org.

1-Prepare your mind

Have a few lines handy for when someone offers you a drink at a holiday party. “No thank you, but I’ll take a Coke.” If you are constantly asked, be repetitive and consistent with your answers and answer firmly, “No.”

2-Volunteer

Spend time helping at a soup kitchen or helping children’s charities. You’ll find that giving your time will feel amazing and still give you the ability to be social during the holiday season.

3-Be the designated driver for the evening

By being the designated driver, this will make you look responsible and will prevent more people from asking you to drink with them.

Continue reading “12 Tips for Partying Sober During the Holidays”

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 18

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 18 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.

On August 25, 2017 at approximately 10:00PM, Hurricane Harvey slammed ashore at Rockport, Texas, with sustaining winds of 130mph.  Over the next 4-5 days, it moved inland about 50 miles, then turned back out to the Gulf, meandered just offshore Houston and Bay City and finally came ashore again at Cameron, Louisiana.  Over the period of time that it lingered in or around Houston, it dropped approximately 9 trillion gallons of water in the Greater Houston area, Katy to Bay City, the Woodlands to Clear Lake.  To put this volume of water in perspective, if this volume was in a cylinder one mile square, about the size of the Inner Loop of Houston, the column of water such a cylinder would create would be 8 miles tall, a column reaching a higher point than the peak of Mt Everest.

This truly was a storm for the ages…and in its wake a treasure trove of heroic stories were spawned.  Consumption of alcoholic beverages and addictive substances spiked, and I am sure that there were instances of pretty bad behavior resulting there from. But the dominant behavior patterns seemed much more of the heroic, good-Samaritan type where people of all walks of life reached out to help everyone, thousands of people stranded in muddy, putrid water.

The storm affected everyone. The sight of the man of means struggling to salvage precious possessions wading out of his palatial house in waist-deep, flowing water to get to high ground, only to stop to help an elderly neighbor not able to get there, losing some of his possessions in the process. It was all repeated over and over.

The concept of the hero’s journey played out in everyone’s psyche. For the recovering alcoholic or addict, the ability to use the tools of recovery, the boon of the hero’s journey, allowed him/her to stay in the moment, serenely focused on the needs of those helpless souls who were otherwise stranded.  Service in the highest tradition of the 12th Step.  What a great gift it all was for all of us….

Proper Disposal of Pain Medication is a Key Factor in the Opioid Fight

The Addiction Policy Forum recently partnered with a number of local organizations in Ohio, a state hit hard by the opioid epidemic, to distribute free Rx disposal kits. The kits include an Rx disposal pouch and educational materials about the risks of holding onto unused medications. The Addiction Policy Forum hopes that this will become a biannual ritual in the U.S. when Daylight Saving occurs.  

Opioid Clock for the Disposal of Opioids
Opioid clock representing the disposal of old prescription medication during Daylight Saving. Photo Credit: Addiction Policy Forum.

Want to help address addiction in America? Start with your medicine cabinet.

Heroin is involved in many of the opioid-related deaths, but addiction doesn’t always begin with the use of illicit drugs. Studies have shown that two in three people who currently use heroin started out by using prescription pain medications for nonmedical purposes. According to the Federal Government, more than 2,000 teenagers will misuse a prescription drug for the first time today, tomorrow, and the day after that. Many of these first-time encounters with opioids happen in homes with leftover medications that were initially prescribed by a physician.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that two-thirds of surgical patients end up with unused pain medications, such as oxycodone and morphine, after recovering from a procedure. Because most of us aren’t educated about the risks of keeping unused medication in our homes, these prescribed drugs are often neither secured nor disposed of properly but stashed in medicine cabinets and bedside table drawers because it seems wasteful to throw them away and we keep them around “just in case.” Getting rid of a bottle of pills may seem like a shuffle step on the long path toward addressing the opioid crisis, but decreasing access to these medications is as crucial as it is easy.

Can I safely dispose of medication without a pouch?

Yes! Follow these instructions to safely dispose of unused medications at home using common household items, or visit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) website to find an authorized drop-off location close to you.

Proper disposal can be tricky, due to the fact that Rx disposal laws differ by state, some medications require specific disposal procedures, and others can pose a significant threat to kids, pets, and even adults and require urgent disposal.

To learn which medications fall into the above categories, or to get more information about safe at-home disposal, visit the FDA website or call the DEA’s toll-free hotline: (855) 543-3784.

How to for the Disposal of Opioids
Four ways to dispose of old and unused prescription drugs. Photo Credit: Addiction Policy Forum.

What is prescription opioid misuse?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines prescription opioid misuse as taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription (even for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain), or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high).

This excerpt was originally published at www.addictionpolicy.org.

To order an Rx Disposal Kit and to join the Addiction Policy Forum’s campaign to properly dispose of old and unused medication, please visit www.addictionpolicy.org. To learn more about counseling and treatment programs for those fighting addiction, visit www.councilonrecovery.org or call 713.914.0556.

Statistics Don’t Capture the Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Children

[Excerpt from STATnews.com]

About half of opioid overdose deaths occur among men and women ages 25 to 44; it’s reasonable to assume that many are parents. Imagine the impact on a child when a parent overdoses at home or in a grocery store. Statistics can’t tally the trauma felt by a seven-year-old who calls 911 to get help for an unconscious parent, or the responsibility undertaken by a twelve-year-old to feed and diaper a toddler sibling, or the impact of school absences and poor grades on a formerly successful high school student. Continue reading “Statistics Don’t Capture the Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Children”